As he stood on the site of the bloodiest battle in America’s Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made a two-minute speech that would go down as one of the greatest in the nation’s history. The Gettysburg Address praises the democratic vision that America was founded on: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Now, almost half of the world’s population lives in some form of democracy, according to the World Economic Forum.

But the future is uncertain. The percentage of people living in “full democracies” has halved since 2015, dropping from 9% to 4.5% — partly because the US itself has been downgraded to a “flawed democracy”, thanks to a decline of trust in public institutions. Meanwhile, around one-third of the world lives under authoritarian rule.

This Saturday is International Day of Democracy. It has now been 10 years since the United Nations first celebrated the day to promote the rights of citizens to choose how their country is run.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried,” said Winston Churchill in 1947.

Is democracy in crisis? Will it survive the 21st century? If not, what might replace it?

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Celebrate 100 years of votes for women in the UK with this slideshow on the suffragettes.


  1. Imagine that you are a political leader of a new country. Pick what type of government system you want it to follow and make a list of laws and policies that explain how it would work. Discuss with your classmates.
  2. Class debate: “This house believes that democracy is overrated.”
  3. Choose a country other than the one that you live in, and research its political system. Create a report that explains how it works and how successful you think it is.