COVID-19: both a challenge and an opportunity for democracy

September 15, 2020
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On International Day of Democracy, the EU reaffirms its willingness to take a leadership role on democracy, working ever harder in supporting those who defend it, build it and hold decision makers accountable in these difficult times.

The global pandemic has not only challenged our health and economy, but our democracies. As the world took emergency measures to address the crisis, concerns began to emerge that some countries might take advantage of the situation to roll back civil and human rights. Coronavirus is also highlighting and aggravating structural inequalities – from inadequate health systems to social protection gaps, digital divides and unequal access to education; from environmental degradation to racial discrimination and violence against women – that are themselves threats to democracy. Yet, crisis can also be an opportunity to move ahead.

“Across the world, people continue to demonstrate, often at great personal risk, their desire for democracy. From Hong Kong to Lebanon, Belarus to Sudan, behind the headlines and numbers are brave and courageous people from all backgrounds. We pay tribute to them and share their commitment to democracy”, reads the statement jointly issued by the HR/VP Josep Borrell and Commissioner Šuica to mark the date. 

The pandemic has come accompanied by a global infodemic that poses a direct threat to one of the pillars of democracy: the right to access truthful information. “While new opportunities for political participation have emerged, we witness the far-reaching impact of new forms of manipulation of information and electoral and democratic processes, intensified by digital technology and social media”, reads the EU Joint Statement.

The European Union has recently renewed its commitment to the defence of democracy worldwide. The new ‘Action Plan Human on Rights and Democracy 2020-2024’ sets out the European ambitions and identifies priorities for concrete external action for the years to come. In 2019, cooperation projects in support of democracy amounted to €147 million in 37 countries.

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EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024

European Democracy Action Plan

Countries covered:

  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Palestine *
  • Syria *
  • Tunisia