Revitalize democracy assistance to counter resilient authoritarians


The global prospects for democratization and democracy assistance are worse than at any time in several decades due to the culmination of six trends: a , disillusionment with the Western model of liberal democracy, increasingly resilient authoritarianism, efforts by Russia to undermine democratic institutions and development, China’s alternative development model, and the spread of “digital authoritarian” technology, argues David Black, a democracy officer in the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

In his new book, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition,
and American Complacency, Larry Diamond [co-director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s international Forum for Democratic Studies] identifies a similar set of trends, and concludes that it is time to recommit to democracy at home and support democratization elsewhere through development assistance, diplomacy, and the power of example, he adds in Revitalizing Democracy Assistance To Counter Threats To Democratization, a report for the German Marshall Fund.

Democracy assistance has been adapting to these trends, Black observes, but proponents of democracy are being outpaced by those who seek to undermine democracy or promote alternative models. These developments demonstrate the need for more, not less, attention to democratic development and support for democracy assistance, but donors need to revitalize democracy assistance to effectively address these new challenges and threats. This will require:

  • More strategic development and democracy assistance that directly addresses the harm being done to democratization by resurgent authoritarian regimes;
  • Modernizing democracy assistance to better address the challenges posed by increasing autocratization and digital authoritarian technology;
  • Improving coordination among donors to more effectively address increasingly complex democratization challenges; and
  • Expanding efforts to mitigate the negative impacts of Chinese development aid and investments.


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