Resisting ill democracy

Coming at a crucial time for civil society and democracy, we launched the case study Resisting Ill Democracies in Europe, as this issue continues to spark important debates across Europe.

The study was published by seven human rights organisations – five of them part of the network of Human Rights Houses. Together, we were able to bring diverse national perspectives and different realities: from Hungary and Poland to identify the main trends within ill democracies; from Serbia to show how ill democracy can be disguised behind the will to become a member of the European Union; and from Croatia to highlight how one can successfully resist an illiberal government. The case study also offers practices and strategies for civil society to resist.

This work includes in-depth research into the “playbook” of illiberal governments at the country level, but the aim is broader: to identify common trends within ill democracies and build understanding to inform early action.

Exemplifying the strength of the Human Rights House concept, the case study combines respected, credible national voices to build understanding and insight internationally.

It demonstrates not only the benefits of sharing knowledge and experience, but also the strength of country-based independent voices uniting to project internationally informed joint messages and recommendations.

Significantly, the idea for the study was also born out of the Human Rights House concept, beginning with discussions at the network meeting of Human Rights Houses in Belgrade in November 2016 as a follow-up to an idea that emerged at the Human Rights House Zagreb. At the network meeting, speakers raised the actions of illiberal governments and called for a joint response. The case study also brought us into partnership with organisations in Hungary, strengthening the findings, enabling us to expand the reach and impact of our work, and providing opportunities for further cooperation.

We published the case study in six languages – adding English and Russian to the four local languages. With well-attended launch events, we engaged decision-makers and civil society actors in countries experiencing first-hand the effects of illiberal governments, and put ill democracy on the agenda of stakeholders in Brussels and elsewhere.