Democracy and International Politics


“Ohne Sozialismus keine Demokratie und ohne Demokratie kein Sozialismus. [“There is no socialism without democracy and there is no democracy without socialism”.]
– Rosa Luxemburg

“The People shall govern.”

– Nelson Mandela

Building a just and inclusive society involves establishing a political system that empowers the people to partake in decision-making. Such a participatory democracy comprises a non-governmental sphere or civil society where people meet, network and contribute towards the decision-making process through community-based organisations and NGOs.

A precursor to participatory democracy is political culture – a culture characterised by peaceful, meaningful and transparent communication between citizens and governments and in which decision-makers are receptive, responsive and accountable.

Through its own programmes and those of its partner organisations that focus on research, dialogue and education, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Southern Africa:

  • promotes an acceptance and appreciation of democratic principles by civil society as well as the importance of ensuring that, without action to restrict an uneven distribution of political power, democracy is ultimately corroded
  • supports interaction with, and participation by, particularly grassroots communities in democratic movements
  • encourages vigilance and analysis of democratic institutions and legislation


After the Cold War ended, it seemed that a unipolar world was created when the United States emerged as the only superpower in the aftermath of the dismantling of the former Soviet bloc and its partial integration into NATO and the European Union. Today, we see a world order in the making with emerging states (China, India, Brazil, Russia, the Gulf States, South Africa) and other nodes of power: a globally connected civil society; private foundations (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation); terror networks; faith-based political mass movements; multinational companies; and globally linked financial networks.

After the short excitement of independence, for decades Africa was relegated to the battleground of the Cold War. Torn into two camps, the West and the Soviet bloc, Africa was never strategically as important as Asia or Latin America for either of the superpowers. Violent conflicts, civil wars, the Rwandan genocide, natural disasters and diseases like HIV/AIDS and widespread economic and social despair dominated Africa’s image in the 1990s. Africa was seen as the “lost continent”.

African leaders faced with the economic and social crisis, violent conflicts, (man-made) natural disasters and diseases, embarked on new political initiatives (African Union, NEPAD). In many countries, popular protest escalated from below demanding an end to authoritarian and corrupt governments and new political initiatives to effectively combat poverty and unemployment.

With China’s increasing economic interest in Africa, the continent regained international interest. States and multinational companies are eyeing Africa’s resources. There is a scramble for its minerals and oil to supply world production, its land to feed a burgeoning world population and for a marketing foothold to attract Africa’s growing middle class to consume Chinese, American, German or French products.

RLS analyses the transformation of Africa’s place in the world as it is shaped by external and internal forces. The RLS-International politics programme focuses on two key themes:

  • The nature of conflict on the continent and attempts by African states to attain peace. Of particular importance is conflict prevention and management, as well as the post-conflict reconstruction processes (Democratization, pacification). The scope of investigation will include the capacity of African states, including regional “hegemons“, like South Africa, to bring about meaningful sustainable change; and
  • South Africa’s role in Africa and beyond. RLS aims to dissect the effects of South African investment, trade policies and strategic business operations on neighbouring countries and South Africa’s changing role in world politics.