History | PSHE

Prince Harry: freedom faces ‘global assault’

Will democracy survive for another hundred years? People worldwide feel “helpless” as their rights disappear, Prince Harry has warned the UN. But others say freedom will prevail.  In the early months of 2011, a new world was being forged. Across the Arab world, the people rose up, overthrew their dictators and introduced democracy. Today, almost every one of these emerging democracies has been crushed. Only Tunisia remains democratic – and some fear it is teetering on the brink. Now the rest of the world seems to be following suit. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Prince Harry warned the world of a “global assault on democracy and freedom”. In the USA, the 6 January insurrection last year sparked widespread fears for the future of democracy. Meanwhile, the global centre of gravity is shifting away from the democratic states and towards autocraticRelating to a ruler with total power. China. So it is no surprise that some think democracy is likely to be a casualty of the 21st Century. Democracy is simultaneously very old and very new. The first democracies emerged in ancient Greece. However, they were very different from what we would recognise as a democracy today. Most people could not vote: only men over a certain age who were not slaves. And they did not elect leaders to make their decisions for them. Instead, all voters would gather together in one assembly and decide everything collectively. Unsurprisingly, these democratic systems could often be chaotic. When they collapsed, democracy disappeared for centuries. The idea that everyone should have a voice only emerged in the 19th Century, when ordinary people began demanding a say, and governments responded by expanding the franchise. In most places, women were not allowed to vote until the 20th Century. So “democracy” as we understand it today is a new and fragile idea. Historians have a clear warning: we should not assume that it should last forever. Will democracy survive for another 100 years? Backsliding Yes: Everyone wants to live in a society where they have rights, freedoms and a voice. Governments can only resist this pressure for so long. It is too soon to declare the end of democracy. No: Democracy is a recent invention, one that has proved extremely fragile. With all the crises facing us, it would be easy for people to lose faith in democracy and seek an alternative. Or… Arguably, we have never lived in an actual democracy. Everything is still run by and for a small elite. Our aim must be to create real democracy, not to preserve the system we have.       KeywordsAutocratic - Relating to a ruler with total power.

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