Published: 30/11/2022
The Global State of Democracy 2022: Forging Social Contracts in a time of Discontent
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  Source: International IDEA, The Global State of Democracy Indices v. 6.1, 2022, <>, 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  Note: Points at 2021 values and traces back to 2016.  Source: International IDEA, The Global State of Democracy Indices v. 6.1, 2022, <>, 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. 
Democracy Notes
Published: 25/11/2022
Why paying women for being women is good for everyone
Imagine a world in which governments around the world commit to offering all their girls and women some form of financial credit, every year from birth through the end of their lives. In this world, states take a first step toward rebuilding political, economic and social structures that systematically marginalize women and girls. There are multiple scenarios through which such a programme could work, varying, for example, by the age at which the fund is accessible, who else could (or could not) access it, and the guidelines that determine how it can be spent. No matter what, such a programme has the potential to strengthen and enrich multiple measures of democracy . Consider first how it could help overall economic growth for everyone. Research shows that investments in women tend to have ripple effects, because women are more likely to channel their incomes back into their families and communities. They could use the money to pay down debt, start a business and increase purchasing power, thereby benefiting everyone. It could also help mitigate the effects of the extant gender pay gap; in September, the International Labour Organization reported that women are paid about 20 per cent less than men. Access to special funding could also help free women from violence. The WHO estimates that 30 per cent of women worldwide have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence, and research shows that women who suffer domestic abuse are also often victims of economic abuse. Without financial independence, they may be forced to return to abusive relationships. Independent access to money could thus be lifesaving for a significant portion of the population. In all regions of the world, women face higher rates of poverty than men. This gap is due to longstanding problems like the disproportionate number of women who work in the informal economy, often without labour protections and benefits. Women also work longer workdays (for less pay). Some of their labour also involves unpaid care work. An economic stimulus for women would help mitigate this inequality, akin to how the “child tax credit” in the US lifted 3.7 million children out of poverty. A similar idea is the implementation of universal basic income (UBI) to address inequality. UBI has multiple benefits, but it does not single women out and therefore is not able to acknowledge the unique violations women have suffered and continue to endure. Theoretically, the budgetary impacts of levelling the economic field for women would impact the power of long-established, wealthy interest groups, who may then be incentivized to support stronger and more effective action to address gender inequality. Additionally, given the intersectional nature of women’s marginalization, this benefit would also positively impact minority groups. Critically, it could transform gender inequality from being a “women’s issue” to being everyone’s concern. At the very least, more people would be talking about it. Hopefully, though, more people would be doing something about it.
Democracy Notes
Published: 24/11/2022
Explainer: What is ‘sportswashing’, and how does it threaten democracy?
We are now five days into one of the most controversial World Cups in footballing history. The controversy lies not in the football that has been played but the way in which the tournament is being used by its host, Qatar, a country with a limited footballing pedigree and a troubling human rights record. The starkness of this case makes it a useful context against which to explore the relationship between sportswashing and democracy. What is sportswashing? Whilst there is no single authoritative definition of sportswashing, there is broad consensus on its core elements: it is a phenomenon in which (1) sports are used (2) by a state or non-state actor (3) to launder the actor’s reputation. The manner in which sports are exploited in this way is theoretically unlimited, but the most common include: hosting sporting events and owning or sponsoring sports teams and competitions. While the term has traditionally been applied to a narrow range of authoritarian state actors outside of the West, neither geography nor regime-type form part of most definitions.           Has sport ever strengthened democracy?   The capacity of sports to engage people’s passions, to generate attention and to bridge cultural and geographic divides, means that it can be a powerful tool for those seeking to promote policy or social change. Over the past two decades, the United Nations and international development agencies have had success in using sports programming to empower women and girls, fight discrimination and build peace. Sport has also played an important role in national reconciliation efforts - President Nelson Mandela’s embrace of South Africa’s national rugby team during the World Cup of 1995, then a symbol of the newly fallen apartheid state, is regarded by many as an outstanding example of this. Indeed, sports governing bodies, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), can  leverage their status and high-profile events to promote human rights. One success story was the IOC’s creation of a Refugee Olympic Team in 2015, which has provided an important platform for refugees and refugee issues. However, the overall track record of these efforts so far is mixed and FIFA’s recent claims that the upcoming World Cup spotlight has prompted welfare and labour reforms in Qatar have been found to be largely overblown.    Can sportswashing damage democracy? As a form of reputation laundering, sportswashing works to enhance the legitimacy of wrongdoers and shield them from the negative consequences of their conduct. In so doing, it can embolden a sportswasher to commit further wrongdoings and help perpetuate weak governance. Of course, as the build-up to the World Cup in Qatar has illustrated, high profile sportswashing often attracts a great deal of critical attention, which raises reasonable questions about the extent of the danger that it presents. However, history suggests that such criticism tends to subside once the sport is underway - although at this early stage, it appears the World Cup in Qatar may buck this trend. Additionally, the existence of criticism does not in and of itself mean that sportswashing is not working – what sportswashers seek is a net reputational gain. In achieving this they can often rely on the support of powerful voices from within sports governing bodies, as was amply demonstrated in the speech given recently by FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino, in which he attacked Qatar’s critics and played down their rights concerns.           It is important to note too that it is not only the democratic performance of the sportswasher’s state that this phenomenon threatens. Recent research on the English cities of Manchester and Newcastle documents how their local democratic institutions have been weakened by the growing influence of the controversial Gulf investment funds that own their football clubs. It details how the halo effect that the owners have achieved in bringing success to these cherished clubs has been sufficiently powerful to deter criticism of their human rights record from the local press and politicians, who fear displeasing fans and advertisers. What can fans do about sportswashing? The immense size of the sports industry and the power of the individuals involved in sportswashing can leave the average fan feeling impotent. However, scholars have recently argued that fan and athlete activism have an important role to play in resisting the phenomenon. They explain that sportswashing’s potency lies in its capacity to use the strong emotions and identities associated with sport to distract from or minimise the sportswasher’s wrongdoings, and that the strategy rests on them being able to separate these wrongdoings from the sports event or team being used for this purpose. When fans and athletes draw attention to abuses, particularly from within the emotionally charged atmosphere of a stadium, they undermine this separation and limit the event’s ability to distract. Perhaps, therefore, as the World Cup progresses, we need to recognise our agency and defy FIFA’s plea to “focus on the football” by continuing our conversations about the plight of Qatar’s migrant labourers and it’s LGBTQIA+ community and by lending our support to the footballers who decide to take action.