The Task Force on Democracy, Economic Security, and Social Justice in a Volatile World was convened amidst the convulsions triggered by the global economic and financial crisis of 2008. The tumult had already spread far beyond the economy, with bank bailouts sparking popular outrage that shook democratically elected governments in many countries. Today, the repercussions of the crisis are still being felt, from turmoil in the euro-zone to a sputtering global economy and growing popular rejection of the politics of austerity. Meanwhile, global inequality is increasing, poverty remains stubbornly high, and evidence is mounting that traditional aid and development programs are not working.
The global economy is hardly the only source of volatility in the world today, however. The upheavals of the Arab Revolutions of 2011 - and the harsh reprisals that have followed across the region and beyond - have once again thrust democratization, with all its promise and perils, to the center of the global stage. Protest movements like Occupy and the Indignados are spreading within established and more recent democracies. The 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in a context of growing war weariness and lingering security concerns, has led to renewed questioning of the costs, wisdom, and future of the so-called War on Terror. Climate change poses growing and diverse threats which politicians and policy-makers have frankly failed to meet.
These developments have created an opening for consideration of new ideas and innovative models to advance democratization, development, and social justice. Events in the Middle East and North Africa vivify the continuing appeal of democracy and human rights and sharply challenge conventional thinking about the stability of authoritarian rule and the "dangers" of popular mobilization, and innovations in participatory governance highlight exciting new democratic possibilities. New approaches to development and democratization anchored in human rights point toward hopeful, if so far rarely realized, possibilities. New ideas about economic security and social justice offer a clear alternative to the politics of stagnation and retrenchment.