More than 500 political, civil leaders, nobel laureates and leading pro-democracy institutions from across the world, among them over sixty former heads of state and government, have signed a joint statement warning that democracy is under threat and must be defended.
“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 statement says.
While it is unsurprising that authoritarian regimes are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power, some democracies have also introduced emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance state surveillance without the necessary safeguards to ensure measures can be rolled back, the statement says.
The statement 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 “Call to Defend Democracy” was initiated by the Stockholm-based organization International IDEA and the Washington-DC-based National Endowment for Democracy.
“This unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity is a sign that democracy, while threatened, is also resilient,” said Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy.
“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,” said Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary-General of International IDEA.
“Pro-democratic movements everywhere need to unite to confront the authoritarian challenge”, said Andreas Bummel, Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, one of the signatories of the statement.
“To strengthen democracy, we believe it is urgent to expand parliamentary representation and democratic participation of citizens to global institutions such as the United Nations,” he added.
The statement is also endorsed by Democracy Without Borders as an organization.