EDITORIAL: As economies rise in Southeast Asia, democracy is on the retreat：The Asahi Shimbun
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Whilst very modest, net progress is actually highest in China, much thanks to its ability to deliver effective governance. Regional trends hold the keys to the success of the democratic movement.
EDITORIAL: As economies rise in Southeast Asia, democracy is on the retreat
Politics in Asia must set the bar high when it comes to accounting for pluralism. Ethnic and religious as well as caste or clan systems form the basis of most societies in the region, but allowing the politicization of such divides puts democracy and ultimately stability at risk. Over the past months, we have witnessed growing concerns around the abuse of religion to advance political agendas. Such developments must be met with not only inclusive laws that ensures the rights and fundamental freedoms of all regardless of identities, traits and different opinions, but also strict enforcement.
Political leaders cannot linger on this matter, nor remain silent when abuses take place. While rarely hitting international news, the advancement of local structures — that are closer to local challenges, better equipped to identify local solutions and easier to hold to account by citizens — is vital. In Nepal, federal structures have recently been put in place as per the new Constitution. Through dividends, a democratic culture can be nurtured and expanded.
Internet and social media have expanded information sharing around the globe and dramatically changed the political scene. In the coming years, these developments will strongly influence political life in Asia.
It will affect how political parties work internally, how they are financed, how they communicate with party cadres, and how they connect with electorates in campaigning for office. It will also help civil society to hold politicians to account. Such communications technology provides opportunities for civil society to tack and monitor campaign promises, service delivery, and financial flows in politics and communicate their findings with the broader public. How various actors are able to use new tools to effectively — for parties and politicians to consult and engage will with citizens and for watchdog organizations to take action to promote transparency and accountability — will be key to progress.
This is a steep hill to climb. Beyond internet and social media, technological innovations in public management are also worth noting.
For example, the organization of electoral processes are increasingly run by the use of technological systems. In using high-tech solutions, the establishment of secure systems that nevertheless operates with significant transparency will pose a challenge. Handled with care and ensuring broad acceptance across political and social divides are necessary for tech solutions to advance the democracy agenda in the region. The attraction of cities to realize the potentials of the citizens is here to stay.
Together with Africa, Asia is urbanizing faster than other global regions and the urban population is estimated to increase from 48 percent today to 68 percent by In other words, seven out of ten will live and work in the cities. Nearly half of Mongolians live in Ulaanbaatar.
Democratic development and increased militarism in East and Southeast Asian rivalries
Urbanization and emerging mega-cities are going to pose a huge challenge in terms of infrastructure and climate but are, in many countries, considered a vehicle for economic growth and hence development. What is less evident is how such urbanization may push the democracy agenda forward, i.
The ability of the democratic movement to seize and capitalize on these opportunities will affect its success. The growing youth population is — if treated with care — presenting a unique opportunity for advancing the democratic agenda. In countries like Bangladesh and India, young people account for around 20 percent of the total population whereas in East Asia the population is aging.
Bringing youth energy and creativity into politics will spur new thinking and innovation. They are tech-savvy and use the internet and social media as their primary voice outlet — including on political matters. Their understanding of the digitized world represent a huge untapped resource in politics today.
Mind you, young people in the region tend to pick integrity over corruption and are critical to how corruption has impacted on development. Democratic development is challenging. It does not represent a linear path but instead a bumpy road with ups and downs — progress is followed by stagnation and regression before yet again gaining speed. In Asia we see tremendous variation — within the region, within sub-regions and even within countries. Alongside the report is a set of Global State of Democracies, which highlights how democracy fared from the 70s to the present. Democracy cannot be taken for granted, and further measures to safeguard democracy through innovative, flexible and adaptive approaches are urgently required of policymakers and citizens alike.