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GCSJ Seminar series: Toothless tigers? Regional organisations and democracy promotion

Friday, June 14, 2024 - 12:00 to 13:00
Online, via Microsoft Teams

Speakers: Brigitte Weiffen

Since the end of the Cold War, a growing number of regional organisations (ROs) around the world have formally adhered to democracy as common norm and have adopted institutionalised mechanisms to promote, protect and defend it. Yet, their mere existence does not tell us much about the actual application of those mechanisms in situations in which democracy faces an acute threat or a slow erosion. Regional democracy clauses are often mere political declarations, and even if legally binding, their application is highly inconsistent and politicised. Based on empirical research on ROs in Latin America and a comparative assessment of evidence from Europe and Africa, this presentation explores why ROs so often find themselves at an impasse concerning the application of their democracy clauses. I argue that the application of democracy clauses and thus the mitigation of democratic crises is impeded by norm contestations over the meaning of democracy and power contestations between states in the region, both of which fuel the politicisation of decision-making in ROs. Moreover, politicisation interacts with deficiencies in the institutional design of democracy clauses, creating a vicious circle that makes it more likely that ROs will fall into application traps and encounter domestic resistance and backlash.

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