The Instinct for Freedom

Issue Date January 2020
Volume 31
Issue 1
Page Numbers 103-113
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When the first issue of the Journal of Democracy appeared in January 1990, democracy’s continued expansion appeared inexorable. Thirty years later, after years of negative global trends that have been called the democratic recession, such optimism about democracy’s prospects seems profoundly unrealistic. But the recession is being countered today by surprising democratic resilience. Since the spring of 2018, when authoritarian regimes unexpectedly fell in Ethiopia, Armenia, and Malaysia, grassroots movements of protest against corrupt and unaccountable autocratic governments have swept through many countries and regions. In this new period, organizations and individuals working to strengthen democracy globally should focus on six urgent priorities: 1) assisting democratic transitions; 2) supporting the liberalization of authoritarian systems; 3) countering authoritarianism’s malign influence internationally; 4) defending democratic values against growing illiberalism and intolerance; 5) winning the new battle over technology and information; and 6) reviving democratic political will in the world’s leading democracies, above all in the United States.

About the Author

Carl Gershman is the founding president of the National Endowment for Democracy.

View all work by Carl Gershman