Starting with the “Third Wave” of democratization, the spread of democracy and human rights over the last three decades has dramatically changed the international landscape. Since 1989, the number of countries considered an electoral democracy has almost doubled. Democratic transitions in places as diverse as Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia have captured the world’s attention.

“Rising democracies” have stood out for their shift from authoritarian governments to more open and representative systems and for their impressive progress in delivering better standards of living for their citizens. The concept of “rising democracies” included the democratic ones among the “rising powers”, like India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia, as well as young democracies from Eastern Europe and Latin America, such as Poland, Hungary, Chile and Argentina. Their embrace of globalization and democratic norms not only affected their own trajectories, but also gave rise to the hope that these young democracies would use their growing prominence to defend democratic values abroad, potentially revitalizing international democracy promotion.

In the past few years, however, most of these countries have passed through economic and political crises. Widespread demonstrations against increasing socio-economic hardships and inequalities have put pressure on democracy in Chile, France, Iraq, Lebanon, South Africa, and others. Countries across the globe have seen the rise of populist forces and an increasing political and societal polarization. In some cases, the rise of populists to power has resulted in democratic decline and erosion. Hence, optimistic expectations regarding the diffusion of democracy, and the participation of rising democracies in this process, have for the moment been frustrated.

With a focus on the fate and role of “rising democracies”, the workshop studied the current crisis of democracy, looking in particular at:

Crisis diagnosis
What are the symptoms regarding the quality of democracy? Which dimensions of democracy are particularly affected? Is there a decoupling of democracy and liberalism? Do we observe democratic backsliding, erosion, or even breakdown in countries formerly considered to be rising democracies?

Why did the pushback against democracy happen? Are there common causes for the fate of rising democracies, or is it that case-specific developments were crucial for the respective countries?

What are the implications for the contribution of the former rising democracies to democracy promotion and the defense of democracy?




Brigitte Weiffen (DAAD Visiting Professor at the University of São Paulo and Chair of IPSA RC34)

Due to the current global pandemic, the workshop was held online. 

Video of the Opening Roundtable "The quality of democracy in times of Covid-19"