The Coronavirus pandemic requires crisis management by governments around the world. In these exceptional circumstances, lives will depend on rapid and effective government action. At the same time, it is essential that such action enjoys the consent and support of the people in each country, who recognize that the government is acting to protect the public. A crisis is not a justification for undermining democracy.
For authoritarian governments, a crisis can be an opportunity to consolidate power and legitimatize crackdowns by evoking an existential threat. For emerging democracies, there is a risk that legitimate measures to address public health will undermine progress in consolidating transparency and accountability.
That’s why NIMD, as part of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), has signed a joint statement on the importance of key democratic principles during and after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Alongside 14 other democracy support organizations, we call on governments and parliaments around the world to ensure that:
- Emergency powers are limited in duration and proportionate to the threat.
- Measures taken to deal with the crisis are continuously communicated to the public in a transparent manner.
- Privacy rights are respected.
- Transparency and accountability are upheld.
- The crucial role of independent news media in the Coronavirus pandemic is recognized and protected.
- No one is left behind. This includes recognizing that women can be at greater risk of violence and have worse access to formal healthcare; groups in conflict with the government can be excluded from care; minority communities can be victims of racist, xenophobic treatment, and subject to restrictions in access to healthcare; people with disabilities can be pushed down the priority list for treatment; and refugees or IDPs can be left particularly exposed. Public health measures must take careful account of these and other vulnerabilities.
Read the full statement here.