News Article

‘Democracy cannot be taken for granted’, says Secretary-General Yves Leterme
Stockholm, Sweden

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Secretary-General Yves Leterme at The Global State of Democracy launch, Stockholm, 15 November 2017. Image: Stuudio Huusmann

Secretary-General Yves Leterme at The Global State of Democracy launch, Stockholm, 15 November 2017. Image: Stuudio Huusmann

On Wednesday 15 November 2017, International IDEA officially launched the first edition of its flagship publication, The Global State of Democracy: Exploring Democracy´s Resilience, in Stockholm, Sweden.

The publication provides a 'health check' on how democracy is faring worldwide. It also includes the newly developed democracy Indices, which measure trends in five key attributes of democracy from 1975-2015—representative government, impartial administration, checks on government, fundamental rights and participatory engagement. The publication also provides actionable recommendations to a range of actors on how to strengthen democratic resilience, bridging the gap between academic research, policy development and democracy assistance initiatives.

In his introductory remarks, Secretary-General of International IDEA Yves Leterme, reflected on the progress that democracy has made over the past 40 years, as well as the ongoing threats and challenges.

Based on the findings of the publication, Leterme noted that democracy, in contrast to the often-bleak portrayals by dominant media, has made substantive gains over the past 40 years. “If we take a historical perspective,” he said, “democracy has proven resilient over time”. He highlighted the progress that has been made in the growth of the number of democracies with competitive elections, the political representation of women, and the growth of Information communications technologies, which facilitates access to information and has transformed interactions in the political arena.

However, Leterme also noted that democracy today faces a number of serious challenges and threats, which risk eroding democratic principles in both new and established democracies. These include the phenomenon of modern democratic backsliding, the rise of populism and nationalism, persistent levels of corruption, and decreasing levels of trust in traditional democratic institutions.

“Recent developments across the world have led many to question the value of democracy, and cynicism and pessimism seems to have overtaken the public debate”, Leterme noted, calling upon all actors to build, strengthen, regenerate and safeguard democracy in these challenging times.

“Democracy,” he concluded, “cannot be taken for granted. And each one of us has a responsibility to build, protect it and safeguard it”.

The launch was held at the Stockholm City Conference Centre and was the first of a series of launches in locations around the world (see all upcoming events). Throughout the day, participants saw presentations from a number of well-respected speakers; watched a series of short documentaries; and took part in thematic innovation labs (“Ideathons”), where participants discussed and found solutions to current challenges to democracy. 

Download the The Global State of Democracy publication and view the Indices

About the Author

Head of North America and Deputy Permanent Observer of International IDEA to the United Nations
Annika Silva-Leander

Dr Annika Silva-Leander is Head of North America at International IDEA where she oversees International IDEA’s outreach in the region, its engagement in the Global Democracy Coalition, and its work in support of the Summit for Democracy. She is also International IDEA’s Deputy Permanent Observer to the United Nations.