7 December 2021
09:00 - 10:30
Virtual Event | Organised by The Asia Foundation
| Held in US in English
Contact details: [email protected]
Defending against authoritarianism
The story of democracy across Asia in the 21st century has been an uneven one, as many governments and leaders with authoritarian tendencies have presided over democratic backsliding and the hollowing-out of key institutions such as courts and the media, as well as mounting determined efforts to shrink civic space. More recently, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on economies, put further pressure on governance institutions, and invoked pandemic security measures as rationale for politically motivated actions, thereby increasing the obstacles and scale of the challenge to democratic development.
While COVID-19 presents new opportunities for countries to consider development pathways to successful rebuilding efforts, it is now more important than ever that democracy can demonstrate its value in providing tangible economic and social gains while increasing the quality of life for people across the Ind-Pacific. In regions where open and accountable government practices continue to be the exception rather than the rule, it is clear that democratic processes such as elections are necessary but far from sufficient in ensuring inclusive development. In the face of negative political currents and other challenges, countries must find ways to renew and deepen democratic practice if they are to resist enticement of authoritarianism and its cruder claims to national development.
As the U.S. seeks to expand its partnerships through the Quad and other regional architecture, civil society will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of basic services to citizens across regions that are still marked by high levels of poverty and rising inequality. Civil society actors are key to helping to make democratic systems – nascent, developing or otherwise – work for all citizens, increasing equitable access to jobs and service and thereby contributing to equitable development and social cohesion. These are important contributions in regions plagued by democratic regression, increasing authoritarianism, and high levels of corruption.
This event will explore the complex relationship between democracy and development, and what it will take for democracy to deliver for the people of the Indo-Pacific. Panelists representing the media, civil society, the knowledge sector, and donor community will share their insights into efforts to stave off democratic backsliding resilience initiatives, push back against closing civic space, and ensure there continues to be viable pathways for democratic development that delivers in Asia.