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Democracy's Vital Tasks

Rather than emphasizing their ideological differences with other countries, democracies should instead recognize their responsibility to themselves and the world. In particular, free societies must now address two critical, overdue tasks in order to revive their domestic and international legitimacy.

MADRID – Liberal democracy is still alive, but showing clear signs of weakness. According to Freedom House, the world has experienced 15 consecutive years of global democratic backsliding.

In an attempt to tackle the rising tide of authoritarianism, US President Joe Biden recently invited more than 100 world leaders to a virtual summit aimed at strengthening democracy globally. For a Spaniard of my generation, there are powerful reasons to highlight the value of democracy. Having lived part of my life under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, I know what it means for a country to choose openness and prosperity. La Transición, Spain’s political process of regime change from dictatorship to constitutional democracy, was a historic feat, entailing the establishment of new representative institutions, the development of a welfare state, and integration into Europe.

But defending democracy as a moral, just, and practical political system should not make us define the international environment as merely a clash between democracies and autocracies. After all, there is nothing wrong with countries meeting to address concrete global problems. What matters is that these gatherings contribute toward solving them.