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The Global State of Democracy 2022: Forging Social Contracts in a time of Discontent

PUBLISHED:
30/11/2022
The Global State of Democracy

The fourth edition of International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy report comes at a time when democracy is under assault around the world. Beyond the lingering pandemic, today’s wars, and a looming global recession lies the challenge of climate and the multi-fold consequences for democratic governance. 

Global opinion surveys show that this period has coincided with declining public faith in the value of democracy itself. This is immensely worrying for those who care about the fate of democracy, but sadly not surprising. Democracies are struggling to effectively bring balance to environments marked by instability and anxiety and populists from both sides of the political spectrum continue to gain ground around the world as democratic innovation and growth stagnate or decline. 

Even in countries that are doing relatively well, performing at middle to high levels of democratic standards and not backsliding, troubling patterns are evident. Over the last five years, progress has stalled across all four aggregated Global State of Democracy Indices (GSoD Indices) attributes. In some cases, scores are the same as they were in 1990, when many experts assumed that democracy would only grow into the future.  

Figure 1. World averages for attributes of democracy 

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Source: International IDEA, The Global State of Democracy Indices v. 6.1, 2022, <https://www.idea.int/gsod-indices>, accessed 24 October 2022. 

The stagnation exists in parallel to democratic decline elsewhere. The number of backsliding countries (seven) remains at its peak, and the number of countries moving towards authoritarianism is more than double the number moving towards democracy. As of the end 2021, nearly one-third of the 173 countries assessed by International IDEA are experiencing declines in at least one subattribute of democracy.  

Figure 2. Trends over the past 5 years in backsliding countries 

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Note: Points at 2021 values and traces back to 2016. 

Source: International IDEA, The Global State of Democracy Indices v. 6.1, 2022, <https://www.idea.int/gsod-indices>, accessed 24 October 2022. 

To rebuild and revitalize these institutions and to re-establish trust between the people and their governments, it is necessary to develop new and innovative social contracts that better reflect the changing global environment and that meaningfully prioritize equal access to the mechanisms of participation. 

Figure 3: Redesigning social contracts 

Our newest report lays out a series of recommendations, focusing on the prerequisites for renewed social contracts. These include protecting electoral integrity through more peer-to-peer learning and partnerships, rebuilding trust through increased accountability and stronger protections of the freedom of expression, and meaningful inclusion that allows heretofore marginalised perspectives to be front and centre. 

Governments, civil society, media, expert groups, academics and individuals each have a role to play in supporting and participating in the renovation of social contracts. Our collective ability to come together, locally and internationally, to pursue the citizen-centred design of these contracts will determine the fate of democracy in the years to come. 

About the guest contributor

International IDEA's Democracy Assessment Team