Earlier this week, the global think tank International IDEA shared its annual Global State of Democracy Report. It is not uplifting reading. The full report is here, but here’s the executive summary of the Stockholm-based group’s findings:
›› The number of backsliding countries – those with the most severe democratic erosion – is at its peak;
›› This includes the United States, which still faces problems of political polarization, institutional dysfunction, and threats to civil liberties; and
›› Globally, the number of countries moving toward authoritarianism is more than double the number moving toward democracy.
It’s not a big surprise. This year has seen compounding crises, which often drive people toward populists and demagogues offering security and prosperity in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to a persistent pandemic to inflation and climate change, it’s obvious that we’re moving through a remarkable era in world history. The question now is how to reverse the concerning trend away from democracy.
Each region of the globe has its own unique challenges, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. International IDEA recommends policy actions to renew democracy worldwide by embracing more equitable and sustainable social contracts, reforming existing political institutions, and shoring up defenses against democratic backsliding and authoritarianism. Again, you can dig into the report for more specifics about each proposed action.
It’s important to note that the Global State of Democracy Report is directed at democratic governments around the world. Citizens are a secondary audience; that means everyday folks in an established democracy – oh, say, the United States – might have a hard time finding entry points into what they can do to improve the civic health of their communities. This is no trivial matter: It’s not governments that ultimately ensure that democracy carries on. It’s all of us.
That’s why Civic Nebraska is here. We’re in schools, in towns and cities across the state, and on the streets building and strengthening civic life through a variety of initiatives. Whether it’s fortifying Nebraska’s civic health, instilling powerful citizenship in young people, or protecting voting rights, the message is the same: We are our democracy, and it takes all of us for our systems to work. Therefore, all of our acts – big or small, official or unofficial, public or private – serve to co-create our shared democratic reality.
There are literally thousands of ways everyday people can do this. Here are our favorite 20.