Anti-liberal states and movements increasingly challenge regional and global mechanisms based on democratic conditionality and socialization, and western actors appear less determined to press for such mechanisms, notes a leading analyst.
The global democratic boom, which transformed much of the world’s political landscape in the three decades between 1974 and 2004, has also had an indelible impact on international law, most notably in the development of the ‘democratic entitlement’ claim—namely, that in a world increasingly dominated by democracies there exists an emergent enforceable right to democratic governance in international law, writes Amichai Magen, Head of the Governance & Political Violence Program, IDC, Herzliya (Israel).
But what would become of the democratic entitlement if the boom turned to bust? Magen asks, in the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law (forthcoming):
The question is no longer hypothetical. For a decade now the momentum of world politics has turned increasingly against democracy’s champions. While the dramatic gains of the late twentieth century have not been erased, the global democratic wave hit the shoal somewhere around 1999–2000, plateaued between 2000 and 2005, and has since suffered sustained reversals….The right to democratic governance is a layered, and potentially severable, edifice, parts of which now seem to be eroding, but which is unlikely to be entirely undone by a reverse wave of democratic breakdowns and resurgent authoritarianism.
Current state practice demonstrates a loosening commitment to democracy, notably in comparison to the immediate post-Cold War period, notes Magen, who is also a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution:
Anti-liberal states and movements increasingly challenge regional and global mechanisms based on democratic conditionality and socialisation, and western actors appear less determined to press for such mechanisms, preferring perhaps to emphasise security, energy and other ‘hard interests’ while de-emphasising democratic legitimacy as a factor in international cooperation. Commitment to democratic institutions and norms appear to be playing a lesser role in contemporary practice pertaining to the formation of new states and recognition of new states, and even outright military coups do not always lead to significant sanctioning.
Preserving the democratic entitlement idea requires democracy’s champions to deepen their resolve to safeguarding existing gains and, at the same time, to develop, inter alia, new democracy-supporting international instruments, he concludes:
One future direction would promote the development of a new species of democratic governance treaties, as a means of overcoming the legitimate critique that the right to democratic governance, as conceived of to date, is shallow and narrow to the point of being self-defeating. Moreover, the development of a new wave of regional, perhaps even global, democratic governance treaties would seek to bolster the protection, anchoring, and promotion of political rights within domestic systems.