The unequal and unjust power relations that lead to poverty are perpetuated by large corporations and globalisation, while governments pursue power and wealth, leading to systematic corruption and sabotage of institutions. These failures of governance impede people’s opportunities to fulfil their rights, and to rise out of poverty: this particularly affects the most vulnerable.
Democratic governance was designed to respond to these issues, but in many countries democratic institutions have lost value and legitimacy. This could be due to informal power structures – based on factors like class, religion, or history – remaining stronger than the formal structures. In some countries, corporations control political processes, including the media, with serious implications for the legitimacy and freedom of democracy.
Within this challenging context, we find hope in the struggles of social movements and civil society. The agenda and actions of social movements, civil society and their emerging platforms represent an emerging force to build citizenship and rebalance power. These spaces of freedom and democracy can begin to counter the centralisation of wealth, knowledge and power. From local to global levels, these movements have tremendous potential to transform democracy and build fairer governance.