Global Youth’s Waning Trust in Democracy Sparks Concerns for Its Future

Vudi Xhymshiti

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s FutureYouth around the world are losing faith in democracy, favouring authoritarianism. Can democracy adapt to their pressing concerns? The future hangs in the balance.

SEP 12

London, UNITED KINGDOM – A recently released international poll commissioned by the Open Society Foundation has unveiled a troubling trend: Young people worldwide are showing the least faith in democracy when compared to other age groups. This revelation, part of the comprehensive Open Society Barometer study spanning 30 countries and representing over 5.5 billion individuals, is casting a daunting shadow over the future of democratic governance.

The Open Society Barometer, one of the most extensive global public opinion studies on human rights and democracy, paints a vivid picture of the attitudes, concerns, and hopes of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures around the world.

Despite democracy’s enduring popularity as a concept, the survey unearths a mosaic of profound worries that permeate the daily lives of individuals across the globe. Issues such as climate change, political violence, and the basic struggle for access to food have emerged as prominent sources of concern. Perhaps the most alarming revelation is that approximately half of the respondents admitted to grappling with food insecurity over the past year.

In the face of these mounting crises, the younger generation appears to be increasingly sceptical about the efficacy of democratic systems. They are more inclined to endorse authoritarianism, expressing support for military rule and leaders who operate with minimal checks on their authority. This growing shift in perspective raises a pivotal question: Can democracy adapt and deliver the solutions that people, especially the youth, urgently require in these tumultuous times?

These findings underscore the urgent need for leaders, policymakers, and civil society to address the concerns and aspirations of young people. The future of democracy hinges on its ability to evolve and address the pressing issues affecting the lives of billions worldwide.

Democracy at a Crossroads

The Open Society Barometer survey reveals that the concept of democracy remains widely popular, with a vast majority expressing a desire to live in a democratic state. However, the survey also sheds light on the profound challenges that threaten the foundations of democracy itself:

1. Food Insecurity: Alarmingly, approximately 50% of respondents admitted to facing difficulties affording enough food over the past year. This stark reality underscores the pressing need for effective social safety nets and economic policies.

2. Climate Change Concerns: The looming spectre of climate change emerged as a significant concern for people globally. As extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, the youth are increasingly looking for leadership that can address the environmental challenges of our time.

3. Political Violence: The prevalence of political violence in many regions has eroded trust in democratic institutions. Respondents expressed a desire for stability and security, often turning to authoritarian solutions in search of order.

4. The Appeal of Authoritarianism: In an alarming trend, young people are more likely to view authoritarian leaders as effective problem solvers. They are increasingly drawn to leaders who promise swift action and decisiveness, even if it means bypassing traditional democratic checks and balances.

As the world grapples with an array of crises, from the climate emergency to economic disparities, the results of this survey underscore the urgency of reinvigorating democratic systems. The willingness of young people to embrace alternative forms of governance raises important questions about the adaptability of democracy in the face of evolving challenges.

The Way Forward

To address these concerns and ensure the future of democracy, there is a pressing need for responsive and inclusive governance that actively engages with the aspirations and anxieties of young people. It is incumbent upon leaders and policymakers to recognize the vital role that democracy plays in addressing the multifaceted challenges of our time and to take concrete steps to restore and enhance trust in democratic systems.

The findings of the Open Society Barometer serve as a clarion call to action. In an era defined by unprecedented global challenges, the resilience and adaptability of democracy will be tested as never before. It is a challenge that demands a united effort to bridge the trust gap and ensure that democracy remains a viable and effective system of governance for generations to come.

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