In the face of a long-term democratic recession and a pandemic-fueled spike in authoritarian practices, the international democracy support community needs renewed energy, ideas, and leadership, according to a new analysis.
The United States, with the beginning of the Biden administration, is starting to reengage and rebuild its position in this field, but this will take time, especially given the serious problems with its own democracy and its relative loss of power over the past two decades, argue Carnegie analysts Rachel Kleinfeld, Thomas Carothers, Steven Feldstein and Richard Youngs. All parts of the larger pro-democracy field—governmental as well as nongovernmental, Western as well as non-Western—will need to be part of an attempted renovation of international support for democratic norms and practices.
Middle-power democracies have much to offer in this regard and must be a major part of the equation, they write in How Middle-Power Democracies Can Help Renovate Global Democracy Support. They may also wish to create and fund bespoke institutions to support democracy that are separate from the government and can act independently, similar to those that exist in the United States, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its related party institutes, they suggest:
A few such institutions exist in Europe but they are very thinly funded, except for the German party foundations. Much more funding and effort could be put into building a new generation of such institutions—updated beyond the traditional party focus to reflect the kinds of adjacent issues discussed above. In 2019, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of Canada’s House of Commons issued a report calling for the creation of a NED-style democracy and human rights agency precisely for this reason. In the words of Thomas Axworthy, who presented to the committee on the subject, the goal of such an agency would be to serve as a “flexible instrument able to do things that an ambassador cannot.” Canada and other middle-power democracies could reaffirm their intention to lead in democracy support by advancing with or creating more such initiatives. RTWT