COVID-19 crisis threatens democracy, leading world figures warn

Autor/ica 26.6.2020. u 21:57

COVID-19 crisis threatens democracy, leading world figures warn

More than 500 political, civil leaders, Nobel Laureates and pro-democracy institutions have signed an open letter to defend democracy, warning that the freedoms we cherish are under threat from governments that are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power.

The coronavirus pandemic poses serious threats to democracy. Many governments around the world have assembled emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance state surveillance, often disregarding legal constraints, checks and balances, and time frames for restoring constitutional order.

That is the key message in “A Call to Defend Democracy”, an Open Letter initiated by the Stockholm-based International IDEA and the Washington-DC-based National Endowment for Democracy and supported by 73 pro-democracy institutions as well as political and civic leaders around the world, including 13 Nobel Laureates and 62 former heads of state and government.

The letter is aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing citizens and policymakers to protect democracy–recognizing that this is the most effective system for handling global crises while protecting the rights of all citizens, particularly minorities and vulnerable groups.

“The current pandemic represents a formidable global challenge to democracy. Authoritarian leaders around the world see the COVID-19 crisis as a new political battleground in their fight to stigmatize democracy as feeble and reverse its dramatic gains of the past few decades,” the letter states.

“Democracy is under threat, and people who care about it must summon the will, the discipline, and the solidarity to defend it. At stake are the freedom, health, and dignity of people everywhere”.

While it is unsurprising that authoritarian regimes are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power, some democracies have also introduced emergency powers without the necessary safeguards to ensure measures can be rolled back, the letter says.

“This unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity is a sign that democracy, while threatened, is also resilient,” says Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy and one of the signatories.

The pandemic and the global movement for racial equality have shown that democracy is more important than ever.

Democracy allows for civil society to mobilise, for inequalities to be confronted, for policy issues to be openly debated, for trustworthy information to freely flow, and governments to be accountable to citizens—all essential tools for successfully dealing with the current public health emergency and its consequences.

“Now is the time when all of us must stand up for democracy. We need to make it clear to everyone what is at stake and that we will not allow leaders with authoritarian tendencies to use this or other crises to increase their power and decrease our rights. We need to defend democracy—whether in the ballot box, in the media or on the streets. This is what the letter is about,” says Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General of International IDEA.

Commenting on the letter, European Endowment for Democracy Executive Director, Jerzy Pomianowski states, “Covid-19 is a threat and an opportunity for democracy and democratic transitions. At EED, we have been impressed with the inventive ways our partners, including those operating in repressive regimes, have responded to the challenges posed by this pandemic. EED is proud to be part of this important global campaign to defend democracy.”

The full letter is available.

Find here the complete lists of organisations and individuals who signed the petition.

EED and a number of other organisations will follow up on this Call to Defend Democracy next week with the publication of a policy paper Global Democracy and Covid-19: Up-grading international support that complements this letter. This report assesses the impact that Covid-19 is having on democracy worldwide and calls for stronger and reformulated international democracy support. The report provides five concrete recommendations to governments and international organisations to guide democracy support now and in the post-Covid-19 future.

European Endowment for Democracy

The European Endowment for Democracy (EED) is an independent, grant-making organisation, established in 2013 by the European Union (EU) and EU member states as an autonomous International Trust Fund to foster democracy in the European Neighbourhood (Eastern Partnership – EaP – and Middle East and North Africa – MENA), the Western Balkans, and beyond.

EED supports civil society organisations, pro-democracy movements, civic and political activists, and independent media platforms and journalists working towards a pluralistic, democratic political system. These can also include newly created or non-registered organisations, informal platforms, youth groups and individuals. In particular, EED supports those who cannot be supported by other donors and existing EU instruments.

EED provides flexible support to democracy activists, complementing other EU and member state democracy-support programmes. EED is a demand-driven, context-based organisation that bases support on the principle of fostering democracy and facilitating local initiatives. Over the past seven years, EED has awarded over 1,000 grants to partners, including dedicated civic society, human rights and political activists, independent media and journalists.

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Autor/ica 26.6.2020. u 21:57