DEMOCRACY is a universal human aspiration and an experience that is pursued and lived in different ways around the world. Democracy is also a system of governance in which government is controlled by the people and in which citizens are considered equals in the exercise of that control. Beyond the basic tenets of citizens’ choice and political equality, the critical choices are best made, and the quality of democracy best gauged, by those directly concerned: the citizens themselves. Therefore, the key leaders in democratic change are a country’s citizens, and the starting point for reform is at the national and local level.

In today’s globalized world, there is growing emphasis on and recognition of the importance of the quality of democracy at the local level. The local level is the level closest to the citizens and the space where citizens experience the practice of democracy on a daily basis as they interact with democratic institutions and processes, try to earn a living and stay safe from harm, take care of their families and communities, and access basic services such as health care, housing and education. It is often the place where citizens first get acquainted with the political system of which they are a part. For both men and women, it is also the primary entry point for political participation and representation. (State of Local Democracy Assessment Framework,2013:13)

Democracy exists in multiple forms, and these forms are in constant evolution. There is no single and universally applicable model of democracy, and there is no end point in improving democracy.

There are, however, democratic values and principles that form the foundation of any democratic system. These fundamental values and principles shape and define democratic rights, institutions and processes. They form the lens through which practices on the ground can be analyzed, assessed and appreciated. Well-functioning democratic institutions, processes and practices at the local level are important as active citizenship at the local level builds the foundation for strong and more enduring national-level democracy. Policies and politics at the national level shape practices and modes of operating at the local level, while experiences at the local level inform national policies and reforms. The local level also acts as a check for the feasibility of some policies adopted at the national level.