Watch Now: Democracy vs. Autocracy in Ukraine and Beyond: A Human Rights Perspective with Kenneth Roth

November 23, 2022
By Perry World House

Russia’s war against Ukraine has become a symbol of a wider conflict, a global struggle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and oppression. Since Russian troops poured over the Ukrainian border in February 2022, Western, liberal democracies have rallied to support this emerging democracy in its fight against an authoritarian and expansionist neighbor. While the war has been brutal, the Ukrainian people have defended their country with grit and determination, making major gains on the battlefield in recent weeks.

Even if Ukraine ultimately triumphs, democracies still find themselves increasingly challenged by autocracies, especially China and Russia. In their own countries, autocratic powers have squashed free expression and association, undermined independent judiciaries, and coopted state institutions for partisan ends. Abroad, they have used disinformation to exacerbate political divisions, sought to redefine human rights standards, and worked to undermine global institutions for the defense of human rights.

How can democracy meet this broader challenge effectively? What is the best approach to fortify democracies and thwart autocracies? What does Russia’s war against Ukraine say about other autocratic states, and the strength of multilateral institutions and liberal democracies to respond? How does that contrast with the global response to Beijing’s repression, such as its crimes against humanity targeting Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang?

For the first event of Perry World House’s new Thakore Family Global Justice and Human Rights Program, Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch and inaugural Thakore Family Global Justice and Human Rights Visiting Fellow, explored these critical questions.

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