The future of democracy, governance and citizen engagement in a hyperconnected world
How should we respond to the rising threats to liberal democratic traditions around the world? What are the implications of rising populism, illiberalism, and disillusionment for the ways in which we approach domestic and international governance? Can and should constitutional institutions withstand the onslaught of populism (and authoritarianism more broadly)? Our research explores these questions through a range of projects on topics such as understanding the global democratic recession, elections and regime change, women in politics, and the role of independent institutions such as journalism and the public service in maintaining a healthy liberal democracy.
We also think about the possibility of renewing democracy more broadly and critically through a focus on the increasing attention to alternative forms of engagement in politics and policy, and new forms of individual and community organisation. What are the implications of these developments for how we think about democracy? How can the deeper exchange of information and ideas contribute to more effective democratic governance and better cross-cultural communication? We explore the roles of citizens, deliberation and engagement in public life, and welcome opportunities to develop future research projects on these and other exciting questions and challenges.
'Renewing Democracy’ is spearheaded by Deputy Director, Associate Professor Tom Daly.
Watch Tom’s speech ‘From Global Democratic Decay to Democratic Renewal?’, delivered at the Parliament of Victoria, 14 November.
On International Day of Democracy 2021 (15 September) the School of Government launched a new multimedia project called The Democracy Fix, which aims to curate and cultivate conversations concerning the big fixes for democracy in Australia, the Asia-Pacific, and the world. We will showcase thinking across the School, the University of Melbourne and our national and international networks across events, interviews, research, op-eds and media, and a podcast.
Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) 42nd Annual Forum 2021
On 16 December 2021 Deputy Director Tom Daly joined MPs from 132 countries to discuss Covid-19 and parliaments' role in renewing democracy, at the 42nd Annual Forum of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) co-hosted by the National Assembly of Belize. Under the PGA's Democratic Renewal & Human Rights Campaign, Day 1 focused on 'The Antidote to Authoritarianism: Parliamentarians as champions of democratic principles and institutions'. Tom spoke on the topic 'Has the recession of American and European leadership weakened democracies and emboldened “autocratic” regimes?'. You can find his talk at 1.19.18 below.
Summit for Democracy 2021
In December 2021 the School produced a short series of video explainers to make sense of the Biden administration's international Summit for Democracy (9 -10 December 2021), which brings government, civil society, and the private sector together to set an agenda for renewing democracy in states worldwide as well as collective international action, on: (1) Defending against authoritarianism; (2) Addressing and fighting corruption; and (3) Promoting respect for human rights. These were followed by a written review after the summit.
- Summit review: Biden's Bid to Strengthen Global Democracy, Pursuit (22 December 2021)
- Summit video series
- What's It All About?
- Who's Invited?
- How has the World Responded?
- Can the US Lead on Democracy Today?
- The View from Australia and the Asia-Pacific
You can also find all videos collected here
As part of our COP26 events, see also the recording below of the panel discussion 'Renewing Democracy to Tackle the Climate Crisis', co-organised with the Centre for Public Integrity (CPI) on 4 November and featuring panellists Zali Steggall MP, Joo-Cheong Tham, moderator Adam Morton (The Guardian's climate and environment editor), and chair Catherine Williams (Director, CPI).
Dr Tom Daly, 'Australia Needs a Democracy Fix' (15 September 2021)
A range of innovative and inter-linked projects and activities are carried out under the ‘Renewing Democracy’ research theme, including development of online resources, events, teaching, engagement activities, and flagship political programs.
Democratic Decay & Renewal (DEM-DEC)
Created by Dr Tom Daly and supported by a range of leading academic and policy organisations worldwide, Democratic Decay & Renewal (DEM-DEC) is a global online resource aiming to provide useful information on the deterioration and re-thinking of democratic rule worldwide through a mixture of curated, collaborative, and user-generated content including research, experts, events and resources databases, a concept index, teaching materials, and campaigns.
DEM-DEC’s core purpose is to bring scholars and policymakers together in a collaborative project to pool expertise on democratic decay and democratic renewal, in a context where many experts are talking in silos, or past one another, where the literature is rapidly expanding, and events and projects are proliferating across the world. It has been used by thousands of researchers and analysts in over 1430 states worldwide.
Access the monthly global research updates.
Events are regularly organised under the ‘Renewing Democracy’ theme, with a strong focus on public-facing events.
Recent events include:
A series of 6 workshops for the authors of a forthcoming Oxford University Press collection edited by Deputy Director Tom Daly, Dr Dinesha Samaratne (University of Colombo) and Dr Asanga Welikala (University of Edinburgh), titled Democratic Consolidation and Constitutional Endurance: Comparing Uneven Pathways of Constitutional Development in Asia and Africa, 15-25 June.
A Global Roundtable on the theme, ‘Democracy 2020: Assessing Constitutional Decay, Breakdown and Renewal Worldwide’ on 18-26 November. It was co-organised in partnership with the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) and the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law (funded by the Australian Research Council).
A seminar ‘Is the future of Indian Democracy secure?’, 12 March 2020, with panellists discussing recent developments that have cast doubts on the health of the world’s biggest democracy.
The Fraser Oration by Lord Patten: On 6 November 2019 we hosted the Rt Hon Lord Chris Patten to deliver the Fraser Oration on ‘Political Leadership’, as well as a lunchtime seminar on the topic 'Rules-based International Order: What’s Next?'. Watch a video of the Oration.
Forthcoming events include:
A public lecture by Professor John Daley on 'Gridlock: reforming Australia’s institutions to unblock policy reform'. The event coincides with the 2021 International Day of Democracy.
Register for the event.
Teaching on the Master of Public Administration (MPA) has been enhanced through the addition of a new elective subject under the ‘Renewing Democracy’ theme.
The subject ‘Democracy, Power, and the Public Service’ (PADM90019) aims to assist public sector professionals to reflect on the importance of an independent public service to a healthy liberal democracy. This is a pathbreaking subject, bringing together information from a wide variety of academic disciplines and policy areas, including a range of emerging research and thinking regarding this topic. The elective will be delivered for the first time in Semester 1 2020.
This elective will further inform our events and engagement activities.
The School of Government places priority on engagement activities as part of the ‘Renewing Democracy’ theme.
Recent activities have included:
Expert involvement in the federal Senate Inquiry into Australian democracy: On 7 February 2020 Deputy Director Tom Daly and Principal Fellow Nick Reece attended as invited experts at a roundtable convened for the federal Senate Inquiry into nationhood, national identity, and democracy (read their submissions - Nos. 59 and 95). Access the public hearing transcript.
Ongoing activities include Deputy Director Tom Daly’s membership of the International Coalition for Democratic Renewal (ICDR), which is a global initiative of a group of Nobel laureates, intellectuals, activists, and politicians, concerned with the expansion of power and influence of authoritarian regimes and the simultaneous weakening of democratic systems from within.
Pathways to Politics Program for Women
Established in 2016, the Pathways to Politics Program for Women is designed to redress the continued underrepresentation of women in Australian politics. The program focuses on providing women from across the political spectrum with the training, support and networks they need to ascend in the electoral process at local, state and federal levels.
McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership
The McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership aims to recognise political leaders who have driven positive change and encouraged a national discussion about the role of leadership.
The 2019 winners of the prize were the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales and The Rt. Hon. Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp.
This page contains information on a number of past projects conducted under the ‘Renewing Democracy’ theme.
Global Roundtable and E-Book: ‘Democracy 2020’
The Global Roundtable ‘Democracy 2020: Assessing Constitutional Decay, Breakdown, and Renewal Worldwide’ was held from 18-26 November 2020. It was co-organised in partnership with the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) and the Laureate Program in Comparative Constitutional Law (funded by the Australian Research Council).
The event featured over 50 speakers from 5 continents for an inclusive global ‘stock-taking’ exercise to map the health and trajectory of democracies world-wide. Innovating in response to the constraints imposed by Covid-19, we crafted a multimedia approach: nine 2.5-hour webinars, a ‘pop-up’ blog, video interviews with selected speakers, and a 250-page e-book published in December 2020.
Access the program, webinar recordings, speaker interviews and e-book.
Read an event summary.
Youth perceptions and diplomatic relations: improving Australia-Indonesia relations through education
This project explores the perceptions of Indonesia held by young Australians (aged 18-34 years). It is motivated by survey research suggesting that nearly 50% of Australians have unfavourable views of Indonesia, and that levels of misperceptions and ignorance about Indonesia are high. This project aims to gather qualitative data to extend this survey research, by exploring whether and how education about Indonesia shapes young Australians’ perceptions of the country. More broadly, the project explores how young people engage in debate about comparative democracies and governance in different cultural contexts. This project is funded by a grant from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.
Chief Investigator - Dr Avery Poole
Aims of the project:
This project seeks to gain an understanding of how young people see Indonesia, and how and why their perceptions of Indonesia may evolve over time. It asks: What role does tertiary education play in shaping the perceptions of Indonesia among young Australians (aged 18-34 years)? It focuses on university students who are enrolled in Indonesian studies subjects and/or otherwise engaged with Indonesia. The research findings will have implications for the approach of universities to Indonesian studies (e.g. degree and subject offerings, and curriculum design), and more broadly, for public policy approaches to Indonesia in Australia. In the future the project will be expanded to explore the engagement of young Australians with a range of countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and will thus contribute to our understanding of how young people view international affairs, the meaning of democracy and citizen engagement in debates about Australia’s place in the region and the world.
Democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a vast, highly populated and incredibly diverse region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to provide regional order and a basis for economic and security cooperation. It promotes democracy and human rights as central to this order. However, most ASEAN members are not democratic and have poor or questionable human rights records. Traditionally, ASEAN has treated democracy and human rights as ‘sensitive issues’ to be omitted from regional dialogue. So why does ASEAN now routinely refer to democracy and human rights as foundational regional principles? And why has it institutionalised these principles in initiatives such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights? This project explores the problem of why and how elites in a regional institutional context construct a particular rhetoric around democracy and human rights. It explores this rhetoric in the context of the objectives of ASEAN regionalism and the domestic political contexts of individual member states.
Chief Investigator - Dr Avery Poole
Aims of the project:
This project traces the processes through which the ten ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) agreed to promote the ‘liberal norms’ of democracy and human rights. These norms have now become standard references in ASEAN rhetoric. The leaders of these ten countries are particularly concerned about the way ASEAN is perceived by the outside world. Some countries, such as Indonesia and Singapore, seek to project the image of being liberal democracies and ‘good global citizens’ – and they want ASEAN, as a regional organisation which represents them – to embody this image.
The project investigates the ways in which regional norms are shaped by competing perceptions of legitimacy. Legitimacy refers here to the social judgments of an entity as appropriate, proper or desirable, within a particular institutional environment. In particular, ASEAN rhetoric is shaped by elites’ perceptions of how those outside the region (including states and interstate organisations) view the legitimacy of the regional organisation and its norms.
Security and political engagement
This theme addresses three key questions:
- How are risks created and perceived by individuals, groups and governments involved in the policy process?
- How do these impact on feelings of insecurity of the person, the group and of the State?
- What role might existing or new forms of social and political engagement at local, national and multinational levels play in enhancing security?
- A Review of Australia's Capacity for engagement in International conflict resolution including through Mediation
- Towards a Melbourne (University) Intergenerational Report
- Governing resource conflict in Bougainville
- Transnational influence on national resource governance
- The problems of campaign finance regulation