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  • Do New Democracies Support Democracy?

Efforts to foster and support democracy, like other aspects of international relations, are being reshaped today by the growing influence of new actors on the global scene. Just as economists have emphasized the importance of “emerging markets” and students of international politics have highlighted the importance of “rising powers,” we have been struck by the increasing impact that the foreign policies of these same countries are having on the global fortunes of democracy. We are particularly interested in the role of a set of nations that we have labeled “emerging-market democracies” (EMDs): countries with relatively consolidated democratic institutions, rapidly growing economies, and increasing clout on the world stage. Six nations to which this label unquestionably applies are Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.

The economic dynamism of these countries has been apparent for some time, but the global economic crisis of 2008 underlined its scope and significance. Most EMDs weathered the crisis relatively well and recovered quickly. Today, their prospects for future economic growth look much more promising than those of the advanced democracies. The diminishing economic hegemony of the advanced democracies was officially recognized by the displacement of the G-8 as the key international body for addressing global economic issues by the G-20—a grouping that includes all six of the countries mentioned above.

Most of the attention to the new balance of economic power in the world has understandably focused on the rise of China, and has given birth to an extensive literature on the new threat to democracy posed by “authoritarian capitalism.” But this presents a misleading picture, for China’s success in combining authoritarianism with a fast-growing, non-oil-based economy remains an exception. Most of the other developing countries that have been compiling impressive economic records and becoming global political players are democracies. Thus there was some reason to expect that, prompted by memories of their own struggles against authoritarian rule, they would join the long-established democracies in defending democracy internationally.

But how are these EMDs actually exercising their newfound influence in the foreign-policy arena? Have their own relatively recent transitions to democracy made them inclined to support democratic forces in other countries? Or are their attachments to democracy trumped by other ideological affinities and other forms of solidarity? Why do some EMDs endorse or prop up brutal and undemocratic regimes in countries such as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe? Why have their votes in international organizations on questions of human rights and democracy often differed dramatically from those of established democracies? Are their foreign-policy [End Page 95] decisions influenced by civil society and domestic public opinion; are they made by relatively insulated foreign ministries; or do they reflect the whims or ideological preferences of powerful presidents?

To date these questions have been little explored. To begin addressing them, the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies (the home of the Journal of Democracy) collaborated with the Brookings Institution to hold a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., on 14–15 April 2011 on “The Foreign Policies of Emerging-Market Democracies: What Role for Human Rights and Democracy?” The conference featured separate sessions on India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia, and South Korea, each organized around a paper presented by a scholar or analyst from the country concerned, as well as a session looking at the voting records of all six in UN bodies. (A report on the conference may be found at In the pages that follow, we present revised and edited versions of four of those papers: Pratap Mehta’s on India, Rizal Sukma’s on Indonesia, Soli Özel and Gencer Özcan’s on Turkey, and Theodore Piccone’s on UN voting patterns.

We had planned the conference and the publication of some of the conference papers well in advance of the wave of upheavals that have rocked the Arab world in 2011, but the events there have certainly raised the stakes regarding the issues discussed by our authors. The outbreak of protests in the name of human rights and democracy by Arabs living under authoritarian rule confronted countries all over...


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pp. 95-96
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