Democracy facing global challenges

V-Dem 2019 democracy report released

In May the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project released its latest report “Democracy Facing Global Challenges” – V-Dem Annual Democracy Report 2019. The report highlights that democratic declines now affect more countries than ever before. Most democracies remain resilient despite challenges such as the financial crises and the rampant spread of fake news on social media. However, government manipulation of the media is increasing, to weaken civil society, the rule of law and even elections.

There are positive stories to report from 2018. Central Asia recorded its first ever peaceful handover of power in Kyrgyzstan from one democratically elected leader to another. In Malaysia, an autocrat surprisingly lost in the elections despite electoral manipulation – showing that even in autocratic settings, elections can be a force for change. Pro-democratic movements have also mobilized masses of people across the globe in 2018 and 2019, for instance in Algeria, Armenia, Slovakia, and Sudan.

V-Dem is a unique approach to measuring democracy – historical, multidimensional, nuanced, and disaggregated – employing state-of-the-art methodology.

Anna Lührmann, V-Dem Deputy-Director, comments about the main findings of the report: “Democracy is in decline in an unprecedented high number of countries around the globe. This is worrisome. At the same time, the resilience of most democracies in the light of global challenges – digitalisation, immigration, financial crisis – gives reason to be optimistic about the future of democracy.”

New Zealand democracy rankings

The 2019 report on country rankings places New Zealand in 10th place on their overall democracy index and 7th for least political corruption.

Of concern, however, is New Zealand’s rank of 72nd for the deliberative component of our democracy. The  “V-Dem Deliberative Component Index (DCI) captures to what extent the deliberative principle of democracy is achieved. It asesses the process by which decisions are reached in a polity. A deliberative process is one in which public reasoning focused on the common good motivates political decisions – as contrasted with emotional appeals, solidary attachments, parochial interests, or coercion. According to this principle, democracy requires more than an aggregation of existing preferences. There should also be respectful dialogue at all levels – from preference formation to final decision – among informed and competent participants who are open to persuasion.”

2019 Dataset

This year’s new data includes brand new indices and indicators measuring digital society, legitimation and exclusion. The V-Dem data can help to address questions such as: What was democracy like 200 years ago, and what’s the status of democracy today? What is “exclusion” and how does it manifest in societies? Is digital media a challenge to democracy? 
Overview of V-Dem dataset V9

  • Online graphing via V-Dem Graphing Tools:  
  • Free download (SPSS, STATA, CSV, R):
  • Countries: 202 with coverage from 1789-2018
  • 450+ indicators, 81 indices and 5 high-level indices
  • New indices and indicators on digital society, legitimation and exclusion
  • Based on 3,000+ local Country Experts from all around the world. 

About Varieties of Democracy

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) represents a worldwide collaborative effort of 3,000 scholars and experts, headquartered at the V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg. The V-Dem dataset is the largest of its kind and the most comprehensive database on democracy. With four principal investigators, fifteen project managers with special responsibility for issue areas, more than thirty regional managers, 170 country coordinators, research assistants, and 3,000 country experts, the V-Dem project is one of the largest social science data collection projects focusing on research.

V-Dem data is now the leading source of information on democracy for scholars and international organisations such as the World Bank, Transparency International, UNDP, European Commission, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Resource Governance Institute, International IDEA, as well as numerous NGOs around the world.


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