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The Global State of Democracy Report 2021 - Building Resilience in a Pandemic Era

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    1st Dec, 2021

Context

Democracy is deteriorating across the world, with countries notably taking undemocratic and unnecessary actions to contain the coronavirus pandemic, as per The Global State of Democracy Report 2021.

About

About the Report

  • The report, titled Global State of Democracy 2021, is published by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). 
  • The report is based on events that have impacted the global democratic governance since the start of the pandemic.
  • The information for the analysis was collected from various sources, including from two of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance indices.
    • The international organisation’s Global Monitor provides data on measures taken on the coronavirus pandemic in 165 countries.
    • The Global State of Democracy has data on democratic quality for the same countries, based on 28 aspects of democracy up until the end of 2020.
  • Both data sources are developed around a conceptual framework, which defines democracy as based on five core attributes:
    • Representative Government
    • Fundamental Rights
    • Checks on Government
    • Impartial Administration
    • Participatory Engagement
  • These five attributes provide the organizing structure for this report.

Key-findings of the Index

  • 20 countries were moving towards authoritarianism and seven nations were heading towards democracy.
  • These “negative trends” had become more serious and added to concerns with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Over the past two years, some countries, particularly Hungary, India, the Philippines and the USA, have seen a number of democratic attributes affected by measures that amount to democratic violations – that is, measures that were disproportionate, illegal, indefinite or unconnected to the nature of the emergency”.
  • As much as 70% of the world’s population lives either in non-democratic regimes or in “democratically backsliding” countries, the report noted, adding that only 9% of the population was living in high-performing democracies.

Democratic backsliding

  • The report defined “democratic backsliding” as the “sustained and deliberate process of subversion of basic democratic tenets by political actors and governments”.

What the report says about India?

  • Among all countries, most democratic violations during the pandemic took place in India. These included
    • harassment, arrests and prosecution of human rights activists, journalists, students, academics and those critical of the government and its policies
    • excessive use of force to enforce Covid-19 regulation
    • harassment of Muslim minorities
    • internet shutdowns and lockdowns, especially in Kashmir
  • India imposed the highest number of internet shutdowns last year.
    • Another report, released by digital rights and privacy organisation Access Nowin March had also noted that last year, India had the highest number of internet shutdowns – 109 out of the total 155 globally.

In 2021, India fell to the 53rd position in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, which ranks the country as a “flawed democracy”.

What are the actual issues in India?

At present, the Indian democracy is facing the given issues:

  • Individual liberties are being subordinated systematically
  • Institutions are not functioning autonomously but acting more or less as components of the executive
  • The regime has little patience with popular protests
  • Parliament’s function of oversight has been systematically side-lined
  • The federal structure is routinely undermined in the arenas of governance and competitive politics
  • Constitutional protections and, more generally, the spirit of the Constitution are easily violated in practice

What needs to be done?

  • Accurate analysis of the current situation
  • Continuous support for democracy
  • Promotion of people’s participation
  • Global leadership and solidarity from democratic states are urgently needed. 
  • Removing dominant or negative actors
  • Strengthening of institutions
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