Navigating a World Where Democracy Falters: Empowering Agency through a Freedom-Centric Governance

Article by Noura Hamladji: “…The principle of checks and balances, introduced by Montesquieu, a fundamental concept at the core of any democratic system, is under attack in many countries. It asserts that only power can effectively constrain power and has led to the principle of independence and separation between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of governance. Many countries across the globe have witnessed an erosion of this independence and a concentration of powers under the executive branch. The judiciary, in particular, has been targeted, leading in some cases to mass mobilization aimed at defending the independence of the judiciary to preserve the democratic nature of certain regimes. 

Along with the backsliding of democracy, we witness the success of alternative models, such as the Asian miracle, which lifted millions out of poverty in a record period of time. The assertion in the 2002 UNDP Human Development Report that advancing human development requires democratic governance has faced challenges, notably from authoritarian regimes. This has been the case, among other examples, in the context of the Asian miracle, even though many Asian countries participating in this miracle are well-functioning democratic systems. Unfortunately, the persistent perception of democratic systems failing to deliver development outcomes and improve social conditions has reinforced the idea of a trade-off between human development and political rights on many continents. 

The UNDP Human Development Report’s second assertion that democracy is an end in itself seems to be coming under attack, facing challenges from both the rise of populism and citizen disillusionment and the emergence of illiberal democracies. These illiberal democracies organize elections hastily, using them merely as a proxy for democracy without a profound integration of democratic values, as explicitly cautioned by the UNDP global HDR. Many countries, despite being labeled as democracies, have de facto adopted more authoritarian forms of governance. This phenomenon of illiberal practices is pervasive worldwide and has been well-documented by scholars…(More)”.