During the first two decades after the end of the Cold War, states in Africa, the Americas, and Europe increasingly delegated competencies to Regional Organisations (ROs) to intervene in cases where national democratic institutions were threatened. In many cases, these competencies were added to ROs’ constitutive treaties through democracy clauses or protocols signed by heads of state and ratified by national parliaments. Why do states agree to be monitored and possibly punished by ROs on the sensitive issue of domestic governance? How do ROs interpret democracy-protection norms and how do they localise these norms to their specific regional settings? How effective is regional democracy protection (RDP)? This chapter critically explores these questions, taking stock of three decades of scholarly debates about the international (and regional) dimension of democratisation, as well as the latest literature on regionalism and authoritarianism. It argues that the significance of RDP remains unclear due to four reasons. First, the implementation of RDP policies has been monopolised by heads of state/government making it unlikely that they will enforce sanctions against violations perpetrated by the heads of state/government themselves. Second, enforcement is highly susceptible to regional asymmetries of power. Third, non-democratic states have taken advantage of the forum shopping opportunities opened by simultaneous membership in several ROs. And fourth, ROs are ill-equipped to address the ultimate sources of most democracy crises in contemporary societies, the roots of which lie in deep tensions between global capitalism and national democratic governance.

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