As he stood on the site of the bloodiest battle in the US’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 USA was founded on: “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

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

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, over one-third of the world lives under authoritarian rule.

This Sunday is International Day of Democracy, a day which promotes 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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Democracy around the world is being shaped by a division between nationalists (like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro) and globalists (like Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel). What are the arguments? And where is the debate taking us? An illuminating video, narrated by Stephen Fry.


  1. Without using a dictionary, write definitions for the following words: democracy, authoritarian, populism.
  2. Create a timeline of democracy in your own country.
  3. Imagine that you have decided to run for prime minister or president of your country. Write a speech which outlines your vision for the future, and persuades people to vote for you.