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The Closing Space Barometer: A Toolkit for Anticipating and Responding to Democratic Erosion


In 2021, several leading democracy measurement indices, including the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset, have registered a notable decline in liberal democracy across countries and global regions over the past ten years. Notably, these declines are often masked by gains in electoral democracy. In other words, while leaders increasingly see elections as legitimizing, they also pursue policies that reduce media and civil society autonomy, individual rights and freedoms, and the rule of law (V-Dem Democracy Report, 2021). The Closing Space Barometer toolkit is intended to assist democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) practitioners in assessing, anticipating, and responding to dynamics of democratic erosion.

Core Questions:

  • What are the dimensions of closing space?
  • Who are the perpetrators and targets of closing within each space?
  • What are the tactics utilized by perpetrators of closing within each space?
  • What is the sequence of closing?
  • How can forecasts of political events inform strategic planning and/or program design in the DRG project life cycle?

This toolkit uses statistical risk forecasts to predict the likelihood that a country will experience a democratic opening or closing event over a two-year window. Specifically, the toolkit:

  • Provides an analytical framework (based on qualitative research) to break down the concept of closing space into more specific and actionable components.
  • In partnership with Democracy Arch (D-Arch) and based on publicly available V-Dem data, develops a machine learning forecast that predicts the probability of democratic opening or closing over the next two years for every country in the world.
  • Provides a set of user materials and recommended exercises for using these forecasts in DRG programs, including for strategic planning, program design, and risk and contingency planning.


The Democratic Space Barometer (DemSpace) Forecasts Dashboard: This dashboard provides a user-friendly way for DRG practitioners to analyze the results of the forecasts. Users can view global or regional rankings for likelihood of democratic opening or closing, and can view probabilities for opening or closing within each of six specific spaces – civic/associational, economic, electoral/political, governing, individual, or informational – within any one specific country.

The DemSpace Forecasts User Guide:  Are you curious about how these forecasts can inform your DRG programs? The User Guide provides a tutorial on using the DemSpace Forecasts Dashboard and provides a set of analytical exercises for DRG practitioners for thinking about strategic planning and program design.

The DemSpace Forecasts One Pager

The DemSpace Forecasts Methods Report: For users that are interested in taking a look “under the hood,” this methods report provides technical details on the forecasts, including outcome measurement, defining opening and closing “events,” development of the machine learning models, and assessment and evaluation of the forecasts. CEPPS also encourages users to consult the project Github repository, which contains all open-source code, supporting materials, and annual update memos for the forecasts.

Closing Space Barometer Program Guidance Infographic: This document summarizes the finding of CEPPS qualitative desk research on closing space processes and provides recommendations for DRG practitioners.

General Overview

This short video provides a general overview of the forecasts with some suggestions on how DRG practitioners can engage the forecasts for strategic planning and program design.

Program Design

This video provides more detail on how to use the DemSpace Forecasts dashboard to inform program design and risk and contingency planning.

Strategic Planning

This video provides more detail on how to use the DemSpace Forecasts dashboard to inform global or regional strategic planning.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Global EPT Leader Cooperative Agreement No. AID-OAA-L-15-00007.
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