Building resilient democracies

Challenges and solutions across the globe

Policy Study

08/11/2022

Across the globe, democracies are under intense pressure. The warning signs come in different forms, to varying degrees and from across all continents.

Since the start of the 21st century, long-standing democracies have faced unprecedented challenges to the integrity of their ideals, systems, and procedures; more recently established democracies have seen faltering consolidation and backsliding in their institutions. ‘Authoritarian international’ along with self-ascribed ‘illiberal democrats’ have asserted an ever more strident alternative vision for the organisation of societies: one that threatens not only to break down formal checks and balance but also to blur the distinction between elected governments and the branches of the permanent state.

Democratic erosion concerns democracy as an ideal. The dynamic character of democracies implies that they must adapt to new challenges in an ever-changing global world.

Anti-democratic forces pose increasing risks to human progress as a whole. The electoral success of authoritarian movements must serve as a wake-up call. If not stopped, societies across the world will rapidly start to lose the institutional basis through which people can achieve meaningful emancipation.

Progressive democrats need to formulate a new vision to protect and promote democracy, and its associated institutions, in order to safeguard the prospects of a positive future societal development. Central to this must be a coherent strategy to restore democratic resilience in the face of the current authoritarian challenge, both in terms of democracy’s ideological appeal and its practical efficacy.

From 11 May to 6 July 2021, the Progressive Alliance hosted four regional expert exchanges among a number of high-level political stakeholders, focused on Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. These exchanges dealt with crucial questions about how best to foster resilient democracies in the 21st century.

This policy study summarises the essential takeaways from these exchanges. It analyses the main concerns, as expressed in response to the several guiding questions and formulates a number of recommendations that progressive democrats around the world should engage with in order to be better prepared for both current and future global challenges to democratic systems.

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Karl Renner Institut
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