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Publication | Report/Paper

Paths to Democratic Resilience in an Era of Backsliding

A Roadmap for the Democracy Support Community

Executive Summary

Despite some bright spots, the anti-democratic challenges of the day are not fading fast. Investing in democratic resilience is increasingly essential, as autocrats — who governed 72 percent of the global population at the close of 2022 — go to ever greater lengths to preserve and expand their power. Unlike in eras past, contemporary autocrats seek not to replace democracy with a competing ideology but to manipulate the democratic system to achieve their own ends. 

This paper lays out a detailed approach to building democratic resilience in countries facing democratic erosion, democratic breakdown, and autocratic deepening. Investments in resilience may take different forms: In some cases, we may be able to help a democracy “bounce back” from episodes of backsliding; at other times, we may need to support democracy to enable it to persist in diminished form, reinforce what remains of the democratic architecture, or simply preserve the normative foundation and public demand for democracy for a future opening. The paper offers a framework for choosing interventions that are most likely to succeed based on the relevant backsliding context. With this framework, we seek to shift the question from whether support is feasible or desirable in a backsliding context to how the international community can best support a democracy that is encountering any form of backsliding.  


Table of Contents


Developing a shared understanding of democratic backsliding for the democracy support community. 


Designing resilience interventions for implementations. 


We are thankful to our colleagues for their critical review and feedback: Chad Vickery, Dr. Staffan Darnolf, Rushdi Nackerdien, Vasu Mohan, Dr. Tarun Chaudhary, Typhaine Roblot, Uchechi Anyanwu, Jordan Shipley, Marcelo Varela-Erasheva, Eva Gil, Maximo Zaldivar, Clara Cole, Silja Paasilinna, Anthony Bowyer, Regina Waugh, Gracia Angulo Duncan, Suzanne Abdallah, and Nicolas Kaczorowski. We also thank Katherine Ellena and Melika Atic for their support. Special thanks to Elías Gálvez-Arango for bringing these concepts to life through graphic design.

The IFES Democratic Resilience Lab is generously supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).