Daily News Analysis

Global State of Democracy Report, 2021

26th November, 2021 Polity

 

Context:

  • Global State of Democracy Report, 2021 has been released by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International-IDEA).

Findings:

  • more countries than ever are suffering from ‘democratic erosion’ (decline in democratic quality), including in established democracies. 
  • The number of countries undergoing ‘democratic backsliding’ (a more severe and deliberate kind of democratic erosion) has never been as high as in the last decade.
  • More than a quarter of the world’s population now live in democratically backsliding countries.
  • Fully fledged authoritarian regimes are also growing in number, and their leaders are acting ever more brazenly. 
  • The pandemic provides additional tools and justification for repressive tactics and silencing of dissent in countries as diverse as Belarus, Cuba, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Venezuela. 
  • Some of them thrive on the narrative that authoritarian governance is more effective for economic prosperity and pandemic management.
  • Worryingy, many democratically elected governments are also adopting time-honoured authoritarian tactics, often with popular support. The pandemic has made it easier to justify this behaviour, including the politicization of judiciaries, the manipulation of media, restrictions on civil liberties and minority rights, and the weakening of civil society.

Role of Pandemic in pro democracy:

  • It has fuelled pro-democracy movements to challenge this authoritarian tide from Belarus to Myanmar. 
  • Protests over climate change and racial inequality have gone global, despite restrictions on assembly in most countries during the pandemic. 
  • Many states have adhered to democratic principles during the public health crisis, thanks to transparent and innovative governance. 
  • Some studies point to a reinvigoration of democratic values globally, particularly among younger generations.
  • Some governments have provided crucial democratic innovation during the pandemic by accelerating the adoption of new democratic practices such as digital voting. 
  • There are tentative signs of new geopolitical alliances in which some countries—for example, Sweden, and recently the USA—are making democracy a foreign policy priority. 
  • The Summit for Democracy, the first of which will be held in December 2021, will provide an important opportunity to reassert a multilateral world order based on democratic norms.

 

 

Suggestions by the Report:

  • National and local governments and political parties should redesign democratic institutions with the needs of historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups at the forefront. 
  • Governments, with support from civil society, must urgently set concrete, time-bound targets to reduce inequalities, invest in universal public services, and adopt progressive taxation of the wealthiest members of society.
  • Donors should also consider making action on inequality a condition of funding, going beyond superficial markers of diversity into more substantive evidence that inequalities are addressed in systematic ways.
  • Academia has a key role to play in evaluating innovative practices in this field, in terms of both process and outcomes, and should continuously feed practitioners with lessons on how democratic practices and tools can make democracy more inclusive.
  • Political parties should prioritize gender equality and broad inclusion, facilitating women’s and other disadvantaged groups’ participation and representation to ensure more responsive policies.

About International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance:

  • International IDEA is an intergovernmental organization that supports sustainable democracy worldwide.
  • It was founded in 1995 and currently has 33 member states.
  • International IDEA advances democracy worldwide, as a universal human aspiration and an enabler of sustainable development, through support to the building, strengthening and safeguarding of democratic political institutions and processes at all levels.