Over at Resurgent Dictatorship:
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The BRICS Bank. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization. What do these organizations have in common? For starters, China is a major player in each of them. And in their own way, each of them indicate how China—and other authoritarian governments, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela—have tired of playing by the rules of existing international institutions.
A recent panel discussion organized by the International Forum for Democratic Studies with a group of leading experts assessed how authoritarian regimes are creating new illiberal norms and institutions as part of their efforts to reshape global governance toward their own preferences. The speakers described how illiberal regimes in Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America are attempting to reforge global institutional frameworks by prioritizing state sovereignty, security, and mutual non-interference over democratic accountability, government transparency, and respect for human rights.
Alexander Cooley—who analyzes the emergence of authoritarian counternorms in his July 2015 Journal of Democracy article (further discussed here on the blog)—warned that autocrats have become surprisingly adept at neutralizing and subverting the institutions that have traditionally upheld democratic norms. By introducing antidemocratic norms into regional rules-based bodies, creating alternative institutions, and cracking down on NGOs, Cooley argued that authoritarian regimes are challenging scholarly assumptions that regional integration would contribute to the proliferation of democratic norms. Instead, illiberal regimes have discovered that these tactics can be used with particular effect at the regional level as a buffer against international criticism and to silence local voices who once played a key role in bringing human rights violations to the attention of regional organizations.