The practice of democracy assumes new challenges every day. Perhaps the most important of these have to do with defining what democracy is, establishing adequate mechanisms of accountability, as well as with the growing demands for participation. Both of these challenges can be appreciated globally, and are a matter of concern for both Law and Social Sciences. Many of the concrete problems that put democracy at stake cannot be properly assessed and addressed from a single discipline or by studying a single country, because these problems tend to be transnational in nature. Just consider the following: corruption in international economic relations, organized crime in networks that cross borders, migratory movements, protection of the environment, the institutionalization of citizen participation, etc. All these are phenomena that cannot be studied and analyzed exclusively with the tools of just one discipline, nor by solely looking into the manifestations of such problems in a given country. Therefore, assessing the challenges of democracy today requires a transdisciplinary and international approach. Along the spectrum of the more or less robust western liberal democracies, and particularly among Latin American democratic governments, it is possible to verify the existence of the following common patterns:

  • The risk of a “democratic regression”; and a massive violation of fundamental rights associated with a process of post-colonization of political institutions through the deregulated displacement of capital;
  • The threat of corruption in the exercise of both political and economic power;
  • The challenges to state´s sovereignty that come with the expansion of the financial and military capacity of terrorist organizations, including those of a fundamentalist-religious nature and those oriented towards drug trafficking;
  • The precarization of the material conditions of life for vast groups of people, as well as the persistence of the threat of poverty for sectors that have managed to overcome it;
  • The reappearance of massive migratory movements, accompanied by human trafficking, as a result of the above conditions;
  • The marginalization of human groups that constitute ethnic, religious, sexual or other minorities, within societies crossed by the apparently irresolvable tension between a cosmopolitan pluralism and the recognition of the importance of collective identities;
  • The uncertain feasibility of sustainability given the phenomenon of climate change, and the lack of regulation that could contain the exploitation of resources;
  • The persistence of a legal and political culture which resists a complete endorsement of democracy and human rights, specifically manifested in the weaknesses of the transitional justice processes that many countries of the South American context have gone through.