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About NCCR Democracy

Democracy is not a perfect form of governance. To date, however, and despite all its shortcomings, there exists no other form of government that is better suited to managing the way in which we live together. Democracy can certainly be improved. For this reason, and also due to new developments and changing framework conditions, we continuously need to reflect upon, and re-negotiate, the rules of democracy.

The research program NCCR Democracy examines two current developments which are fundamentally transforming democracy: globalization and the growing role of the media in politics, or “mediatization”. Since 2005, social scientists in this network have been working together on over 50 research projects in order to understand which challenges and new opportunities for democracy are entailed by these two trends.

Research questions

NCCR Democracy research focuses on the following questions:

1) How can international institutions such as the EU and the WTO become more democratic? How do democratization processes operate in regions in conflict such as the Caucasus or parts of Africa? Why do these processes often lead again to civil war?

2) Globalization leads to political decisions increasingly being taken by transnational or international institutions and less and less by nation states. Does this lead to a weakening of democracy since these new decision-making bodies are not elected and therefore, democratically speaking, not legitimized?

3) Today, all democratic systems are confronted by the increasingly powerful role the media plays in politics. What are the consequences of this process of “mediatization? Do the increasingly commercialised news media still provide the information citizens need in order to form their political opinion?

4) How can the quality of democracy be measured and enhanced? How democratic are democratic countries? And can deliberation and new electronic decision-making tools improve democracy?

Structure

In the first two research phases (2005-2013), the NCCR Democracy studied these questions in five modules consisting of over 30 research projects.  Five projects were charged with knowledge transfer into society. In its final research phase (October 2013-September 2017) the NCCR is made up of 12 individual projects.

Managed from the University of Zurich, the network currently comprises almost 60 researchers from six disciplines working at 15 partner institutions. The research network is an unprecedented disciplinary alliance between political science, media and communication sciences and other social sciences disciplines.

Promoting young researchers

NCCR Democracy offers a doctoral program in its two core disciplines – political and communication sciences. The aim is to contribute to the interdisciplinary training of doctoral students in social sciences.

Knowledge transfer into society

In order to improve civic education in Switzerland, NCCR Democracy has developed pedagogical tools such as the websites www.politiklernen.ch and www.politikzyklus.ch, the app "Aushändeln - Das Demokratiespiel" as well as the electronic educational game"Ja-Nein-Vielleicht" for teaching in Swiss secondary schools.

Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA)

In 2007, together with the Swiss city of Aarau, the Canton of Aargau, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, and the University of Zurich, NCCR Democracy founded the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau in order to permanently institutionalize democracy research in Switzerland.

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