Democracy: In need of a critical update?

22nd Forum 2000 Conference



5 Big Ideas

Conference Reports

Sunday, October 7

11:00 – 12:30

Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
#DemocraCE: Civil Society Renewal in the Digital Era
In cooperation with Visegrad Insight

Event description:

What is the attitude of the digital age generation in Central Europe towards democracy? As various reports indicate an alarming trend of pro-democratic sentiments being in decline, the discussion will strive to have a fresh look on this issue. This will be a debate between sociologists whose findings and interpretations about contemporary democracy in Czechia and Slovakia are remarkably different, and it will present two outlooks on the digitally empowered generation and its potential to influence public affairs.

13:00 – 14:30

Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
Future Scenarios for Central Europe
In cooperation with Visegrad Insight and the German Marshall Fund of the United States

Event description:

As nearly three decades after regaining sovereignty have passed, almost two decades after NATO enlargement, and well over a decade into EU membership, the erstwhile success story of Central Europe faces more uncertainty than ever. The report “Central Europe in 2025” presentation will unveil the strategic directions that Central Europe may take over in the coming years and bring forward perspectives for the development in times of uncertainty.

15:00 – 18:15

Workshop (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
The Illiberal Toolkit and Its Antidotes
In cooperation with the Brookings Institution and Freedom House
By special invitation only

Event description:

Designed to inform a Brookings Institution research project supported by the Jenesis Group on threats to liberal democracies and how they can be mitigated, this workshop is hosted by Brookings in collaboration with Forum 2000 and Freedom House. It is also part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative. The workshop will focus on the situation in Central Europe and Turkey. The first panel will concentrate on the strategies and steps illiberal leaders have taken to weaken checks and balances in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, Law and Justice Party-governed Poland, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey. The second panel will focus on responses to such threats – what has worked and what has failed – and consider how to counter threats to rule of law in these countries as well as in countries displaying warning signs, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

16:30 – 18:00

Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
Democracy Dialogues - "How do we define democracy today?"
In cooperation with the Zentrum Liberale Moderne and Czech-German Future Fund

Event description:

Democracy is about accountability and transparency. It is also about dialogue among citizens. Effective and inclusive dialogue between citizens is an essential element of democratic politics. Democratic dialogue can build trust and the political will for change, both of which are critical in countries on the path to democracy and also in the process of democratization of democracies. Enhanced dialogue between civic actors should go beyond the political elite and accommodate gender equality, the inclusion of youth, minorities, civil society organizations and other non-traditional actors like citizen movements in a political decision-making process. Democracy Dialogues is a dialogical space, organized in the framework of the Forum 2000 Conference, for critical political and intellectual debates on the past and future of democracy in our world.

19:00 – 21:00

Ceremony and Reception (Prague Crossroads)
Opening Ceremony
By special invitation only

Monday, October 8

8:00 – 9:15

Working Breakfast (Žofín Palace, Knights´ Hall)
Digital Dictatorship: China's Social Credit Score and 21st Century Digital Monitoring of Its People
Information Centre for Democracy and Human Rights in China
By special invitation only

Event description:

Over the past years, China has developed a very thorough system of digital control of its citizens. The government in Beijing is censoring, by „the digital Great Wall of China“, access to independent and international internet sources. It is also, through different means, increasingly spying on its citizensˈ daily lives. Social Credit Score, a nationwide project that aims to continuously assess the citizensˈ economic and social reputation, is another step in this direction.

  • What are the main characteristics of this increasingly sophisticated and thorough „digital dictatorship“?
  • What will be Beijingˈs next steps in this area?
  • Does the Chinese Communist Party have the ability to use these tools in other countries as well?

Xiao Qiang, Ivana Karásková, Dongfang Han, Darren Byler, Ondřej Klimeš

Working Breakfast (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
It Can Be Done! New Trends in Civic Activism
By special invitation only

Event description:

Active citizens are an essential component of democracy – perhaps the most important one. In good times, they contribute to the development of their communities, care about the local environment, provide their elected representatives with feedback on their performance. When times get worse, active citizens may be crucial for the continuation or restoration of democratic governance. People power in the Philippines in 1986, Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Euromaidan in Ukraine, or the „Armenian Velvet Revolution“ this past spring – all those are examples that even without weapons, an oppressive or a corrupt government can be faced successfully and development in a country can be reversed for the better.

  • What are the lessons from successful civic activist movements?
  • What, on the other hand, should be avoided?

Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, Mete Coban, Haykuhi Harutyunyan, Rodger Potocki

Working Breakfast (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge II)
The Media: In Need of a Critical Update
In cooperation with Project Syndicate
By special invitation only

Event description:

Global news media are facing two crises, each of them alarming but together potentially cataclysmic. The first is the growing trust gap, and the erosion of the evidence-based foundation of facts. Second is the collapse of business models that have supported news organizations until recent years. But there is a silver lining - new models that are arising that give us hope that the news media will emerge stronger than ever to support the information needs of citizens.

  • What are the main issues the news media are facing today and why?
  • What are the potential solutions on the table?
  • Where are news organizations thriving and how can those be replicated?

Vivian Schiller, Jeremy Druker

Working Breakfast (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
Free Space on the Left in Central Europe
In cooperation with Czech-German Discussion Forum and Czech-German Future Fund
By special invitation only

Event description:

The traditional left parties are diminishing in terms of both their influence and membership base. The resulting free space on the left is often taken by populists and filled with cheap promises and "easy" solutions.

  • Is this an irreversible trend? Can the traditional social democrats do something about it?

Jana Maláčová, Petra Ernstberger, Iveta Radičová, Libor Rouček

Working Breakfast (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
European Union amidst ideological withering and its consequences for Liberal Democracy
In cooperation with International Republican Institute
By special invitation only

Event description:

As the European Union continues to dither, discussions about the future of Europe abound, from renewed calls for a ‘Europe of nations’ to President Macron’s ‘European sovereignty’. Moreover, political leaders claim ownership of Liberalism, Christian Democracy and other ideological agendas, while blurring concepts and acting against the very principles of those ideologies. Bringing together speakers from Central Europe, the panel will discuss what has gone amiss in the political debate in and about Europe, and what lessons can be drawn for future.

  • How are the EU leaders abusing and withering ideologies for their own ends?
  • What mistakes has the EU made, and what lessons can be drawn for the future?
  • How does the economic crisis continue to haunt the EU?
  • What mistakes have been made in the relations between the EU and the post-2004 enlargement countries?
  • How can EU leaders respond to citizens’ concerns and prevent the widening gulf among citizens and decision-makers?

Miriam Lexmann, Jan Hartl, Anna Fotyga, Moderator Balazs Jarabik

9:15 – 10:30

Opening Panel (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
Threats to Freedom: A Critical Review of the Current State of Democracy

Event description:

Michael J. Abramowitz, Tomáš Petříček, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Bernard Kouchner, Šimon Pánek

10:45 – 12:00

Panel (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
The Future of Information and the Impact on Democracy (working title)
In cooperation with AVAST Foundation

Event description:

The rapid technological developments of last years have significantly affected our societies. In particular, they have disrupted and changed for good the free information space, one of the vital pillars of democracy. Perhaps, however, the changes are just starting and new concepts, such as artificial intelligence, bear the potential of bringing the challenges as well as - perhaps - opportunities, to a completely new level.

  • Are we ready for it?
  • What can be the consequences?

Ondřej Vlček, Jonathan Ledgard, Vivian Schiller, Suzanne Nossel, Eva Hanáková

Coffee Table Conversation (Žofín Palace, Knights´ Hall)
National Identity in a Globalized World

Event description:

In the late 1990s or early 2000s, it may have seemed that nationalism was increasingly a thing of the past. Growing regional integration in the framework of the European Union, advancing globalization, people to people exchanges on a global level - all seemed to indicate that. National identity, however, has remained an important political issue in places like Scotland or Catalunya and the 2008 economic downturn, its consequences, and the post-2015 migration crisis opened doors for the return of identity politics elsewhere too.

  • Have the liberal elites, especially in Europe, underestimated the strength of national feelings?
  • Is national identity returning to political discourse permanently or will this be short-lived?
  • How will this trend impact the global order in the near future?

Tarek Osman, Márton Gyöngyösi, Martín Ortega Carcelén, Per Nyholm

Coffee Table Conversation (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
The Role of Artists in Unfree Societies

Event description:

The role of an artist in an unfree society can be very important - artists can either become a vocal “conscience” of the society or collaborators of the regime. Or they can stand on the sidelines, claiming artistic independence and non-political ambitions.

  • Are there any role models? What artists in history do we admire for their stance vis-á-vis an oppressive system?
  • What can and should artist do in today’s Cuba, China, or Russia?

Agnieszka Holland, David Černý, Sofi Oksanen, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, Daniel Konrád

Panel Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
Fragile Democracy and Populist Threat in Latin America
Event description:

With the exception of Cuba, democracy has mostly been established in Latin America. However, a number of countries have fragile or declining democracies that must fight the symptoms of weak rule of law, threats to freedom of expression, corruption, a lack of checks and balances and high levels of social inequality. The fragility of the democratic systems may - once again - become a breeding ground for the rise of populism. Although it has been regressing, populism has not disappeared from Latin America and the victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico may signal its comeback.

  • How resilient are the fragile democracies to populist leaders?
  • How can the region learn from its turbulent past and strong populist legacy?

Edipcia Dubón, José Miguel Vivanco, Luis Almagro, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Tamara Sujú

In cooperation with CASLA Institute

12:15 – 13:30

Youth Panel (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
1918-2018! Is Democracy Part of Our Identity?

Event description:

In a clear break with the past centuries of foreign imperial rule, Czechoslovakia in 1918 was established on the ideals of democracy and responsible citizenship. However, out 100 years of the Czech and Slovak modern independent existence, barely half has been spent in democratic system. Other countries in the region have faced similarly complicated history.

  • What is national identity in the eyes of the current generations?
  • How do we identify ourselves with our respective nation states?
  • Is democracy a common cornerstone of our identities?

Juraj Šeliga, Sofi Oksanen, Lenka Štěpánová, Agnieszka Holland, Oana Popescu

Panel Discussion (Žofín Palace, Knights´ Hall)
Winners and Losers: Is Democracy Being Punished for the "Sins" of Global Capitalism?
Event description:

Liberal democracy and capitalism have been crucial in bringing prosperity and freedom to a large part of humanity. However, and perhaps increasingly so, this progress has been uneven and has brought about new problems. Globalization and the exponential and disruptive advance of technology, as never before in history, are producing benefits while at the same time accentuating fears and social tensions. The gap between "winners" and "losers" seems to be deepening.

  • Is the current rise of populism a direct response to a badly managed globalization and capitalism?
  • What have been the main shortcomings in the recent economic development?
  • How can we make it right again?

Stéphane Dion, Ana Marietta Colanzi Forfori, Jan Švejnar, Ondřej Císař, Axel Kaiser Barents von Hohenhagen

In cooperation with Fundación para el Progreso

Book Presentation (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
Book Talk - The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House

Panel Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
The Social and Political Struggle in Cuba: Future in the Footsteps of Its Past?
In cooperation with Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina

Event description:

With the latest change of the countryˈs leadership, many questions arise as to how it will affect the current state of domestic as well as international affairs. In his first speech as President, Díaz-Canel emphasized continuity with the past. Human rights groups claim that since the inauguration, the government has continued to punish dissent and public criticism. It seems that the severe political and social struggle has not ceased to play a substantial part in the everyday lives of the Cuban people.

  • How does the Cuban struggle manifest in the political and social sphere of the country?
  • How can the Cuban activism be portrayed? What are the future prospects and the role of international community?

Gabriel Salvia, Tania Bruguera, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Freddy Valverde

13:30 – 14:30

Working Lunch (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
Lunch Break

14:30 – 15:00

Plenary Debate (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
Žofín Conversation: The Global Challenge of China?
Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China

Event description:

The rising global influence of China has lately become the most discussed topic of international relations. Chinaˈs economic power is being matched by an increasing assertiveness in international political relations and in the security sphere. Chinaˈs “sharp power” is being widely discussed among academics an in the international media.

  • What can we expect from the rise of China?
  • With the seeming gradual decline of the US influence under President Trump, will Beijing be the new guarantor of international order?
  • Is China a threat to the democratic world?

Lobsang Sangay, Theresa Fallon, Tomáš Pojar

15:00 – 16:15

Panel Discussion (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
Illiberalism and Populism: The New Normal?

Event description:

The rise of populist and illiberal politics and politicians is seen as one of the major threats to the current democratic order - both internal and international. Emergence, through democratic means (!), of leaders as different as Rodrigo Duterte, Donald Trump, Victor Orbán, Matteo Salvini, or Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shaken the post-Cold War order to its core.

  • What have been the results of the populist wave so far? Was it a necessary wake-up call? Is populism the new mainstream?

Maia Sandu, Jan Zielonka, Can Dündar, Dan Schueftan, Moderator Ralf Fücks

Panel Discussion (Žofín Palace, Knights´ Hall)
Democracy Across Generations
In cooperation with the European Commission

Event description:

According to data, as well as several recent electoral results, there seems to be a growing generational gap in democracies, with young and old increasingly disconnected. For example, in the 2016 Brexit vote, two-thirds of those under 35 voted to remain in the EU, while 57 percent of those 64 and older voted to leave. Moreover, among the people in the age between 18-24 years, only 36% actually participated in the referendum. According to the data from World Values Surveys, quoted in the well-known 2016 article by Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa, younger generations are losing affinity to democracy. While for 72% of the people born before WWII in the United States and for 55% from the same generation in the Netherlands “to live in a democracy,” was essential, for the millennial generation, born since 1980, democracy was less important. Only one in three Dutch millennials accorded maximal importance to living in a democracy; in the United States, that number was even slightly lower with around 30 percent. Is there truly a growing political gap between generations? If so, what consequences can it have? Can this trend be fixed?

Taťána Kuchařová, Vanessa D’Ambrosio, Martin Buchtík, Oleksandra Drik, Iveta Radičová

Coffee Table Conversation (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
Central Europe: Social and Economic Reasons of Democratic Decline

Event description:

Democratic decline“ or „the rule of law crisis“ is now an accepted diagnosis of the current situation in significant parts of the Central and Eastern Europe.

  • But what if the „social question“, neglected during the course of political and economic reforms, is now dramatically emerging through the increased support for the “illiberal” options?
  • Is the “democratic decline” just a way to attract attention to the unsolved social problems?

Oana Popescu, Tamás Meszerics, Radek Špicar, Jan Komárek

Panel Discussion (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
Russia and China: A Partnership of Equals?

Event description:

Russia and China seem to be increasingly close on the international stage. Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin pose as personal friends; Chinese forces participated in the large Russian military exercises Vostok-2018 in September; and mutual economic cooperation is on the rise. However, it seems that the role-reversal, when declining Russia is now the junior partner in the tandem with rising China, may be making some Russian policy makers nervous.

  • Is the partnership between Russia and China real? And if yes, is it sustainable?
  • What is the Russian expectation from the relationship with China?
  • Are there potential risks for either of the partners?

Szu-chien Hsu, Bobo Lo, Juan Pablo Cardenal, Konstantin von Eggert, Rostislav Valvoda

16:30 – 17:45

Presentation (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)

Event description:

Personal stories of brave democrats and human rights defenders from around the world. A series of presentations by people, whose life and work have been dedicated to helping others live better and freer lives.

Tomáš Vrba, Presentations Tania Bruguera, Xiao Qiang, Founder, Nada Dhaif, Natalia Gryaznevich, Erkin Gadirli

Panel (Žofín Palace, Knights´ Hall)
New Approaches to Democracy, New Approaches to Politics
In cooperation with Zentrum Liberale Moderne and Czech-German Future Fund

Event description:

Alternatives to “traditional parties” are the hit of the day. Some call them “protest parties”, some “populists”, others brand them as “fresh” and “dynamic”. Five Star Movement, En Marche!, The Pirates, Podemos, Ciudadanos, or Alliance of Discontented Citizens (ANO) are all carefully distancing themselves from the left-right definition, from the typical conservative/christian democrat - social democrat/socialist alternation in power that has dominated most democracies for decades.

  • But are they really so different? In what ways?
  • What are the improved recipes that the new parties and movements offer?
  • Is this all just the same old thing in a bright new packaging?

Ivan Bartoš, Giuseppe Mastruzzo, Dita Charanzová, Michal Šimečka, Julius von Freytag-Loringhoven

Coffee Table Conversation (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
Viktor Orbán: Prime Minister for Life?
In cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Event description:

Viktor Orbán has been working to position himself as the leader of the “sovereignist” anti-immigration, and populist part of the EU political class. With the ascension of Matteo Salvini and Sebastian Kurz, as well as with the more or less solid support from the other Visegrad countries, especially Poland, he seems less and less isolated. The recent vote in the European Parliament may actually boost his standing. On the home front, Fidesz government has limited the constitutional checks and balances, bent rules, and solidified its control of the political system, judiciary, media, and the economy. With repeated electoral results close to 50%, Victor Orbán may be around for a very long time.

  • Is Viktor Orbán a threat for democracy in Hungary? In Europe?
  • What are his long-term ambitions?
  • What role will Orbán play in the European Parliament elections in 2019?

Daniel Berg, Martin Ehl

Panel (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
Erosion of Truth and the Responsibility of Religious Communities

Event description:

The concept of truth has always been one of the key principles of world religions and their morals. Respect to truth and responsible work with information belong, at the same time, to the very foundations of liberal democracy. Contemporary globalized world of information, nevertheless, becomes a new battlefield. We face growing manipulation of public opinion, creation of “alternative facts” and different forms of “information war”. Erosion of truth in public space severely jeopardizes the quality of democracy and even its very existence.

  • How an immune system of democracy against the poison of disinformation can be mobilized? How can the religious communities and interfaith cooperation be instrumental in cultivating the climate of responsibility to truth?

Tomáš Halík, Kadri Veseli, Paul Cliteur, Cyril Hovorun, Šarūnas Liekis

18:00 – 19:00

Closing Panel (Žofín Palace, Forum Hall)
Do We Need to Update Our Democracy? How?

Event description:

Despite serious shortcomings and current challenges, democracy is the only system that guarantees our life in freedom, within the rule of law, in peace and prosperity. Every other system we know, may it temporarily seem more effective, attractive, or simple, is in the end far inferior to democracy. We need to work hard to make democracy healthy and strong again.

  • Do we need to change democracy in order to maintain it?
  • If yes, how should we do it?
  • What are the priorities?

Vesna Pusić, Luis Almagro, Flavia Kleiner, Adam Michnik, Carl Gershman

19:30 – 22:00

Dinner (Žofín Palace, Delegates' Lounge)
Closing Reception
For delegates only

Tuesday, October 9

8:30 – 9:30

Working Breakfast (Embassy of Canada)
Armenia: What Next after the New "Velvet Revolution"?
By special invitation only

Event description:

In the spring of this year, after weeks of peaceful protests in which many young people participated, the popular will forced the long-term leader of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, to resign. In allusion to the November 1989 end of communist regime in Czechoslovakia, this stunning reversal has been dubbed "Velvet Revolution".

  • How has this been achieved? Is it really comparable to the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution? What awaits Armenia in the months and years to come?

Working Breakfast (European House)
The EU as a global actor: getting serious democracy in foreign policy
In cooperation with European Partnership for Democracy (EPD)
By special invitation only

Event description:

Democracy governance is one of the founding values of the European Union and has played a key role in accession criteria – also featuring as one of the principles of EU foreign policy. Yet today the position of the EU as a global normative power is being questioned while democratic governance is under attack in Europe and in other areas of the world. This working breakfast will look at the political and financial support the EU dedicates to democracy abroad through the presentation of academic and policy research.

  • The time is ripe for a critical update of EU policy - so what key features should it be built upon?

Working Breakfast (Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany)
Fear in Europe
In cooperation with the German Embassy Prague and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom
By special invitation only

Event description:

For several past years, European societies have seen strengthening of stereotypes and fear, a major shift in the mainstream discourse, and a significant increase of populist, even extremist, political forces.

  • Is Europe indeed dominated by fear? What drives the “culture of fear”, and how has it come to influence, if not dominate modern society?
  • What are the challenges for our European societies with their established political institutions and decision-making? And can this be countered?

Working Breakfast (Austrian Residence)
Freedom and/or Security in Europe?
By special invitation only

Event description:

European Union has for years been based on ever expanding freedoms for its citizens. Free travel, free movement of labour, endless possibilities to study almost anywhere across the continent. The recent migration crisis and terrorism threats have dented this key EU premise. Is the borderless Europe over? Where are the correct limits between freedom and security?

Working Breakfast (Embassy of Portugal)
Resetting the Transatlantic Relations
In cooperation with the Universidade Católica Portuguesa
By special invitation only

Event description:

The transatlantic area, the space between the United States, Canada and Western Europe, has for decades been the bedrock of the inspirational global leadership of liberal democracy and free market capitalism. At least since the election of President Trump, but probably much sooner, this critical partnership has entered a phase of weakening and, later, a crisis. To maintain the global liberal order, ensuring the continuation of the world's peace and prosperity, the transatlantic partnership needs to be restored.

  • What challenges is the transatlantic partnership currently facing? How should they be overcome?

8:30 – 10:00

Working Breakfast (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
Democracy in Southern Europe: What Lies Ahead?
By special invitation only

Event description:

The economic crisis and the following migration crisis have changed dramatically the political landscape in Southern Europe. Since then, the Mediterranean countries have experienced a successful emergence of anti-establishment populist parties.

  • Are those parties a threat to the liberal democratic system?
  • Did they change their behavior and programme when they became governmental parties?
  • Do they represent an anomaly or more permanent phenomenon in politics?
  • Why the case of Portugal is so different from the rest?

Working Breakfast (Goethe-Institut, Conference Room)
Mexico After Elections: Promising Future or Populist Threat?
By special invitation only
Event description:

Mexico, an important regional power of Latin America, has faced crucial presidential elections this year that may affect the future economic and political direction of the region. The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has set the stage for the most left-wing government in the country's democratic history.

  • What lies ahead for the country and what will be the effect on the region as a whole? What will be the future of the US-Mexican relations? What will the Trump-AMLO interaction bring?

10:30 – 12:00

Workshop (American Center of the U.S. Embassy in Prague)
Challenges for Democracy in Central Europe: Czech-German Democracy Lessons
In cooperation with the Zentrum Liberale Moderne and Czech-German Future Fund
By special invitation only

Internal Meetings (various locations)
International Coalition for Democratic Renewal – working groups
By special invitation only

Workshop (Langhans, People in Need Center)
Workshop Youth

12:15 – 13:45

Internal Workshop (Goethe-Institut, Foyer)
Democratic Unity and the Role of Opposition in Latin America
By special invitation only

Internal Meeting (Hotel Eurostars Thalia)
International coalition for democratic renewal - Plenary 1
By special invitation only

14:45 – 16:15

Internal Meeting (Hotel Eurostars Thalia)
International coalition for democratic renewal - Plenary 2
By special invitation only