Our Programmes



Sign up to our newsletter.

Follow ODI

Think Change episode 23: is democracy really in retreat?

Written by Samuel Sharp, Sara Pantuliano, Idayat Hassan, Sandra Pepera


On the face of it, the global outlook for democracy looks pretty bleak. Democratic norms are eroding all over the world. According to International IDEA, ‘half of the world’s democracies are in retreat’.

In Tunisia we have seen President Saied dismiss parliament and re-write the constitution. In Hungary, President Orbán has packed the courts and attacked the press. And in the US, Trump refuses to accept the results of an election he lost, inciting an insurrection to overturn them.

Against this backdrop, and of course Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US recently co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy to bring attention to the threats it faces.

But will the promises made at the summit hold any weight, or was this more about geopolitical interests? And what can the US and allies do to effect democratic change abroad given the challenges they face at home?

This episode explores these questions, and asks whether the whole notion of 'democratic backsliding' is a Western lens that ignores more diverse and innovative processes of political change.


  • Sara Pantuliano (host), Chief Executive, ODI
  • Idayat Hassan, Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja
  • Sandra Pepera, Director for Gender, Women and Democracy at the National Democratic Institute, Washington DC
  • Samuel Sharp, Senior Research Officer, Politics and Governance, ODI

Related resources