Parallel session
COVID-19 and democracy

Exceptional periods such as the pandemic pose major risks for democracy and human rights. In response to the pandemic, over one hundred countries have declared national emergencies, empowering governments to act in ways they would not normally.

Around the world, the pandemic has been linked to new restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement, and information, as well as abuses tied to the enforcement of lockdowns. Observers of democracy have been warning for well over a decade that global democracy is in decline. The Varieties of Democracy Institute’s latest report reveals that 68% of the world’s population now live in autocracies. This panel considers the influence of the pandemic on democracy and on these trends.

How has COVID-19 affected democracy? What are the prospects for the future? 

Rachel Gisselquist | Chair

Rachel M. Gisselquist, a political scientist, is a Senior Research Fellow with the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and a member of the institute’s senior management team. She works on the politics of developing countries, with particular attention to inequality, ethnic politics, statebuilding and governance and the role of aid therein, democracy and democratization, and sub-Saharan African politics.

Joseph AsunkaJoseph Asunka | Presenter

Joseph Asunka is the CEO of Afrobarometer. He was previously Program Officer in the Global Development and Population program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation where he managed a portfolio of grants that support efforts to increase transparency and accountability in fiscal governance and foster citizen participation to improve public services in developing countries. Before joining Hewlett, Joseph was a lecturer in political science at University of California, Los Angeles.

Nic CheesemanNic Cheeseman | Presenter

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham and was formerly the Director of the African Studies Centre at Oxford University. He mainly works on democracy, elections and development and has conducted in-country research in a range of African countries including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, but has also published on Latin America and post-communist Europe.

Julia Leininger | Presenter

Julia Leininger is Head of the department of Transformation of political (dis-)order at the German Development Institute. Her work areas cover political order and development, transformation of political regimes in sub-Saharan Africa, international Cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa, religion and politics, global governance/international organizations, and acting as regional coordinator sub-Saharan Africa.