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Annual Theme 2018/2019: Democracy and Development

The Politics of Hope: Reviving the Dream of Democracy and Development


What is it that people most want in life? What are their hopes and expectations? Global surveys show people of all ages, genders and nationalities list ‘an honest and responsive government’ among their top three priorities. The other two priorities that regularly top the list are ‘a good education’ and ‘better healthcare.’ Hence, people clearly want not just that their politicians deliver development, but also that they can be held to account. Democracy, good governance and development are intertwined in a hopeful way.

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However, the practice is less encouraging, and people are increasingly disillusioned with regard to those issues. Although people still tend to support the abstract ideal of democratic governance, world-wide there is increasing dissatisfaction with how democracy is working in practice. Democracies don’t necessarily perform better compared to dictatorships. Moreover, there is growing support for strong, authoritarian leaders. Populist leaders capture voters with a narrative mixing xenophobia with promises to boost economic growth and development.

This gap between the optimistic theory and the more doubtful practice raises many profound questions for scholars to consider, such as how can politics play a role in realising people’s hopes and expectations? How can we define and accurately measure democracy and development? How can we assess the expected connection between democracy and development? How can we build active citizenship, ensuring that people know and can claim their rights? How can people demand and monitor the provision of public goods and services? How can we improve dialogues between citizens and the state to facilitate collective problem identification and solving? How effective are the populist leaders for improving development? And what are the limits of different types of political systems to sustainable development?

The theme of this year’s GRP is reviving the dream of democracy and development. We will address critical development questions through a series of inter-disciplinary events – seminars, lectures, and our photography competition. The year will see speakers invited from the academic, activist, policy-making and NGO communities and we warmly invite Warwick academics, researchers and students to contribute to events and activities.