Democracy and trust face a global tipping point in 2024

2024 looms as a significant challenge to democracy and trust at the global and national levels. With 49% of the world's population going to the polls, this is the biggest election year in history.

Here in Australia, the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland go to state polling stations, and Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland have local elections. The latter represent a remarkable 52% of all Australian councils. Millions of people will decide what kind of future they want and who they can trust.

But polarization, mistrust, awareness, misinformation and digital manipulation are a dangerous melting pot that threatens democracy. As mayor of SA's most populous local council, I have seen first-hand how these melting pots seek to destabilize and destroy communities, electorates and businesses.

The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer ReportThe 'Clash of Trust, Innovation and Politics' estimated that 63% of government leaders do not believe in telling the truth and try to mislead people by telling them what they know to be false or exaggerated.

This has significant implications when people go to the polls. Essentially, 2024 will be a global vote of confidence.

Our democratic practices must keep pace with AI, social media algorithms and disruptive bots. And even speaking for myself, navigating cyber security is a real challenge.

The intersection of truth, facts and faith

In the last decade, truth has been the scourge of discourse, and now, in a post-truth world, the bold and the timid seem to be allergic to facts.

as Maria Ressa The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and global democracy advocate said:

„If you don't have facts, you can't have truth. Without truth, you can't have faith. Without these three, we don't have a shared truth. We can't try to solve any problem. Without honesty in facts, there can be no democracy”.

Without facts, fear is the fuel that divides and polarizes voters. But promising fissures are emerging. Those who can discern truth from fiction; Cruelty and greed and empathy and compassion from the digitally literate and illiterate.

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Moises Naim in his book The Revenge of Power – How Autocrats are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century It summarizes the three dangers of our time: polarization, populism and post-truth.

The destructive power and explosion of social media bots, fake news and deeply fake identities can undermine democracy and fuel polarization. The Edelman Barometer report also found that 64% of Australians believe governments lack the ability to regulate these types of emerging technologies.

A lack of trust in government on this front further endangers democracy, as innovation is vital to a sustainable and prosperous future. Taking this a step further, there is evidence that resistance to innovation is political.

In Australia, the divide is 37% on the right and 14% on the left. It is second only to the United States in exhibiting the greatest resistance to innovation from the right to the left. Culture and identity politics are on the ballot.

The 2023 Edelman Foundation report predicted Australia would become more polarized due to forces weakening our social fabric and creating increased divisions. This was certainly evident in the voice vote of Parliament.

It clearly demonstrates the fragility of our shared identity – the real and perceived unfairness in our systems. This shows a lack of confidence in what might happen economically, leading to further pessimism and low national self-esteem.

Abraham Lincoln said in his inaugural presidential address, „Our Best Angels” To unite a nation from the graves of patriots and history. \Calling on all those who have given their all to build faith in democracy and are in danger of turning in their graves this year, take some lessons from the past.

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If you can't trust the platforms that share information, you can't trust the voices calling for elections. Regulatory bodies cannot inherently be trusted to keep up with technologies.

Responding to the challenge

How we build trust and confidence in our organizational responses to fear, fake news and outright lies is much more than a communications or marketing challenge.

It runs deep into the bottom of what it means to be human. We need to feel connected and heard; We belong and we count.

The challenge for all elected members is how to float computer levers and conversations with civility and compassion. It's about creating safe spaces for those conversations to happen and holding each other accountable for the decisions made.

This means ensuring that the resources and infrastructure are in place to deliver the expected outcomes. Keeping a respectful tone is key.

Vaccination against 'Other' Important in strengthening democracy. Others can be a real challenge on days when distractions and distractions threaten to derail. This has been personally witnessed at the state and local levels to undermine trust.

I have had my share of death threats, hacks, clones, election corruption and disruption. The extent of my experience, though localized, is a small window into what the world has seen and will witness further in this year's elections and democracy.

We must strongly encourage fact-checking on every data point and respectfully communicate what is acceptable and unacceptable. Keeping the truth in check is essential to counter polarization at all levels.

Social engagement and civil discourse are booster shots for democracy. Showing up with the values ​​of empathy, honesty and listening to all voices, as does keeping the facts in front of people. We need to encourage not only the most vocal, but also the quiet ones to contribute.

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We need to learn how to disagree, formulate arguments and persuade constructively.

At the 2023 Asia Pacific Cities Summit, two-time world champion debater Bo Sio, to win a debate, listen, start by asking what the basis of your opponent's argument is first. We need to develop respectful debating skills in our educational institutions and boardrooms.

We also need truth in political advertising laws. A recent study by Australian company (Overwhelming support for truth in political advertising laws following referendum) 9 out of 10 Australians were found to support this democratic innovation.

How it unfolds

One of the tests of 2024 will be not only the results of all the elections, but also the number of people who actually go to vote. The global problem is how to shake dysfunction when voting is not compulsory.

Other countries can learn from Australia's voting laws. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been a staunch supporter of compulsory voting as it helped free Australia from the hands of a small minority.

By the end of 2024, we'll know how well we've done in balancing the scale of democracy, and if our institutions, governments, and technologies enable voters to discover the facts, be in a relationship with different perspectives, and be able to. Three word slogans should be resisted.

Democracy and trust have faced watershed times. How it pans out is yet to be decided.

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