Freedom a casualty of Covid-19 pandemic: Biggest news story ever?

     

Is the Covid pandemic the biggest news story ever? the Economist asks.

Measures imposed by governments to fight the Covid-19 pandemic have squeezed civil liberties worldwide, with authoritarian regimes seeking to exploit the restrictions as a way to shore up their sometimes shaky control on fast-changing societies, rights groups say, AFP reports:

According to a recent report from the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), 61 percent of countries had by the end of November 2020 implemented measures to curb Covid-19 “that were concerning from a democracy and human rights perspective.”….According to US NGO Freedom House, “the condition of democracy and human rights has grown worse in 80 countries” since the pandemic began.

In “A Call to Defend Democracy”, an Open Letter initiated by the International IDEA and the National Endowment for Democracy, some 73 pro-democracy institutions as well as a roll call of global political and civic leaders, including 13 Nobel Laureates and 62 former heads of state and government, warned that the pandemic posed serious threats to democracy.

While early on during the pandemic, it was legitimate to err on the side of postponing elections, going forward countries should do everything they can to hold elections as scheduled, as enough lessons have been learned to make it possible to conduct elections safely and effectively, says the Democracy & Human Rights Working Group, a nonpartisan initiative convened by Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. Recommendations for the U.S. administration and Congress to support the holding of elections globally during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Taking advantage of this crisis to make improvements in election processes, especially with regard to inclusion, but also with regard to improved communication, strengthening political consensus, and better use of resources.
  • Reviewing and updating norms and laws related to emergency decrees and health and safety restrictions to make sure the transparency and integrity of elections are still protected.
  • Making use of the research and comparative data that exists related to elections that have been held during the pandemic, and incorporating it into decision making.
  • Identifying those new elements of holding elections during a pandemic that should be maintained after this crisis is over, such as the use of SVA to achieve the highest level of inclusion possible, full transparency and communication about election processes, and the use of local election observers.
  • Encouraging international NGOs to coordinate their efforts to support the holding of inclusive, transparent, legitimate, and safe elections during this and future health crises.

The United Nations estimates that 5 million more Afghans will be in need of help next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in conflicts, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports (HT: FDD).

The coronavirus has intensified the importance of civil society action across regions around the world, according to a compendium of twelve case studies from Carnegie Europe – Coronavirus as a Catalyst for Global Civil Society – that examines the shifts in global civil society as a result of the pandemic.

 It is “no surprise” that in Russia frustration with President Vladimir Putin’s rule is growing as the economic consequences of the pandemic compound a decade of stagnation, AFP adds.

“The second- and third-order consequences of the disruptions and dislocations wrought by the pandemic may be dramatic,” Andrei Kolesnikov and Denis Volkov argued in a study for the Carnegie Moscow Center.

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