The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health and economic emergency; it is also a crisis for democracy, human rights, and governance that could undermine or collapse fragile democracies – including many allies of the United States.
Authoritarian governments set the stage for this health epidemic to become a global pandemic, and now it falls to democracies to end the pandemic -- and prevent the next one.
Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on democracy around the world is an urgent matter. Authoritarian governments -- such as China -- are wasting no time in exploiting the COVID outbreak to undermine democracies around the world. In many countries, the crisis will strain citizen relationships with government, intensify political and social tensions, further disenfranchise many voters (including displaced persons and refugees), exacerbate marginalization and inequality, and increase conditions for violence. Rumors and misinformation are spreading quickly and have the power to incite conflict, government crackdowns, and stigmatization. Clear, accurate communications about impact and risk are essential both to keeping populations healthy and safe as well as instilling trust in official sources who are tackling the disease. In short, the world needs functioning, citizen-responsive governance.
We must act by ramping up support to developing democracies in these strategically vital areas:
Countering foreign authoritarian influence
Preventing the abuse or concentration of power
Preserving election integrity in a time of crisis
Reducing opportunities for corruption
Curbing democratic backsliding and reemergence of conflict
Reinforcing good, inclusive governance
NDI and its Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) partners IRI and IFES are developing new, rapid-response programs to respond to COVID. To learn more, read the new CEPPS white paper that provides a road map for how democracy assistance can help democracies respond to COVID-19 and save lives.