Countering the Surge in Coups

The United States and its partners must counter the wave of coups, centered on the Sahel region, that heightens threats to democracy. Experts are gathering policy ideas.

As the Biden administration commits to revitalizing global democracy, the shocking rise in the number of recent coups and coup attempts demands an urgent response from the United States and its allies and partners. The number of coups and coup attempts in 2021 matches the highpoint for the 21st century. The impact of these coups is enormous, and deeply worrying. Despite what military juntas may claim, the current “epidemic of coups” — as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called it — spreads instability, undermines democratic progress and human rights and is accelerating cycles of violence in countries wracked by conflict. 

Multiple factors are driving the rise, including economic mismanagement, corruption, poverty and the failure of overwhelmed governments to resolve grievances over resources and progress social justice. Where putschists would previously have been condemned and held accountable by the international community, they are now increasingly able to evade pressure by exploiting strategic competition between major powers.

Countering Coups

Public Events

Featured Publications

Protesters in front of Sudan’s military headquarters in Khartoum. April 20, 2019. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)

Dissecting Sudan’s Coup

October 27, 2021

After ousting civilians, the military seeks to consolidate power and install a new government.