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CISSM Global Forum | Democratic Backsliding and the Rise of Global Authoritarian Actors

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Joseph Siegle

Joseph Siegle, Director for Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University

Registration for this event is not required but is appreciated (for planning purposes).

Event Description

The past decade has seen a steady decline in the number of democratic and democratizing countries around the globe. This is often attributed to domestic factors linked to the institutional resilience of autocratic power structures, the weakness of democratic reform movements, and the ineffectiveness of democracy itself. Often overlooked in these analyses are the influences of global authoritarian actors—primarily China and Russia—who have pursued an ideological objective of normalizing and perpetuating authoritarianism. This objective is advanced through a combination of informational, political, economic, and security support. Reversing democratic backsliding globally will require recognizing the multilayered dimensions of global authoritarian influence and reinvigorating support for democratic reformers and institutions.

Speaker Bio

Joseph Siegle’s research focuses on the political economy of democratization and development, overcoming the challenges of democratic transitions, the expanding influence of global authoritarian actors, the stabilization of fragile states, and strengthening institutions of democratic accountability. Illustrative publications include, “Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence” (Democracy in Africa, 2023), “Taking Stock of the Surge in Militant Islamist Violence in Africa” (The Conversation, 2023), “The Disruptor—A Recent History of Russia in Africa” (South African Journal of International Affairs, 2022), “Russia’s Strategic Objectives and Influences in Africa” (House Foreign Affairs Committee Testimony, 2022), “How Russia is Pursuing State Capture in Africa” (London School of Economics, 2022), “Africa’s Coups and the Role of External Actors” (Italian Institute for International Political Studies, 2021), “Sudan’s Hard-Won Transition to Civilian Rule Faces a Precarious Moment” (The Conversation, 2021), “Presidential Term Limits Key to Democratic Progress and Security in Africa” (Orbis, 2021), “Constitutional Design: Vital but Insufficient for Conflict Management in Africa” (Ethnopolitics, 2016), “Overcoming Dilemmas of Democratization: Protecting Civil Liberties and the Right to Democracy” (Nordic Journal of International Law, 2012), The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace (Routledge, 2 nd edition 2010). He is also a regular media analyst.

Dr. Siegle is also the Director for Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. In this capacity he oversees the Center’s research on Africa-wide governance and security trends. Dr. Siegle has held previous research fellow positions at the Council on Foreign Relations and the international consulting firm, DAI. For over a decade, he served as a development practitioner in conflict-affected contexts across Africa, Asia, and the Balkans with the international NGO, World Vision. He was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia. Dr. Siegle is a proud alumnus of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.

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