The Role of Sovereign States and Multinational Corporations in Democratization

The ideal outcome for democratization is to ensure that the citizens have a voice in the political process and a right to vote. In the 21 century, democratization has faced constant attack from authoritarian sectors ranging from Vladimir Putin to a couple of leaders from Venezuela. In the recent past, there has been a growing concern and criticisms to the democratic and sovereign states such as the US. The process of democratization is influenced by players such as sovereign states, Multinational Corporation, global civil societies, non-governmental organization and intergovernmental organization. This article argues that the sovereign states and multinational corporations are the highest antagonists of democratization while the global civil societies and non-governmental organizations are the most significant supporters of democratization. However, the extent of their support or opposition varies from country to country and affected by social economic and political environment.


Democratization is the process of transitioning to an overly democratic political government. The process may involve the changeover from an authoritarian regime to a fully-fledged democracy, authoritarian to the semi-democracy political system or from a semi-authoritarian to the democratic political system (Bae, 2013). The outcome of democratization may be consolidated or face numerous reversal. Also, democratization may follow different paths or patterns. The process of democratization gets influenced by factors such as the economy, history, and the civil society. Other critical players include sovereign states, Multinational Corporation, global civil societies, non-governmental organization and intergovernmental organization (Luo, 2017).

Biggest Antagonists of Democratization

Sovereignty is the full power and right of a governing body over polity with no intrusion from outside agencies or sources. Most, if not all countries across the worlds are sovereign states (Nunez, 2014). However, concerns exist on the willingness and ability of sovereign nations to promote democratization. The notion of absolute sovereignty, advanced by authoritarian countries is also seen to resonate with democratic governments. Many of the emerging democratic powers were part of the leading teams of non-aligned movement in the era of cold war and diffused western effort to foment coups in their territories. Today, some of these countries, China included, are uncomfortable in joining international coalitions that could weaken their sovereignty and advance the democratization process (Holmes, 2003).

Powerful political systems rule sovereign states. The leading authoritarian governments portray foreign assistance, multinational organizations and human right groups as a recipe for violent revolution. Any efforts made by Multinational Corporation, global civil societies to advance human rights and free democracy are faced by the vehement opposition, deregistration, and expulsion from the country. Such states quickly label the nonviolent dissidents as betrayers and terrorists. Vladimir Putin consistently invokes sovereignty when faced by international criticism either from multinational, intergovernmental or civil society groups over domestic repression. Nonetheless, Russia is aggressively assaulting other sovereign states that are orienting their economies towards the EU (Gerber, 2017). In the east, China is busy bullying its neighbors over territorial integrities to the extent of going beyond the borders to attack the critics. With the ongoing trends, it is evident that many countries are entering a realm in which autocratic government undertakes the right to select what constituted sovereignty. Also, other countries from the west do not always promote democratization. In its many missteps, the US has on many occasions undermined moral authority and downgraded the promotion of democracy, especially in foreign policy. Using double standards in its quest for democratization, especially in places like Saudi Arabia shows how the US only want to achieve its geopolitical aims and strategic interests (Luo, 2017).

Many scholars point out the subversion of democracy by the powerful multinational corporations that promote the idea of cruelty and selfishness (Scherer et al., 2012). Such corporations use their financial muscles to lobby for policy shifts most notably at the US and EU. The corporations utilize their power to control international trade treaties, legislation that favors their existence and evasion of commitment to climate management initiatives. The concentration of illegitimate power in the hands of multinational companies has not only promoted inequality but also influenced election outcomes. Such companies include Cambridge Analytical that allegedly influenced the outcome 2018 Kenya presidential elections and some British, Russian and American companies that fund and channel political donations to favor US candidates. Among the industries that are known for bankrolling US politics come from the energy, pharmaceuticals and finance sectors. However, such companies have to navigate the laws and legislation that are overseen by the sovereign states. Some nations pursue representation on international organization to advance own strategic interests in the global arena (Holmes, 2003). Therefore complacent sovereign states have the ultimate role in determining if Multinational Corporation (NMCs) interferes with the democratization process.

With the increasing concept of “democracy deficit,” citizens have increasingly placed more hope in the intergovernmental organization (IGO). Thus, the expectation is that the IGOs adopt democratic decisions. However, there have been significant democratic changes to organizations such as IMF which have used their financial capacities to manipulate small democracies such as those from developing countries by promoting interests of the big players. In some instances, the IGOs establish high-profile investment projects in states with poor human rights records and environmental damages, which on some occasions, are caused by foreign corporations. Nevertheless, foreign direct investment come a long way in promoting social, economic and political conditions that are good for democratization (Jensen, 2006).

Biggest Supporters of Democratization

Some situations may arise when NMCs engage in the promotion and support of democratization. However, some scholars do not see a secure connection between NMCs and corporation (Andersen " Hallin, 2017).  Nevertheless, such corporation may promote superior financial performance and strict compliance with international treaties and tools that support growth and development. A study conducted to examine FDI patterns after democratic regime change in 23 countries depict that, investors such as MNCs are more socially responsible than many have expected (Andersen " Hallin, 2017). The FDI investors have readily embraced new democracies post regime transitions. The FDI investors support and confidence in modern democracies has significantly consolidated the democracies since the 1960s.  Increasing FDI investments in rising democracies shows a form of commercial endorsement. Such projects empower institutions promoting democracy. However, FDI tends to operate well when they avoid the politicization of their efforts and evading government scrutiny (Jensen, 2006).

Global civil society groups may have the capability of progressing social change since on many occasions they succeed in positioning new concerns and policy concepts onto the international agenda. They play a crucial role in assisting the improvement of transparency and to greater extent accountability of international institutions (Bae, 2013). The rise of the global civil society groups, as well as organizations, has been enabled by the broader globalization processes which include easier communication. As much as the groups that comprise the civil society may be democratic, liberal and peaceful, they can also be violent and anti-democratic. For instance, some extremists groups such as al-Qaida could debatably be defined as being part of global civil society. Global civil society is the scope of ideas, institutions, values, networks, organizations, and persons positioned amid the family, state and the market that which is operative through boundaries and past the borders of national economies and politics (Huntington, 2012).

The growth of non-governmental organizations as global players and shapers of domestic policy is an essential development in international relations. Non-governmental organizations incorporate the whole civil society variety which includes raising awareness for health improvement, environment fortification, advancement of education, delivery of humanitarian relief, protecting civil and political rights among others. Political NGOs do not only advocate for human rights but also democratic principles as well as practices (Holmes, 2003). Even though they make a small constituent of the worldwide NGO communal, they mostly draw passion from regimes that consider them a threat mainly to their power. Furthermore, the non-governmental organizations put a lot of effort to democracy promotion from the right to assemble, to freedom of speech as well as various components which create the demonstrative democracy. Also, non-governmental more often supports the significance of good governance, transparency in government, chargeable and keen to admit power limitations and concede it calmly (Huntington, 2012).

The rise of non-governmental organizations has unwrapped transnational diplomacy to voices and welfares that formerly would have been silenced by suppressive or non-responsive nations. The thousands of NGOs that are operative presently from the local to the global level are a representation of an extensive diversity in size, methods, objectives, means, and field of activity (Leonardo, 2012). The non-governmental organizations may not only work towards strengthening of legitimacy but also brings the area of expertise and experience through an immense collection of human concerns and a valued ability for both information collection and dissemination. They prove to be tremendously influential in combating isolationism as well as indifference in citizens and governments, mobilization of opinions of public and support particularly donor assistance and financial support. To further deepen the democratization potential of the NGO phenomenon, non-governmental organizations as well as other representatives of civil society ought to be invited to regularly participate in member state delegations (Luo, 2017).


Democratization involves a broad approach which not only addresses holding free, fair and credible elections but also the building of democratic political culture and the advancement and preservation of bodies that are supportive of the on-going practice of democratic politics. While democratization needs to occur at all points of human society from local, national, regional to global, ultimately the distinctive supremacy of democratization falls in its logic that runs from an individual, the intricate unit in world affairs and the rational basis of all human rights. As much as the global civil society applauds democratization, the nongovernmental organizations, multinational corporations and sovereign states, they also in one way or the other oppose the process of democratization.  However, the chief opposers of democratization process are the sovereign states, which can control other players in the process of democratization. Due to increasing influence and power of Global civil society, Non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and intergovernmental organizations, these players have a significant impact on the democratization process.


 Andersen, T., " Hallin, C. (2017). Democratizing the Multinational Corporation (MNCInteraction Between Intent at Headquarters and Autonomous Subsidiary Initiatives. Emerald Group Publishing.

Bae, Y. (2013). Civil society and local activism in South Korea's local democratization. Democratization, 2(20), 260-286.

Gerber, T. (2017). Familiarity breeds contempt? Knowledge and understanding of democracy, support for democratization, and global city residence in Russia. Democratization, 3(25), 481-503.

Holmes, K. (2003). Democracy and International Organizations. Retrieved 2018, from U.S. Department of State:

Huntington, S. (2012). The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century. University of Oklahoma Press.

Jensen, N. (2006). A political economy for foreign direct investment. Princeton: Princetone University Press.

Leonardo, M. (2012). Changes for Democracy: Actors, Structures, Processes. Oxford University Press.

Luo, T. (2017). Democratization from above: the logic of local democracy in the developing world, by Anjali Thomas Bohlken. Democratization, 3(25), 574-576.

Nunez, J. (2014). About the Impossibility of Absolute State Sovereignty. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 27(4), 645-664.

Scherer, A., Schneider, A., " Baumann, D. (2012). Compensating for the Democratic Deficit of Corporate Political Activity and Corporate Citizenship. Busines and Society, 52(3), 473-514.

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