International IDEA tells senators, MPs to prioritise Asia-Pacific democracy

Australia should offer more support to building sustainable democracies in the region.

That’s the advice of the International Institution for Democracy and Electoral Assistance – a 34 member intergovernmental organisation that supports sustainable democracy around the world.

Appearing before a joint committee inquiry into supporting democracy in the region, Asia-Pacific director Leena Rikkila Tamang said in response to “backslides”, Australia had a key role to play.

“Australia should give more prominence to democracy support in the region. One can support this argument several ways, but a more democratic region is obviously better placed to prevent and respond to security threats, achieve economic prosperity while also addressing inequalities and meet people’s human rights and moral aspirations,” she said.

“We know that democracies around the world are declining or stagnating.

“There are several factors – one is the fact democratic regimes have not convincingly or consistently made the case that they can deliver what people demand.”

She said Australia, and other successful democratic countries, had a role to play in propping up stronger regimes, particularly those in the region.

Speaking to the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, International IDEA has found democracy is receding, and authoritarianism is solidifying.

About half of people in the region live in an authoritarian regime – 72 per cent of whom live in China.

Myanmar and Afghanistan are two prominent examples of democratic “backslides”, but Ms Rikkila Tamang said longstanding “stable” democracies like India, the Philippines and Indonesia are experiencing widespread erosion. High and mid-performing democracies like Japan and Taiwan are also suffering from erosion.

In her submission, Ms Rikkila Tamang said there were several factors contributing to democratic erosion, including the rise of ethno-nationalist movements, continued presence of military in political institutions, state capture, and corruption.

The institute says the Australian government should consider the impact democratic decay is having on the security environment in the region.

It argues this can be done by strengthening the countervailing institutions, ensuring a comprehensive approach to combating digital threats, and supporting civil society.

The Albanese government invested $609.2m in the Pacific regional development program for the financial year.

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