DRG and COVID-19 Trends Paper Series: Democratic Backsliding

Speeches Shim

During a time when democracy was already under threat, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in many countries, accelerated democratic backsliding1 and allowed autocrats to further consolidate power. These developments may have lasting impacts well beyond the pandemic. A recent “Call to Defend Democracy” letter, signed by nearly 100 organizations and 500 prominent individuals worldwide, warned that in addition to being a health and economic crisis, COVID-19 is “a political crisis that threatens the future of liberal democracy."

In authoritarian environments, governments are using the pandemic to further limit political space, consolidate power, and deepen existing backsliding trends. Without robust pushback from democratic forces and enhanced, context-appropriate donor support for democracy, human rights and governance, backsliding trends could be maintained long beyond the crisis, thus further entrenching authoritarian regimes. In fragile democracies, the response to COVID-19 is straining weak institutions and democratic norms and practices, and impeding political competition. This can result in ineffective pandemic responses, less equitable distribution of resources, the weakening of labor rights and occupational safety and health, diminished rule of law, and increased corruption. These deficiencies could undermine public trust in the government and/or foment conflict.

Friday, October 23, 2020 - 2:30pm

Last updated: December 08, 2020