The Global State of Democracy


Recent media reports and public opinion polls have warned about the apparent growing threats to democracy. They suggest, with pessimism, that democracy is in decline.

There are certainly reasons to be concerned. All countries must address complex challenges that, whether originating within or outside of their borders, have a global reach: from food scarcity to conflict, from climate change to terrorism and organized crime, and from populism to corruption.

However, in my opinion, this is an incomplete overview of the problem. It is easy to lose sight of the long-term gains the world has made in maintaining democracy. By and large, public institutions today are more representative and accountable to the needs and desires of women and men of all ages. Over the past several decades, many states have become democratic and, notwithstanding obstacles and some setbacks, most of them have maintained that status. Today, more countries hold elections than ever before. Crucially, most governments respect their international commitments to uphold rights, more individuals are able to freely cast their votes, and civil society and its leaders can mobilize and engage in dialogue with political leaders. All in all, democracy has produced a domino effect, growing and spreading across the planet.

Governments should build on this strong foundation in order to reduce the risk of backsliding towards authoritarianism. Regrettably, in too many cases electoral results are not respected or institutions and rules are manipulated to keep leaders in power indefinitely. This prevents citizens from accessing the basic elements of freedom and equality that democracy champions.

International IDEA’s new publication, The Global State of Democracy, offers a comprehensive global analysis of the challenges facing democracy and the policy options to tackle them. The text contrasts recent democratic reversals with longer-term positive trends, providing a nuanced fact-based perspective and proposing solutions to questions that are often overly politicized. The publication discusses complex, critical and politically sensitive problems facing the world today, such as how to provide migrants with opportunities to participate politically in their home and destination communities. It also addresses how money improperly influences the political system, the risks that rising inequality levels pose to democracies and their potential impact on future generations, and the strategies to create or strengthen inclusive political instruments after conflict.

In addition, International IDEA provides valuable insights on the important role women play in strengthening political institutions, how young people can be engaged in politics, and how innovations in technology and the media are changing the way politics is done today. The publication contains a rich summary of best practices and case studies from around the world, focusing on the changing political dynamics of democracies traditionally defined as ‘consolidated’ and ‘emerging’.

The publication draws attention to both the positive and negative forces that influence democratic systems, and offers a useful set of policy recommendations and options. While there are no easy solutions, these ideas should help all of us who are involved in building democratic societies to reinvigorate our relations with our fellow citizens.

In short, at a time when joining forces to safeguard democracy is more important than ever before, International IDEA provides us with key elements to analyse and suggestions to act on. This makes the publication exceptionally timely.

Michelle Bachelet
President of Chile

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet,
President of Chile

"Governments should build on this strong foundation in order to reduce the risk of backsliding towards authoritarianism"

Explore the data

The Global State of Democracy indices website allows you to explore and compare country, regional and global democratic trends across a broad range of attributes and subattributes of democracy in the period 1975–2015.

Visit The Global State of Democracy Indices website