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The Rise of Referendums: A Death Sentence for Multilateralism?


Perhaps the most notable development of the second half of the twentieth century, and its greatest achievement, is the rapid global spread of two institutions: democracy and multilateralism. These institutions have collectively made us safer and more prosperous than any previous generation in history. But could the two now be coming into conflict? Recent experience regarding the EU suggests both that referendums as a tool of foreign policy decision-making are likely to become more common in the future, and that they pose major risks for multilateralism and international cooperation.
Keywords: Referendums, direct democracy, multilateralism, European Union, populism