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Report Details Ways Countries are Using COVID-19 to Curtail Democratic Freedoms and Offers Countertactics

ATLANTA – Democracies around the world need to adopt new ideas and approaches to ensure the lasting protection of democracy and civil liberties threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report endorsed by The Carter Center that was released today.

The report, “Global Democracy and COVID-19: Upgrading International Support,” highlights the ways some governments are using the public health crisis to further curtail core democratic freedoms and provides recommendations for policymakers and civil society to counteract the negative impacts of COVID-19 on democracy.

The Carter Center and 10 other pro-democracy institutions endorsed the report, which is aligned with a recent “Call to Defend Democracy” that was signed by almost 100 organizations from all over the world, as well as nearly 500 prominent individuals from 119 countries, including Carter Center CEO Paige Alexander.

Many governments are restricting human rights and fundamental freedoms – such as the freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement – under the guise of battling the pandemic. The report highlights how some governments are interrupting elections, clamping down on political opponents, discriminating against minority and vulnerable groups, censoring media, and increasing disinformation and digital surveillance.

To combat these tactics, the report recommends:

  • Creating a comprehensive monitoring mechanism to guide international responses to COVID-19 democratic infringements.
  • Incorporating democracy efforts into COVID-19 emergency and recovery aid.
  • Cooperating multilaterally to safeguard democratic practices.
  • Providing support to new civic initiatives to support democracy that have emerged as a result of this pandemic.
  • Harnessing emergent innovations in democratic participation, such as online protests, parliamentary digitalization, and taking steps to improve accountability mechanisms for oversight of elections and democratic institutions.

To interview a Carter Center expert on COVID-19’s potential threats to democracy and human rights, contact Soyia Ellison, associate director of communications, at soyia.ellison@cartercenter.org.

Read the report:
Global Democracy and Covid-19: Upgrading International Support (PDF)