Publication Date
Publication Date: 
September 14, 2017

"Traditionally, in most representative democracies, the power of citizens to make decisions at the ballot box was restricted to the elections of other people and parties to offices and parliament. However, in recent years more and more countries have adopted new possibilities and channels for citizens to make their voices heard - even between election days."

Launched on the International Day of Democracy, September 15 2017, in Falun, Sweden, this resource is designed to help readers better understand their rights as active citizens in the growing world of participatory and direct democracy. It is meant to be a way - a passport - that offers a starting point to those who are seeking answers to the question, "What can I do?" when it comes to active citizenship. (In the Passport, the term 'modern direct democracy' is used in order to avoid confusion with traditional forms of assembly democracy (often associated with Greece), which are still in use today, especially at the local level (e.g., town hall meetings). Such assemblies are "pre-modern" in that they do not respect the secrecy of the vote, which is critical in modern direct democracy.) According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA)'s Direct Democracy Database, since 1980, more than 8 out of 10 countries worldwide have had at least one nationwide popular vote on an issue - often in the form of a referendum.

International IDEA asserts that direct participatory democracy - tools initiated by citizens, government-triggered popular votes, and other participatory instruments (e.g., participatory budgeting) - depends on an engaged citizenry and assumes access to information and education that lead to sound decisions. To that end, the Passport offers information about how tools and processes of direct democracy work (and don't work) as part of a modern representative democracy. In addition to introducing key definitions, it includes recommendations on how to use initiatives, referendums, and plebiscites. It is written for a wide variety of audiences, including international observers of initiative and referendum processes, journalists, election administrators, and constitutional designers.


  • The world of active citizenship and participatory democracy
  • Your fundamental rights
  • Your guide to modern direct democracy
  • Modern direct democracy: initiatives, referendums and beyond
  • Define your role and interest in modern direct democracy
  • Where do you want to exercise your participatory rights?
  • Choose your direct democracy tool
  • Citizens' initiatives
  • Popular referendums
  • You don't have to go it alone
  • Getting involved: a step-by-step guide
  • Mandatory referendums: when the law says 'by the people'
  • The plebiscite: a top-down amalgam
  • The recall: mixing people and issues from the bottom-up
  • Involving the people in many ways
  • How to make modern direct democracy work
  • References
  • Resources
  • International IDEA: supporting (direct) democracy worldwide
  • Switzerland: a natural reference point and support centre
  • About the author
Number of Pages: 



"Launch of Global Passport for Modern Direct Democracy reinforces power of the active citizen", by Lynn Simmonds, September 9 2017 - accessed on October 4 2017. Image credit: Shana Kaiser | International IDEA

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