Making the case for democracy

An article on democracy prepared by the Nordic foreign ministers

The last thirty years of democratic advances have been eradicated. This means that the global level of democracy is back to where it was before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Development and democracy are interlinked, and we must not take either of them for granted. 

The democratic decline constitutes a real threat to sustainable development, global peace and the health of the planet that we share. This threat is reflected in the inaction on the climate crisis, the increasing number of wars, economic downturns, growing inequalities and the pushback on gender equality and human rights. 

It’s time to make the case for democracy. 

New research from the V-Dem Institute, a global independent research institute, shows that democracy outperforms autocracy. We would like to highlight four vital and evidence-based conclusions.

1.    The return of democracy as a norm would significantly strengthen global peace and security

-    Democracy promotes peace. Democracies do not wage wars against each other. 

-    Democracy promotes stability. Civil wars are much less likely in democratic countries and, when they do occur, they are less deadly. 

-    More democracies in the world will lead to fewer wars. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine would probably not have happened if the level of democracy in Russia had been higher.

2.    Democracy is critical to mitigating the environmental and climate crisis

-    Democracies have almost a 20 per cent higher policy commitment to climate change mitigation and adopt stricter national environmental policies than do autocracies.

-    Democracies are better equipped to implement the Paris Agreement. 

3.    Democracy is vital for economic and social development 

-    Economic growth is generally higher in democracies than in autocracies. Countries
that democratised increased their GDP per capita by about 20 per cent in the 25 years following democratisation.

-    Democracy provides mechanisms for more equitable growth that reduces poverty.

-    Democracies have fewer and less severe financial crises. 

-    Life expectancy increases when countries democratise. Infant mortality is markedly lower in democracies.

-    Democracies provide 23 per cent more safe water access, 35 per cent more child immunisation and up to 40 per cent more electricity access than autocracies.

4.    Democracy promotes gender equality

-    Democracy increases women’s political participation and representation.

-    Women’s political empowerment and peace are closely linked. The annual risk of civil conflict drops from roughly 30 per cent in the least gender equal country to around 5 per cent in countries where women are fully empowered.

-    Gender equality is much more likely to be the norm in democratic countries.

The worrying trend of democratic backsliding around the world erodes democratic norms and institutions; it weakens checks and balances on power and restricts people’s ability to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

We need to take collective action to protect democracy, now. 

We will intensify our efforts to make the case for democracy as a global norm. Intergovernmental platforms for cooperation among democracies, such as the Summit for Democracy and International IDEA, are vital. We will seek to build stronger alliances – across regions – and work together for democracy. 

We need to make the case for democracy, because democracy delivers – for all of us. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Jeppe Kofod

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Pekka Haavisto

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Anniken Huitfeldt

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Ann Linde