Evan Mawarire, Marina Nemat and Wai Hnin Pwint Thon are among the many twenty first century’s freedom fighters — individuals who have risked their lives and liberty in a battle for democracy that’s being fought globally, CNN’s . They’re active participants in the Renew Democracy Initiative‘s Frontlines of Freedom project, he adds, introducing “Voices of Freedom,” in which 13 dissidents from all over the world make the case for democracy advocates to fight for restoring and defending the rights to talk freely and vote in sincere elections.
They wanted to “remind us of the importance of America’s founding values to our own success and to the global community as a whole,” Uriel Epshtein, Executive Director of RDI, tells CNN.
In response, RDI launched the Frontlines of Freedom project. It features an open letter, signed by 53 dissidents from 28 countries, in which they argue, “If the world’s leading democracy doesn’t believe in its own values, why should dictators even bother paying lip service to them? We must defend these principles that inspire advocates of liberty and provide a crucial check on tyrants.”
Are we experiencing a full-on global assault on civil society? What happens when the driving force of democracy – the people themselves – is silenced? How can we counter this development? Deutsche Welle adds. In a new film, In the Crosshairs of the State (above), director Sebastian Weis investigates these question, relating the situations in India, Russia, and Poland chapter by chapter, with each country representing an overarching issue.
Electoral autocracies do allow some space for oppositions to maneuver, adds Barnard College professor and Journal of Democracy contributor Sheri Berman. And these regimes are prone to sclerosis and inefficiency. Taking advantage of the opportunities offered by even flawed elections and the missteps of autocrats requires united oppositions focused on restoring democracy above all else, she writes for Social Europe’s IPS-Journal.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Belarussian dissident Andrei Sannikov state that for Belarus to succeed in moving away from an autocracy, it “will require the collective action of other western nations committed to the values and principles of basic human rights and freedoms.” The United States could take lead on this by “providing material and ideological support to the country’s pro-democracy elements,” they add.
This kind of aid is far more practical, explains Roland Rich, an assistant teaching professor at Rutgers University and former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Government-to-government aid, especially when one of the parties involved is not a democracy, is often highly ineffective in bringing about tangible change. However, he argues, “people-to-people aid” can empower citizens and civil society to organize and push for the freedoms they deserve, he tells CNN’s Fredrick.
“Hailing from the Soviet Union… a precursor to [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia, I have always understood that democracy is a privilege — one that must constantly be defended,” adds RDI chairman Garry Kasparov. RTWT