IFES Joins “A Call to Defend Democracy”

Text: A Call to #DefendDemocracy | Image: Raised hands

“Democracy is under threat, and people who care about it must summon the will, the discipline, and the solidarity to defend it. At stake are the freedom, health and dignity of people everywhere.”

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) joins more than 500 political and civil leaders, Nobel Laureates and pro-democracy institutions on an open letter to defend democracy, warning that the freedoms we cherish are under threat from governments that are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power.

The coronavirus pandemic poses serious threats to democracy. Many governments around the world have assembled emergency powers that restrict human rights and enhance state surveillance, often disregarding legal constraints, checks and balances and time frames for restoring constitutional order. 

A Call to Defend Democracy” is aimed at raising awareness and mobilizing citizens and policymakers to protect democracy – recognizing that this is the most effective system for handling global crises while protecting the rights of all citizens, particularly minorities and marginalized groups.

“The current pandemic represents a formidable global challenge to democracy. Authoritarian leaders around the world see the COVID-19 crisis as a new political battleground in their fight to stigmatize democracy as feeble and reverse its dramatic gains of the past few decades.”

While it is unsurprising that authoritarian regimes are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power, some democracies have also introduced emergency powers without the necessary safeguards to ensure measures can be rolled back, the letter says.

The pandemic and the global movement for racial equality have shown that democracy is more important than ever. 

Democracy allows for civil society to mobilize, for inequalities to be confronted, for policy issues to be openly debated, for trustworthy information to freely flow and governments to be accountable to citizens – all essential tools for successfully dealing with the current public health emergency and its consequences. 

IFES was among the founding organizations for this effort initiated by the Stockholm-based International IDEA and the Washington, D.C.-based National Endowment for Democracy.

Read the open letter, “A Call to Defend Democracy.”

Find the list of signatories on International IDEA’s website.

A new report identifies initiatives for governments and civil society to take to rise to the challenge of COVID-19. IFES contributed to and has endorsed Global Democracy & COVID-19: Upgrading International Support, which was produced alongside "A Call to Defend Democracy." Please note it is not endorsed by all of the signatories to "A Call to Defend Democracy."

“The post-COVID environment will look different and require new ideas and approaches to safeguard democratic practices and combat authoritarian abuses. Those concerned with democracy need to help governments, international organisations and civil society reformers lift their heads from the immediate tragedy of the pandemic and factor in these longer-term political issues.”

Read the report, Global Democracy & COVID-19: Upgrading International Support.

Text: New Policy Paper | Global Democracy & COVID-19: Upgrading International Support | #DefendDemocracy | Image: Female protester holds sign.


Learn more at IFES’ COVID-19 Survival Guide for Democracies.

Follow #COVIDxDemocracy for new analysis and innovative solutions during the pandemic.

Contact media@ifes.org for more information.

Published on June 25, 2020, and updated on July 15, 2020.

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