The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2012 Democracy Index (registration required) paints a grim picture of “democracy at a standstill.” While there are some silver linings — almost half of the world’s population lives in “a democracy of some sort,” a historic achievement — the report highlights how fragile democratic transitions can be.
The report notes that the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 have largely stalled as new regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya struggle to achieve their democratic aspirations and other countries around the region proceed cautiously with their own reforms. Though the MENA region as a whole increased its average democracy score by more than a point, from 3.62 to 3.73, it has a long way to go: “full democracy” requires a score of 8 or greater (scores below 4 are considered “authoritarian regimes.”)
At the same time, much of Eastern Europe, which began its transition more than 20 years ago, saw an erosion of democracy in 2012. Authoritarian regimes in many CIS countries became increasingly entrenched while political cultures in the democracies of east-central Europe weakened. Countries in Latin America were plagued by organized crime, attacks on media freedom, and populist movements with authoritarian tendencies. Even long-established Western democracies reported declines in political participation and the functioning of government, the report said.
One bright spot was Sub-Saharan Africa, which continues its slow and steady democratic progress, though the island of Mauritius remains the only African state rated as a “full democracy.”
More than anything, though, this index shows that the work of democratic transition is far from over. As the report notes, “It is not easy to build a sturdy democracy. Even in long-established ones, democracy can corrode if not nurtured and protected.”
This is why CIPE has worked, and will continue to work, in each of these regions to help their citizens build democracies that deliver for the long term.
Jon Custer is Social Media/Communications Coordinator at CIPE.