Why democracy?

In October 2007, ten one-hour films focused on contemporary democracy were  broadcast in the world’s largest ever factual media event. More than 48 broadcasters on all continents participated, airing the films in over 180 countriesEach of the broadcasters – an A-Z which includes everyone from Al Arabiya to ZDF – produced  locally-based seasons of film, radio, debate and discussion to tie in with the global broadcast of the WHY DEMOCRACY? films. 

The films are made by independent award-winning filmmakers from around the world, including China, India, Japan, Liberia, USA, Bolivia, Denmark, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia. With subjects ranging from US torture methods to the election of a class monitor in a Chinese primary school to the Danish Cartoons scandal, the films take a wide-ranging and in-depth look at the world we live in today.

If democracy becomes an empty shell, this would be a tragedy because democracy with all its flaws represents the ‘last best hope’ for people around the world. But it needs to be secured and strengthened for our times. Eighty years ago, Woodrow Wilson took America into the twentieth century with a challenge to make the world safe for democracy. As we enter the twenty-first century, our task is to make democracy safe for the world

Fareed Zakaria

That’s not all. We created 17 thought-provoking short films, which deal with personal, political and rights issues around the theme ‘What does democracy mean to me?’.

The films produced by the project have a common reference beyond the thematic. Both the global broadcast and the debates arising from the films lead to a greater understanding concerning both the conditions of governance facing people in different societies and cultures, as well as a broader understanding of democracy. And the long-term educational perspective will allow for maximum use of the combined elements of the project.The films will be accompanied by a widespread post-transmission distribution programme on DVD as part of the global project.


From the film – Iron Ladies of Liberia


But our ambitions extended well beyond the broadcast media. In a groundbreaking collaboration, Why Democracy? teamed up with Metro Newspapers worldwide to ask everyone – from political leaders to athletes, celebrities to religious figures – 10 questions about democracy. The answers appeared online, in the press and in a collection of short films. The same questions became a part of a global opinion poll.

It was on the web that people form all over the planet really joined in. An unprecedented global film premiere on MySpace.com launched the online debate. At a web platform, Why Democracy hosted with discussion forums, chat rooms and wikis buzzing, interviews with democracy heroes, our short films, a collection of educational web resources and even a “why democracy house” where young people from all over the world will kept the enormous web effort going.

Since creating WHY DEMOCRACY?, the world’s political rights situation has become in some respects more terrifying. With so much violence done in the name of democracy, it has undoubtedly become a more contested idea. However, there is even greater need than before to understand it better and, despite its ironies, there is an unparalled interest in the promise it holds.

The Why Foundation hopes to encourage everyone to engage with this task. The project started on October 8th, 2007 and was global success. We hope that you will be inspired, ask questions and reflect – WHY DEMOCRACY?

Working Group

Nick Fraser – Commissioning editor of Storyville, BBC
Mette Hoffman Meyer- Commissioning Editor DRTV Denmark
Christoph Jörg – Arte commissioning editor
Iikka Vehkalahti – YLE commissioning editor
Don Edkins –Executive Producer Steps International
Mette Heide – Executive Producer Steps International
Hans Robert Eisenhauer – ZDF/Arte