The world appears under siege from dark forces of violence, xenophobia, corruption, and conflict, writes Brookings analyst Ted Piccone. The latest reporting from watchdogs like Freedom House, Transparency International and Human Rights Watch remind us that recent trends are negative; democracy is in recession; and progress toward peace, development, and human rights is waning.
In this sea of uncertainty the fortunes of five rising democracies – India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Indonesia – will likely play a decisive role in the world’s ability to sustain and strengthen the international liberal order, he contends:
The good news is that each of these diverse countries—which collectively represent 25 percent of the world’s population—has emerged from painful periods of dictatorship, apartheid, and colonialism to embark on a path toward more open societies, improved human development, and more widespread prosperity. Their average GDP growth rates over the past 30 years have been consistently above the global average and until 2014 regularly outperformed China on a per capita basis. Since their respective transitions to more liberal and competitive systems of political and economic governance, they have made major strides in securing political rights and civil liberties. They’ve also reduced debt and controlled inflation, and made significant improvements in key dimensions of human development (defined as a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living). Life expectancy improved, poverty rates dropped, literacy grew, and infant and maternal mortality fell significantly. Most importantly, they achieved these outcomes in tandem with democratization, underscoring the virtuous circle of political and economic liberalization and offering a positive antidote to the restrictive model of China’s state-dominant development.