People's Stories Democracy

The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the trend of democratic deterioration
by International IDEA
Nov. 2021
More democratic governments are increasingly adopting authoritarian tactics, accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, while autocratic regimes are consolidating their power, says a new report from International IDEA.
The world is becoming more authoritarian as autocratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression. Many democratic governments are backsliding and are adopting authoritarian tactics by restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, a trend exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
These are the key findings of the “The Global State of Democracy Report 2021 - Building Resilience in a Pandemic Era”, published by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), an intergovernmental organization based in Stockholm.
The number of backsliding democracies has doubled in the past decade, now accounting for a quarter of the world’s population. This includes established democracies such as the United States, but also EU Member States such as Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. More than two-thirds of the world’s population now live in backsliding democracies or autocratic regimes.
Overall, the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction in 2020 outnumbered those going in a democratic direction.
The world has lost at least four democracies in the last two years, either through flawed elections or military coups. The Global State of Democracy (GSoD) indices show that authoritarian regimes have increased their repression, with 2020 being the worst year on record.
The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the trend of democratic deterioration—As of August 2021, 64 percent of countries have taken an action deemed to be disproportionate, unnecessary or illegal to curb the pandemic.
But democratic erosion is not a one-way street. Many democracies have proved resilient, including during the Covid-19 pandemic, by introducing or expanding democratic innovations and adapting their practices and institutions in record time.
“The political flaws and social fault lines revealed by the pandemic will drive more people towards populist and authoritarian leaders that seldom deliver durable solutions for the concerns of citizens”, said International IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora. “If there is one key message in this Report, it is that this is the time for democracies to be bold, to innovate and revitalize themselves.”
The Report finds that many countries held credible elections in exceedingly difficult conditions created by the pandemic, often by expanding the modalities to exercise suffrage.
Nonetheless, International IDEA warns against the grave and looming threat of disinformation and baseless accusations of electoral fraud, as seen in Myanmar, Peru and the United States.
One of the key findings of this research is the remarkable strength of civic activism all over the world. Pro-democracy movements have braved repression in places such as Belarus, Eswatini, Myanmar, and Sudan, and global social movements for tackling climate change and fighting racial injustice have thrived.
More than 80 countries have experienced protests and civic action of different kinds during the pandemic despite often harsh government restrictions.
The Report recommends actions to bolster global democratic renewal by embracing more equitable and sustainable social contracts, reforming existing political institutions, and shoring up defenses against democratic backsliding and authoritarianism.
The continent has suffered a wave of growing authoritarianism as crises of various kinds have affected Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Myanmar. Democratic erosion is also widespread, including in India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka with many of them suffering from rising ethnonationalism and the militarization of politics. China’s influence, coupled with its own deepening autocratization has widening impacts.
Recent declines in democracy in Africa have undermined progress made across the continent over the past three decades. The Covid-19 pandemic, though seemingly less damaging to public health than elsewhere in the world, has added pressure on governments to respond to concerns regarding governance, rights and social inequality.
While regular elections remain the norm, the democratic quality of these elections is on the decline and attempts to evade or remove presidential term limits present a risk to democracy. Moreover, the year has seen four successful military coups in Chad, Guinea-Conakry, Mali and Sudan.
The Middle East’s tainted track record on protecting civil liberties was even further strained by the pandemic, with many elections held with the sole aim of keeping existing regimes in power, such as in Algeria, Egypt and Syria.
Half the democracies in the region have suffered democratic erosion, including notable declines in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and the United States.
Still, most democracies have been resilient to the disruptive effects of the pandemic, with most elections going ahead and parliaments, judiciaries and media managing to exercise their functions of oversight. The Dominican Republic and Ecuador have made progress in the quality of their democracies.
The pandemic has placed a strain on democracy. In some countries where democratic principles were already under threat, it provided an excuse for governments to weaken democracy further.
Ongoing democratic backsliding intensified in EU Member States Hungary and Poland, while Slovenia joined them as the region’s third backsliding democracy in 2020. Europe’s non-democratic governments—Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey have intensified their already very repressive practices.

Visit the related web page

We are still knocking on the door of future climate catastrophe
by UN News, The Observer, agencies
13 Nov. 2021
UN Secretary-General's Statement on the Conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26:
'The approved texts are a compromise. They reflect the interests, the conditions, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today.. Unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.
As I said at the opening, we must accelerate action to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive. Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread. We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.
It is time to go into emergency mode — or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero. I reaffirm my conviction that we must end fossil fuels subsidies. Phase out coal. Put a price on carbon.
Build resilience of vulnerable communities against the here and now impacts of climate change. And make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to support developing countries. We did not achieve these goals at this conference.
But we have some building blocks for progress.. The texts today reaffirm resolve towards the 1.5 degree goal. Boost climate finance for adaptation. Recognize the need to strengthen support for vulnerable countries suffering from irreparable climate damage.
And for the first time they encourage International Financial Institutions to consider climate vulnerabilities in concessional financial and other forms of support, including Special Drawing Rights. And finally close the Paris rule book with agreement on carbon markets and transparency. These are welcome steps, but they are not enough.
Science tells us that the absolute priority must be rapid, deep and sustained emissions reductions in this decade. Specifically — at least 45% cut by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
But the present set of Nationally Determined Contributions -- even if fully implemented -- will still increase emissions this decade on a pathway that will clearly lead us to well above 2.4 degrees by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial levels.
To help lower emissions in many other emerging economies, we need to build coalitions of support including developed countries, financial institutions, those with the technical know-how.
This is crucial to help each of those emerging countries speed the transition from coal and accelerate the greening of their economies. I want to make a particular appeal for our future work in relation to adaptation and the issue of loss and damage. Adaptation isn’t a technocratic issue, it is life or death.
I was once Prime Minister of my country. And I imagine myself today in the shoes of a leader from a vulnerable country. COVID-19 vaccines are scarce. My economy is sinking. Debt is mounting. International resources for recovery are completely insufficient.
Meanwhile, although we contributed least to the climate crisis, we suffer most. And when yet another hurricane devastates my country, the treasury is empty.
Protecting countries from climate disaster is not charity. It is solidarity and enlightened self-interest.
We have another climate crisis today. A climate of mistrust is enveloping our globe. Climate action can help rebuild trust and restore credibility.
That means finally delivering on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries. No more IOUs.
It means measuring progress, updating climate plans every year and raising ambition. I will convene a global stock-taking summit at the heads of state level in 2023.
And it means – beyond the mechanisms already set out in the Paris Agreement – establishing clear standards to measure and analyze net zero commitments from non-state actors. I will create a High-Level Expert Group with that objective.
Finally, I want to close with a message of hope and resolve to young people, indigenous communities, women leaders, all those leading the climate action army. I know many of you are disappointed. Success or failure is not an act of nature. It’s in our hands.
The path of progress is not always a straight line. Sometimes there are detours. Sometimes there are ditches. As the great Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”
We have many more seeds to plant along the path. We won’t reach our destination in one day or one conference. But I know we can get there. We are in the fight of our lives. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward'.
24 Oct. 2021
Global security and stability could break down, with migration crises and food shortages bringing conflict and chaos, if countries fail to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, the UN’s top climate official has warned ahead of the Cop26 climate summit.
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: “We’re really talking about preserving the stability of countries, preserving the institutions that we have built over so many years, preserving the best goals that our countries have put together. The catastrophic scenario would indicate that we would have massive flows of displaced people.”
The impact would cascade, she said, adding: “It would mean less food, so probably a crisis in food security. It would leave a lot more people vulnerable to terrible situations. It would mean a lot of sources of instability.”
So far, the commitments countries have made to reduce emissions fall far short of the 45% cut, based on 2010 levels, that scientists say is needed by 2030 to limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, the goal in the Paris accord.
Current countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to cut green gas emissions, based on 165 latest available NDCs, representing all 192 Parties to the Paris Agreement, including the 116 new or updated NDCs communicated by 143 Parties as on 12 October 2021, compared to 86 new or updated NDCs covered by the September report reveal an alarming reality.
A sizable increase, of about 16%, in global GHG emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 is anticipated. Comparison to the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that such an increase, unless changed quickly, may lead to a dangerous temperature rise of some 2.7°C by the end of the century.
“At the same time, the message from this update is loud and clear: Parties must urgently redouble their climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5C – by the end of the century.
Overshooting the temperature goals will lead to a destabilised world and endless suffering, especially among those who have contributed the least to the GHG emissions in the atmosphere. This updated report unfortunately confirms the trend already indicated in the full Synthesis Report, which is that we are nowhere near where science says we should be,” she cautioned.
The IPCC has estimated that limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5C requires a reduction of CO2 emissions of 45% in 2030.
Patricia Espinosa also held out the possibility that if a shortfall remains at Glasgow, as is likely, between necessary and offered cuts, nations will asked to revise their plans soon after. As emissions are still rising and the 1.5C target will slip out of reach unless sharp cuts are made this decade. “This is the biggest challenge humanity is facing, so we really don’t have an option.”
Oct. 2021
It's time to hold governments to task for fossil fuels they permit, by Ploy Achakulwisut - Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
Courts are telling oil, gas and coal companies to cut emissions from their products to curb climate change. Shouldn't governments also be responsible for projects they approve?
Earlier this year, a court in the Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by almost half by 2030.
One of the most extraordinary aspects of this ruling was the court’s recognition that Shell is responsible not only for the emissions directly stemming from its business activities, but also for those from the burning of its products.
For the first time, a court recognized that fossil fuel companies cannot claim to be innocent suppliers of their planet-warming products.
Which raises the question: Don’t governments who carry out and support fossil fuel production bear some responsibility too?
In fact, state-owned companies control around half of global coal, oil, and gas production and account for 40% of investments in oil and gas worldwide.
Governments also routinely encourage and facilitate fossil fuel exploration and extraction by private companies through tax incentives and other subsidies; by issuing exploration licenses and drilling permits, by financing domestic and overseas projects; and by setting ambitious targets for future production in their national energy plans.
While a lot of attention has been paid to scrutinizing the level of global warming that countries’ emissions reduction pledges would lead us to, especially in the lead-up to the next UN climate summit, what’s gone on relatively unnoticed is how much the world’s governments intend to supply fossil fuels beyond what we can safely burn in the coming decades.
The Production Gap Report series, first launched in 2019 with the United Nations Environment Programme and published today in its third edition, aims to change that. The analysis, reflecting the latest national energy plans, shows that despite increasing warnings about the “production gap”, countries have done little to narrow it over the past three years.
Indeed, governments are still planning to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The excess is particularly great with coal – around 240% – but it is also large for oil and gas: 60% and 70%, respectively. The production gap grows even wider by 2040.
These startling numbers are reinforced by government policies and narratives that belie their announcements of more ambitious climate action and net-zero commitments.
China is touting unconventional gas as “clean” fossil energy. Russia is branding its Arctic oil as “green”. Australia is promoting a “gas-fired recovery” from the COVID-19 recession. Norway and the UK intend to maximize economic recovery of their remaining oil and gas resources.
Saudi Arabia intends to be the “last man standing” among major oil producers. Brazil wants to become the fifth-largest oil and gas producer in the world, while the US will likely remain number one.
Meanwhile, fossil gas received more international public finance than any other energy source of energy in 2017–2019, averaging around US$16 billion per year, four times more than wind or solar. COVID-19 stimulus and recovery investments have also exacerbated the problem, with governments directing hundreds of billions of dollars into entrenching our reliance on fossil fuels.
The reality is that governments of major fossil fuel-producing countries are still not willing to acknowledge the fact that we need a rapid and sustained reduction of coal, oil and gas extraction as part of the global decarbonization effort to meet the Paris Agreement. They remain unwilling, even as climate damages are already widespread and intensifying in all parts of the world.
Even as renewable energy and electric vehicles have already or will soon overtake their fossil-fueled competitors in cost and appeal. Even as the window of opportunity for limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C is rapidly closing.
To date, most government action related to addressing the supply of fossil fuels has largely been restricted to promoting carbon capture and storage and minimizing methane emissions from extraction processes – which are themselves important steps, but vastly insufficient on their own for mitigating the climate crisis.
While some fossil fuel interests may leverage Europe’s record-high gas prices to wrongly blame the clean energy transition, what this situation truly underscores is the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels – and vulnerability to their volatile prices and geopolitics – with smart policies and long-term planning.
This includes investing in energy storage facilities and more flexible energy systems alongside increasing renewable energy supply and energy efficiency, and protecting the public from energy price swings.
Because ultimately, it is energy that people demand, not fossil fuels. And as climate impacts intensify and spread to every region on our planet, so too are people’s demands for climate accountability: climate lawsuits against governments, fossil fuel companies, and financial actors now number in the thousands, including a recent challenge against the UK government for continuing to support oil and gas production in the North Sea.
What’s more, there is growing awareness that eliminating fossil fuels will also bring about important and immediate health and environmental benefits, such as avoiding millions of premature deaths from air pollution, protecting local communities and ecosystems in extraction “sacrifice zones”, and reducing plastic pollution and radioactive waste.
Some governments are now starting to place bans and restrictions on fossil fuel exploration and extraction, with Costa Rica and Denmark spearheading efforts to coordinate an international phase-out of fossil fuel production. Major fossil fuel-producing countries need to get on board.
As this year’s Production Gap Report makes clear, there is no time to waste. If these countries want to show they’re serious about meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, they need to pair their emission reduction commitments with clear, transparent plans to wind down fossil fuel production.
* Ploy Achakulwisut is a lead author of the 2021 Production Gap Report:
Oct. 2021
We are catastrophically far from the crucial goal of 1.5°C, write Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg for Fridays for Future.
To world leaders,
"Betrayal." That's how young people around the world describe our governments' failure to cut carbon emissions. And it's no surprise.
We are catastrophically far from the crucial goal of 1.5°C, and yet governments everywhere are still accelerating the crisis, spending billions on fossil fuels.
This is not a drill. It's code red for the Earth. Millions will suffer as our planet is devastated -- a terrifying future that will be created, or avoided, by the decisions you make. You have the power to decide.
As citizens across the planet, we urge you to face up to the climate emergency. Not next year. Not next month. Now:
Keep the precious goal of 1.5°C alive with immediate, drastic, annual emission reductions unlike anything the world has ever seen.
End all fossil fuel investments, subsidies, and new projects immediately, and stop new exploration and extraction.
End 'creative' carbon accounting by publishing total emissions for all consumption indices, supply chains, international aviation and shipping, and the burning of biomass.
Deliver the $100bn promised to the most vulnerable countries, with additional funds for climate disasters.
Enact climate policies to protect workers and the most vulnerable, and reduce all forms of inequality.
We can do this. There is still time to avoid the worst consequences if we are prepared to change. It will take determined leadership. And it will take courage - but know that when you rise, billions will be right behind you.
It can feel incredibly hard to keep hope alive in the face of inaction. But our hope lies in people -- in the millions of us who are rising to fight for the future. It lies in our dogged determination to speak truth to power. Our hope is rooted in action and fuelled by a love for humanity and our most beautiful earth. We can do this. And we must do this. Together.
* Greta Thunberg is a youth climate leader from Sweden, Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate-justice activist and founder of the Rise Up Movement, they are both members of the global youth movement Fridays for Future.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook