The Global State of Democracy 2019: Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise. Image Credit: International IDEA
More than half the world’s population now live in democracies but its value is more contested than ever.
BRUSSELS—How ill is democracy and is it really dying? What are some of the remedies to the current problems? These are some of the questions that the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance’s (International IDEA) newly released flagship report The Global State of Democracy 2019 Report: Addressing the Ills, Reviving the Promise explores. The report, packaged as a “global health check of democracy” aims to influence the global democracy debate, by nuancing the current doom and gloom narrative and proposing solutions to the current challenges.
As Kevin Casas-Zamora, the Secretary-General of International IDEA states: “Let us not give up on democracy, but instead revive and recapture democracy´s promise! Despite the ills, democracy remains the best option to advance human dignity. This should spur all of us to take action—however small—to reinvigorate representative institutions, build vibrant civil societies, protect a free media, and fight corruption, all of which are key pillars for healthy democracies”.
The majority of the world’s population now lives in some form of democracy. However, the quality of democracy is being eroded across all regions of the world and its value is more contested than ever, with voters lured by populist alternatives that promise more effective solutions to current global social-economic challenges.
The assessment is based on International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy (GSoD) Indices which measure democratic performance for 158 countries from 1975 until today and help monitor progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. They complement other democracy measures through their broad and multi-dimensional framework and their focus on democratic quality rather than country ranking.
A highlight of some of the key findings of the report are:
- The strive for democracy continues to mobilize people around the world, with democracy spreading its reach even to countries that have never experienced it before. In the last ten years alone, eleven countries transitioned to democracy for the first time in their history.
- The quantitative advance of democracy has not been matched by an improvement in democratic quality. Democracies are deteriorating in quality, particularly in relation to a shrinking civic and media space.
- The share of weak and fragile democracies has increased significantly in the last decade, and the share of high performing democracies has been more than halved since 1980 (from 48% to only 22% of democracies in 2018).
- Half the democracies in the world suffer from democratic erosion and the number of countries affected has almost tripled in the last decade.
- Democratic backsliding, referring to the intentional weakening of checks on government and a deterioration in civil liberties, is on the rise, with the most severe cases observed in Latin America and Europe, but also in Asia. Democratic backsliding is closely linked to the rise of both left- and right-wing populist parties.
The report finds four areas in which democratic progress has been insufficient:
- Only 24 per cent of parliamentarians are women and at the current pace, it will take another 46 years to reach gender parity in parliaments.
- Global levels of corruption remain the same now as forty years ago. Almost half (43%) the countries in the world have high levels of corruption and this represents a serious impediment for sustainable and human development.
- Social group equality in access to political power remains highly skewed and the share of countries with high levels of political inequality has increased in the past decade.
- Over a third of countries still have low levels of judicial independence and since 2013, the number of countries that have seen significant declines in judicial independence outnumber those with advances.
The report discusses six key global challenges to democracy:
- the crisis of representation of political parties and the rise of populism;
- patterns and conditions of democratic backsliding;
- the empowerment of civil society in a shrinking civic space;
- managing electoral processes in challenging environments;
- corruption and money in politics and
- the impact of information and communications technologies on democracy.
The report also provides an in-depth analysis of the state of democracy in the different regions of the world: Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and Europe.
Expectations of democracy to deliver, particularly in reducing corruption and inequalities, and generating employment and economic growth, have left many disappointed, luring voters towards populist alternatives. However, the report shows that most hybrid forms of democracy that flirt with authoritarianism, and non-democracies, have generally not managed to provide better policy outcomes than democracies, with some exceptions.
This report shows that democracy matters. To deal with the current global social, political, economic and environmental challenges that the world is facing, the world needs more and better democracy, not less.
The official and main launch of the 2019 report will be held on 19 November at Martin’s EU Brussels Hotel in Brussels. Two additional global launches and regional launches will follow. The two global launches will be held in Stockholm, Sweden and New York City.
The 2019 report is available in English, both in print and online. A summary of the publication is available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic. Explore the Global State of Democracy Initiative website (www.idea.int/gsod) and the Global State of Democracy Indices (www.idea.int/gsod-indices) to learn more. This interactive website also includes downloadable graphs and country profiles, and helps to compare democratic performance across countries and regions.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an intergovernmental organization with the mandate to support and advance democracy worldwide. International IDEA contributes to the public debate on democracy and assists in strengthening process, reforms, institutions and actors that build, advance and safeguard democracy, with a focus on electoral processes; constitution-building processes; and political participation and representation. Mainstreamed across all of our work are gender and inclusion, conflict sensitivity and sustainable development.
For more information, visit www.idea.int
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Lynn Simmonds, Acting Head of Communications, L.Simmonds@idea.int
Annika Silver Leander, Head of Democracy Assessment & Political Analysis, A.Silva-Leander@idea.int