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International Law

Confusing Order in Order to Order



There is currently a great deal of speculation, some of it emotional and dramatic, by all manner of political theorists and international relations pundits about ‘world disorder’, and a concomitant attempt to set up a world government, or at least to control as much as possible. Some even think that the next world war is being prepared, in order to achieve this, just as the Great War led to the League of Nations, and the next one to the United Nations. Many opine that the current Covid fear being manufactured and spread by Big Media, as well as by Big Pharma, Microsoft and Google (owned by Alphabet) et al is part of this plan, or at least a tool, in order to control governments, in that it tends to create a sheep-like attitude among an already complacent population, which will present itself as willing cannon-fodder in a war scenario. Let us look at this more closely.


One factor which has helped to spread fear is the increasing speed of, and dependence on, electronic communication, accompanied by the ‘Twitterisation’ of policy formulation, and one deadline after another. Rather than reflect and calmly evaluate, there is an increasing tendency to believe the messages with which we are constantly bombarded, regardless of their validity. In short, many have appinions, disguising them as opinions. One British ambassador told me that policy was now worked out ‘on the hoof’.1 Those without a Smartphone are finding it increasingly difficult to purchase various goods, and to travel, exacerbated by the various lockdowns which are leading to so many deaths through lack of medical care for non-Covid conditions, as well as to suicides and depression. Before commenting on how to understand what is happening, some thought is required on the current ‘world order’, an overworked bromide if ever there was one, since it implies that there is order, as opposed to the opposite. Perhaps the phrase ‘current situation’ would be more sensible.

Short- and long-term

The length of periods of order and disorder – and whether they are regional or global – are also relevant if we are to understand what is happening now: if we look at the last three thousand years à la Giambattista Vico’s New Science,2 we can conclude that the world has gone through periods of order and disorder. But Vico was thinking mainly of the Roman world and the disorder of the Dark Ages, which then led to order again; moreover, the disorder of the Dark Ages only seriously affected the western part of the Roman Empire, while the Eastern part continued in relative order until at least 1204. Thus he was thinking of periods of hundreds of years, in a particular part of the world, whereas current analysts tend to think only of the worldwide perceived bi-polar-induced stability of the Cold War, and then the perceived breakdown of the old system following the fall of the Berlin Wall: in other words a period of some seventy five years until now. It is therefore simplistic to talk about world disorder, when that alleged disorder is often only affecting part of the world.

Predicting: theory versus practice

Predicting is a risky business, with predictions only rarely materialising in the form intended; this is because of the vagaries of human behaviour, as well as chance. The inability to recognise the difference between theory and practice is also relevant here. Francesco Guicciardini knew this five hundred years ago: ‘To pronounce absolutely, categorically, and, as it were, by the card, concerning the things of this world, were a great mistake; for nearly all of them are marked by some singularity or exceptional quality due to difference in their circumstances, making it impossible to refer them all to the same standard. These differences and distinctions will not be found set forth in books, but must be taught by discretion.’3 He goes on to write: ‘How wide the difference between theory and practice, and how many there are who, with abundant knowledge, remember not or know not how to turn it to account! To such men their knowledge is useless, being like a treasure kept shut up in a chest on terms that it shall not be drawn upon.’ 4

Such simple common sense is currently lacking in many allegedly responsible quarters at present. But many government advisors, often from the academic world, make dangerous predictions, which are then accepted, leading to preparations for war. Political scientist Samuel Huntingdon’s ‘clash of civilisations’ scenario5 is one pertinent example. His simplistic pigeon-holing of history, riddled with sweeping statements and some inaccuracies, bowled over droves of naïve students and thrusting politicians, who naturally ended up supporting the ‘war on terror’, despite the fact that it was to a large extent western military action in Afghanistan that got the ball rolling, exacerbated by the illegal attack on Iraq.

When taken literally, theory can be dangerous, as chance and the unpredictability are not taken into account. Leo Tolstoy has something to say on this: ‘[…] only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion – science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth. […] The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth – science – which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.’6 Of course, it is not only Germans who may be susceptible to such thinking, but various academics who advise governments. Quite often, they recant, once they see the potential damage that the arbitrary application of their theories can cause. One example is Kennan’s containment theory, which was a prime ingredient of the Cold War cocktail. When he recanted, it was too late.

Wishful Thinking

We can see that once people, whether governments or the population at large, start believing various ideas, theories and predictions (as with Huntingdon above), they actually plan to ensure that the prediction is fulfilled. Thus the illegal attack on Iraq was supported by large swathes of, for example, the American, British and Israeli populations. Instead of supporting order, it led to instability in the Middle East, that was only partly controlled by Russia’s intervention in Syria, preventing yet another ‘coalition of the willing’ attack on the country, and then war against Iran, which could easily have escalated into a world war.

What is Order?

To start to understand what is currently happening, we need to define precisely what is meant by ‘international/world order. Some see it as a hierarchical concept, with the strongest countries at the top, with no recognition accorded to multi-polarity. This, as we see, is what the US appears to want and believe, whether Democrat or Republican. But others consider that there is a group of ‘top countries’ that balance their interests against ‘each other, a form of multi-polarity, or perhaps even heterarchy, where different hierarchies compete against each other. These views nevertheless connect to a hierarchical mindset.7 Another level of ‘world order’ is that of regional-geographical groupings, such as the EU, the Association of South East Asian Nations, and the Eurasian Economic Union on the economic front, and NATO on the military level. Then we have a universal level, such as the United Nations, and a plethora of organisations, treaties and various agreements that transcend power blocs and geography. At any event, we can see that ‘world order’ can comprise all the above concepts.

War or Peace?

So are we heading for world war, or simply worldwide wars? If the second scenario is true, then widespread war has already begun. Let us look at different factors that have caused this. First, through the eyes of mainstream America, she does not appear prepared to relinquish the predominant position which she gained by default with the break-up of the Soviet Union, a break-up which led to the NATO attack on Belgrade, the near destruction of Iraq, and – even with a revitalised Russia – the destruction of Libya. The Republican Bush Senior’s vision of a ‘New World Order’ fizzled out, perhaps because, despite his exhortation that the US take the lead in international co-operation, some of its language was too emotional and supercilious: ‘Our cause is just, our cause is moral, our cause is right’.8 A few years later, with the attack on Belgrade, a leading commentator was writing that the USA (now with a Democrat president) was ‘determined [with the UK’s strong support] to prevent the emergence of a Europe-wide security structure that could challenge its authority’,9 using NATO’S fiftieth anniversary not to bury NATO, but to expand eastwards and challenge the UN. Even Lord Carrington, ever the gentleman, criticised the Rambouillet Agreement that broke the forty-four year peace that had prevailed in Europe since the world war.10 According to Lord Wallace, it was ‘in America’s strategic interest to keep Europe weak and subservient.11

Then came the war on terror, which can be seen retrospectively as ‘a euphemism for extending US control in the world whether it is by projecting force through its carriers or building new military bases in Central Asia’.12 It can be said with reason that the US began to dismantle the international security architecture a long time before now.13 Fast forward to Trump (no space for Obama and his drones), and we have the ‘America First’ syndrome. Trump’s emphasis on ‘America First’ seems to have transmogrified, four years after his inauguration, into three strands: disengaging the U.S. from global politics, disdaining allies and befriending autocratic leaders. Whether or not Trump wanted this or not is a moot point: he recently evoked Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex: ‘I am not saying that the military agrees with me. But they, the soldiers, do. The top level of the Pentagon probably does not agree because they want nothing other than wars, allowing all these marvellous companies which manufacture bombs, aircraft and all the rest, to be happy, and to remain.’14 This does however contrast with the 2017 deal with Saudi Arabia to sell 450 billion dollar’s worth of arms. Apart from this, Trump’s America has pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, supports illegal Israeli territorial claims, has pulled out of various international agreements, and is fighting tooth and nail to scupper the Russia to Germany gas pipeline, confusing, in particular, its European allies.

Thus we have seen how the Trump administration has confused the world, rather than put a dampener on dangerous tendencies. To blame the enigmatic and inconsistent Trump is not however, germane since, at least ever since the assassination of President Kennedy, US presidents have been frontmen for the military-industrial complex, with their hands tied, whether or not they agree. But where does all this leave the world at the moment?

To conclude

In attempting to analyse and evaluate the likelihood of world war, we need to add two factors: the near anti-Russian and Chinese paranoia, and the EU’s inability to have an independent foreign and military policy. Both factors are inextricably linked, in that, at least since the word ‘geopolitics’ was invented, the US and Britain have fought against any serious security co-operation between Germany/Europe and Russia, the most obvious current example being the Russia-Germany Nordstream pipeline. One reason for the EU’s inability to co-ordinate its foreign and military policy is that Poland and the Baltic states are vehemently and emotionally pro-NATO and anti-Russia, thus constituting the EU’s fifth column. In contrast, French president Macron has labelled NATO ‘brain-dead’. It is the EU’s inability to stop the current instability emanating from the western world – for it is a western phenomenon – that is leading to increasing confusion, in a western world of simplistic slogans such as ‘exporting freedom’, ‘shared values’, ‘walking shoulder to shoulder’, ‘roadmap’ and ‘forces of good’,15 where common sense is thrown out of the window.

Should NATO end up in total control of the EU, and destroy the Franco-German axis on which the EU is based, then the world can expect continuing confusion in relations between states. To predict world war is risky, but to say that there are currently several wars in the world is not. In this sense, the world is already at war.

1 William Patey, former ambassador to Iraq.

2 Vico, Giambattista, New Science, translated by David Marsh, Penguin Random House UK, 2013 (first published in 1744).

3 Guicciardini, Francesco, Counsels and Reflections, translated from the Italian (Ricordi Politici e Civili) by Ninian Hill Thomson, M.A., Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner & Co., Ltd., London, 1890, 6, pp. 7-8.

4 Op. cit., Guicciardini, Counsels and Reflections, 35, pp. 21-22.

5 Mallinson, William, ‘Does the West Exist? Huntingdon Revisited’, in Images in Words: Only History Exists, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2018, 2019, pp. 34-7.

6 Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace, translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, Wordsworth Editions, 1993, p. 505.

7 Zajec, Olivier ‘L’ordre international qui vient’, Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris, November 2020.

8 Bush, George, ‘The Hard Work of Freedom’, in O’Tuthail, Gearóid, Dalby, Simon and Routledge, Paul (eds.), The Geopolitics Reader, Routledge, London and New York, 1998.

9 McCgwire, Michael, ‘Why Did We Bomb Belgrade?’, International Affairs, vol. 76, no. 1, Chatham House, London, January 2000, p. 14.

10 Ibid., p. 14.

11 Lord Wallace, ‘Repairing European and Transatlantic Institutions, The World Today, vol. 59, no. 5, Chatham House, May 2003, p. 16.

12 Cox, Michael, ‘American Power Before and After 11 September: Dizzy with Success?’, International Affairs, vol. 78, no. 2, Chatham House, January 2000, p. 274.

13 Bennis, Phyllis, ‘The United States is Undermining International Law’, Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris, December 1999,

14 Op. cit., Zajec, Olivier.

15 For example, the British Ambassador to Greece, David Madden, spoke to students at New York College, in the run-up to the attack on Iraq, about the ‘forces of good’ – meaning the British, Americans and their partners. Such puerile and shallow language, supercilious into the bargain, is hardly becoming for an educated diplomat. See Mallinson, William, Cyprus, Diplomatic History and the Clash of Theory in International Relations, I. B. Tauris, London and New York, 2010, pp. 41 and 197.

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International Law

Human Rights violation in Palestine: A serious concern



Palestinians had long been victim of brutal Israeli assailant forces. The innocent Palestinians civilians and children are not only victim of discrimination but are maltreated, battered and are forced to displace from their ancestral land.  As a matter of fact these Israeli were the people who came to settle in Palestine under the Balfour declaration which announce the support for establishing national home for Jewish people in Palestine.  Hence according to Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics initially under the British mandate Israel occupied 6.2% land in Palestine but now they control 27,000 m3 land which accounts for 85% of historical Palestinian land. Recent 11 days destruction was another episode of human rights violations as in the violence nearly 243 people were killed in Gaza including more than 100 women and children. During this deadly conflict Israeli brutal forces even flounced the Al Aqsa masjid and even shelled worshippers resultantly several were wounded as tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades were used by callous Israeli police. Besides these coercive actions the Israel even launched air strikes causing demolition of residential buildings. According to BBC news even on 16 May Sunday the airstrike hit busy street in Gaza as result causing numbers of deaths and three buildings to collapse. In addition to all this viciousness the Israeli forces even demolished media buildings of Al Jazeera and Associated Press (AP) which also housed residential apartments and they were warned only an hour before air raids.

All this barbarity makes ones ponder where human rights are and where are human rights regimes? This makes one ponder if same insanity was being done otherwise or in any other region of world will still UN had been aphonic and voiceless. Is UN champion of peace and justice is playing its role and performing its responsibility faithfully? This makes us realize that these regimes and international organizations would not play their effective and just role and would not even grant basic human rights unless they themselves are strong and economically robust. This is high time that we should contemplate how as an individual, state and regional level Muslims should play their role before it too late as the Turkish president uttered “if Jerusalem falls today, Israel could run over Mecca, Medina, Istanbul and Islamabad.” The divided Muslim world should understand they will tumbledown and dilapidate if they do not join hands together.

OIC which is the second largest international organization after UN comprising of 57 states which only offer rhetorical statements without taking any pragmatic measures should work to eliminate its structural flaws. Efforts should be done in order to restructure OIC and strengthen its role if OIC wants to play an effective role in international arena, combat the oncoming challenges and secure its stance in front of international community. One of its inadequacies is that it possesses limited number of staff as compare to similar world organizations in international arena and even the qualifications of many members are below required standards. The OIC even lack the proper means to implement its resolutions as even though OIC has announce the economic boycott of Israel according to 1981 OIC resolution  even then certain states possess economic ties with Israel. Hence this discloses that even the Muslims states are not even on one page due to their personal motives. We have to make one thing clear in our mind we would not be able to counter the challenges posed by western world and resolve the deadly violent Palestine Israel conflict lest we stand together and put an end to personal political and economic interest.

Secondly we should we should cogitate what role we can play as an individual because little drops of water make the mighty ocean. One of the best ways to counter the Israel is that each and every individual in Pakistan should boycott the Israeli products because these products generate the revenue and capital for the Israel. We should keep one thing in mind there are dozens of Israeli products in Pakistan and these are manufactured in Pakistan which means that the Pakistani labor is employed in industries while manufacturing these items and if we boycott the products it means that our labor will get unemployed resultantly creating consequences for Pakistan economy. This means that we should generate long term solution if we want to play an effective role. We should create awareness in our industrialist that we should try to launch our own products as a result create an alternative for each and every foreign product which is being sold in Pakistan. Suppose if there is any carbonated drink they should try launch same product with their unique formula against that product but their should be no compromise on taste and quality because consumers will always go for better quality hence when we will have alternative for each and every manufactured product  we can shift then shift our labor to the company which is making Pakistani product and when that Pakistani product will be launch that means the generated profit will totally belong to Pakistan and as a result give boost to our economy.

Lastly each and every individual should raise their voice against the inhumane acts of Israeli forces in Palestine and this will be only possible by making effective use of social media platforms. As the platform like YouTube, twitter, Facebook act as megaphone and allow propagating message to large audience hence we should make this human right issue as a trend because Palestinian lives matter. We should create awareness in our people they should keep on writing via blog or article writing and speak on this issue in any practical way because making this issue as an international trend would be one of the ways to put pressure on international community because the airstrikes by assailant Israel Defence forces are even still being carried out after ceasefire.

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International Law

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century



For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and  American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.

In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.

Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.

On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.

In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of  “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;

I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.[1]

As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.

For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;

For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.

Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.

The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.

[1] Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.

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International Law

Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it



Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.

However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.

To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding. 

To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it.  Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”

Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.

Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.

Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.

Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.  

Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.

Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.

Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.

For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy.  This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not.  If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention.  This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts.  One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well. 

Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding.  Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.

Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.

A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.

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