The Decline of World Democracy

The enemies of freedom have pushed the false narrative that democracy is in decline because it is incapable of addressing people’s needs. In fact, democracy is in decline because its most prominent exemplars are not doing enough to protect it. Global leadership and solidarity from democratic states are urgently needed.

Governments that understand the value of democracy, including the political powers of Washington, have a responsibility to band together to deliver on its benefits, counter its adversaries, and support its defenders. They must also put their own houses in order to shore up their credibility and fortify their institutions against politicians and other actors who are willing to trample democratic principles in the pursuit of power. If free societies fail to take these basic steps, the world will become ever more hostile to the values they hold dear, and no country will be safe from the destructive effects of dictatorship.

According to the Freedom house report, the global decline in democracy has accelerated in 2020, and the share of countries designated Not Free has reached its highest level since 2006. The report downgrades the freedom scores of 73 countries, representing 75 percent of the global population. Some of the countries that experienced significant deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties include India, Belarus, Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Poland, and Hungary. However, the exact number of countries that have seen the rise of anti-democratic governments for authoritarian regimes in the last ten years may vary depending on the criteria and methodology used to measure democracy.

For most of the past 75 years, despite many mistakes, the United States has aspired to a foreign policy based on democratic principles and support for human rights. When adhered to, these guiding lights, have enabled the United States to act as a leader on the global state, pressuring offenders to reform, encouraging activists to continue their fight, and rallying partners to act in concert.

Everyone benefits when the United States serves as a positive model, and the country itself reaps ample returns from a more democratic world. Such a world generates more trade and fairer markets for US goods and services, as well as more reliable allies for collective defense. A global environment where freedom flourishes is more friendly, stable, and secure, with fewer military conflicts and less displacement of refugees and asylum seekers. It also serves as an effective check against authoritarian actors who are only too happy to fill the void.

Next: The US decline on the Global Democratic Index.