The year 2021 began with the distribution of effective vaccines against COVID-19, a medical miracle offering the world hope to leave behind the worst of the pandemic. However, the emergence of new variants dashed such hopes. Delta and Omicron threw us back to the most distressing days of 2020, forcing new restrictions and disrupting lives and livelihoods worldwide. With some social services again on the verge of collapse and inequality rising, the social crisis caused by the pandemic deepened.
The military coup in Myanmar —which halted much of DRI’s activity in the country— and the storming of the US capitol by Trump’s supporters early in the year anticipated another grim year for democracy and the rule of law. Riots and political instability were a loud overtone of 2021, including in countries where DRI works: Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Lebanon.
As the world was still grappling with the COVID-19 crisis, the trend of democratic backsliding preceding the pandemic continued with even greater intensity. No country exemplified a return of authoritarian practices like the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Other setbacks were much more subtle. In some countries, governments enforced strict laws, blurring the line between fighting a health emergency and an undemocratic power grab.
“These negative developments have highlighted the importance and relevance of DRI’s work”, writes DRI Board Member Ilkka Uusitalo in the Foreword of our 2021 Annual Report.
Ambassador Uusitalo highlights how DRI has worked to change negative trends and help policymakers address many of today’s challenges: We have closely monitored the responses to the global health crisis, drawing attention to the need for democratic checks and balances when emergency measures are put in place, and highlighting the detrimental effects of these measures on specific groups, including women and the poor. DRI has been at the forefront of developing new tools for monitoring disinformation, which has become increasingly important both in crisis situations and during elections. We have also made clear that disinformation is not just an issue in developing countries or countries outside of Europe. In 2021, DRI monitored online discourse ahead of the German federal elections. Despite seeing space for civil society shrinking, DRI has developed new ways to support its local partners in working in these situations by providing training and new tools.
This sums up only a fraction of DRI’s work throughout a tumultuous year. Check out our 2021 Annual Report for more.
Stories of Impact
In this 2021 edition of our Annual Report, we have made an effort to tell stories conveying how and where we made an impact. To read them, access the “On the ground” sections of the report. In the video below, Josselin Leon, Programme Director at DRI Tunisia, tells us how DRI launched a successful campaign to raise awareness of administrative justice, reaching nearly 1,000,000 people.