Have you thought how democratic your favourite holiday destination is?, Source: Unsplash

Tourists can promote democracy abroad with a special calculator

Tourists can promote democracy abroad with a special calculator

A Swedish human rights organization has come up with a concept called “dictatorship compensation”

Civil Rights Defenders is the name of a Swedish NGO that has thought of a creative way to bring attention to its work and also raise some funds for its initiatives in the process. The human rights association, which provides legal help to dissidents and freedom fighters living in authoritarian states, has unveiled an online tool where travellers can calculate how much money to donate to the cause of democracy promotion.

The calculator is called Diktaturkompensera (Dictator Compensation) and it is based on the idea that Swedish tourists should approach democratic promotion, the way they do with climate efforts.

By choosing to spend their money in a destination with an authoritarian regime, a lot of that cash goes to propping up the dictatorship. Thus, even if unintended, tourists end up strengthening dictators, but on the other hand, if they boycott the destination, this could end up cutting off the income stream for local people who live off tourism.

So, the compensation in reality represents an offset that can promote more responsible and conscious travelling. Some money may go to illiberal authorities, but democratic efforts will also be compensated through donations.

Taking cues from a climate offset idea

The tool is based on the Varieties of Democracies research institute (V-dem)'s index of authoritarian countries in the world. The more authoritarian a country is, the higher compensation the stay generates. The length of the trip and an average daily budget then determine the total compensation.  

Our ambition is that as many people as possible want to start compensating against dictatorships for their trips, in the same way, that companies, organizations and private individuals today compensate for the climate. If more dictatorships were compensated, the democratic forces would be stronger. It would help human rights organizations support more people living in oppression and push to hold dictators accountable for their actions, explains Anders L Pettersson, from Civil Rights Defenders. 

Democracies worldwide are in decline. In the last ten years, the number of liberal democracies has decreased from 42 to 34 and today it is estimated that around half of the world's countries are authoritarian, according to the research institute Varieties of Democracy (V-dem). 

Some of these are also popular destinations. If you look at the most booked foreign winter trips of Swedish tourists, two out of five go to a dictatorship. In 2019, nearly 1.6 million Swedes travelled to a dictatorship, which corresponds to more than one in ten leisure trips that year.

The total amount of income provided to foreign authoritarian regimes by Swedish travellers thus amounts to 1.8 billion Swedish kronor (or about 165 million euros). Imagine the good things that could be done for democracy if some of that money went to supporting its defenders on the ground.



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