2011 was a momentous year for democracy around the world.
The Arab Spring changed the lives of millions as a wave of citizen-led uprisings swept across North Africa and the Middle East, toppling longstanding autocratic regimes in its path. In established democracies, citizens have mobilized in massive popular protests across all continents as an expression of frustration with how politics has not delivered fair access to opportunity, employment and education.
While popular protest is hardly a new phenomenon, what was completely different about the 2011 events was the lead taken by ordinary citizens in their quest for democracy and dignity against overwhelming odds—including the support of their oppressors by key international actors. This makes 2011 not just an eventful year, but the year that ushered in what might be called the century of the citizen.