Democracy Is Advancing Around The World, But Also Deeply Fraying

It can sometimes feel that humanity is taking two steps forward and one step backwards. Fewer people are hungry and poor these days, it’s true. But we’re still far from a world where democracy and freedom are the norm, and where everyone shares in economic progress.

Take a look at these charts put together by Tariq Khokhar, global data editor at the World Bank. They show how constitutions, electoral democracies, and the language of “rights” are spreading, but also how fewer people are participating in elections and how electoral “integrity” is on the decline. More Latin American and eastern European countries have constitutions, for instance, but they’re frequently amended, suggesting the documents are no more durable than ordinary laws.

The original charts come from a new World Bank report looking at how countries can be economically dynamic while serving a broad base of citizens. It argues that nations succeed in this way not because of their resources, or even the strength of their public services and infrastructure, but because of their level of social cooperation, their commitment to transparency, and the rough equilibrium of their power interests. In other words: whether or not they have effective governance.

Globalization has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty in the last 20 years. But the spread of technology and greater access to capital and world markets has had uneven effects, increasing inequality and promoting “vulnerability to global economic trends and cycles,” the report says. And the development community has too often focused on “designing best-practice solutions and building the capacity needed to implement them,” rather than the institutional underpinnings that allow those policies to succeed.

Download the full report here.

[Photo: Flickr user ]