By Ramesh Jaura
Over 400 significant anti-government protests have erupted worldwide since 2017. More than 132 countries were directly affected. Of these, 135 were significant economic anti-government protests. 23 percent of major protests lasted more than three months, according to the Global Protest Tracker of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last updated on May 5, 2023.
It is indeed true that popular protests have been on the rise globally in recent years. These movements have taken place in various regions and have been driven by a range of factors, including economic concerns, political corruption, demands for democratic reforms, and opposition to systemic racism and state violence.
The advent of new communication technologies and media platforms has played a significant role in the globalization of these protests, allowing movements to inspire and learn from one another.
The World Political Review (WPR) points to the influence of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which inspired and guided demonstrators in other parts of the world. Similarly, the Black Lives Matter protests that originated in the United States resonated with people across continents who connected the movement to their own experiences of racism and state violence.
WPR is of the view that the ability to share protest methods and tactics quickly and easily has facilitated the spread of these movements, creating a sense of global solidarity.
However, there is a concern that the ease of sharing protest methods might overshadow the challenges and organizational efforts required to sustain effective movements.
While new technologies enable rapid dissemination of information, they do not replace the need for careful planning, coordination, and resilience in the face of government repression.
Governments, particularly repressive regimes, have responded to protests with various tactics, including violence, arrests, and the use of pandemic-related restrictions as a pretext to suppress demonstrations.
However, unprecedented protests are putting Laos in uncharted waters. In the past year, Laos has witnessed more popular unrest than it has in decades. Under normal circumstances, the regime would typically respond to any public displays of dissent by cracking down on protesters and circling its wagons. But amid severe economic distress, many citizens are increasingly undaunted by the fear of repression.
Looking ahead, key questions remain regarding the response of governments to protests driven by global energy and cost-of-living crises. Additionally, specific movements, such as Israel’s protest movement against a controversial judicial reform and the protests in France against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, are being closely watched to see if they can achieve their objectives.
Meanwhile, even as new waves of protest have erupted in authoritarian countries like Iran and more recently China, developments since 2019 in Algeria and Sudan, where protesters ousted individual leaders but have so far been unable to dislodge the entrenched military elites that really hold power, have exposed the limitations of civil resistance.