The Pandemic’s Global Challenge to Democracy Should Be Met with a Global Response

Institutions and individuals are uniting to raise awareness of assaults on freedom.

A Call to Democracy

The novel coronavirus remains an active threat to public health and safety worldwide. Beyond the dangers of the disease itself, however, governments in every region have deployed concerning emergency measures and surveillance tools since the outbreak began early this year. Authoritarian and democratic leaders alike are exploiting the health crisis to grab power and advance their political objectives.

In response to these mounting threats to freedom, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and the National Endowment for Democracy penned an open letter calling for a unified defense of democracy at this time. More than 500 political and civil society leaders, Nobel laureates, and prodemocracy institutions have joined the call, including Freedom House, Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz, and multiple Freedom House board members.

As the letter explains, protecting democracy as effectively as possible requires both citizens and policymakers to mobilize. In taking concerted action to prevent and repair the damage caused by pandemic-related rights violations, democracy’s defenders should consider how the crisis has disproportionately affected marginalized people, often exacerbating inequalities.

COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, neither are antidemocratic forces. International efforts like the Call to Defend Democracy are a promising sign that we can overcome this dual threat and ensure a viable future for human freedom.

See Freedom House's work on democracy during the pandemic here