Activists wearing cutouts of world leaders’ faces outside the COP26 summit on Nov. 2 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Are we in a historic age of protest? A new study released Thursday that looked at demonstrations between 2006 and 2020 found that the number of protest movements around the world had more than tripled in less than 15 years. Every region saw an increase, the study found, with some of the largest protest movements ever recorded — including the farmers’ protests that began in 2020 in India, the 2019 protests against President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and ongoing Black Lives Matter protests since 2013.

Titled “World Protests: A Study of Key Protest Issues in the 21st Century,” the study comes from a team of researchers with German think tank Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, a nonprofit organization based at Columbia University and adds to a growing body of literature about our era of increasing protests. Looking closely at more than 900 protest movements or episodes across 101 countries and territories, the authors came to the conclusion that we are living through a period of history like the years around 1848, 1917 or 1968 “when large numbers of people rebelled against the way things were, demanding change.”

But why? Here, the authors highlight one particular problem: democratic failure. Their research found that a majority of the protest events they recorded — 54 percent — were prompted by a perceived failure of political systems or representation. Roughly 28 percent included demands for what the authors described as “real democracy,” the most of any demand found by the researchers. Other themes included inequality, corruption and the lack of action over climate change. But the study’s authors say policymakers do not respond adequately.

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