In the Face of COVID and Authoritarianism, Democracy Persisted in 2021

  • Emilia James
Women holding their fist in the air to protest a new family law in Afghanistan

2021 brought many challenges, from the ongoing pandemic to the rise of authoritarian leaders. However, people around the world showed that democracy cannot be defeated, even in the face of the strongest opposition. In Cuba, we saw masses of people stand up and demand change across the island. In Belarus, activists relentlessly fought back against the oppressive Lukashenko regime. IRI continues to practice unwavering support for these courageous democracy leaders. 

Here is a look back on some of the work IRI and its partners accomplished this year. 


Corruption continues to cast its dark shadow around the world. This was especially highlighted with the exposure of the Pandora Papers in October. These papers included approximately 12 million documents spanning across 91 countries, proving that hundreds of officials were engaged in corrupt activities. Specifically, in countries like Iraq, citizens consider corruption a leading problem in government. From Iraq to Egypt, corruption has time and time again proven to lead to civil unrest. IRI recognizes the threat of corrupt leaders and has developed an Evidence Briefer for Best Practices for Working with Governments on Anti-Corruption. This briefer contains evidence-based solutions for public institutions to effectively combat corruption.  

Open Government  

In October 2021, IRI and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in light of the work they do together around the world to advance democracy. Their joint efforts cover topics such as anti-corruption, digital governance, and citizen engagement.  Together, the two organizations co-hosted a series of virtual workshops for civil society organizations, including one that brought over 50 participants in September 2021. Most recently, in December, IRI participated in the OGP Global Summit in Seoul, which focused on the commitments made and implemented over the past decade.