Democracy has never felt more fragile. Even in countries with a longstanding history of democratic values, there are forces at work eroding the free arena that is so fundamental to a democratic society.
That’s why the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs is hosting its inaugural Miami Conference on Global Democracy on Monday, March 6.
“The topic of Human Rights and Democratization is a strategic research theme at the Green School,” said Shlomi Dinar, interim dean. “A number of our faculty are working in this area, and many of our institutes, centers and programs focus on democracy through different lenses. As citizens of the world and supporters of democratic principles, we have a responsibility to understand the underlying causes, motivations, and methods of the backsliding of democracy that we’re seeing around the world.”
Freedom House, which tracks democracy scores around the world, reports that over the last 16 years those scores have been consistently declining, with more countries witnessing declines compared to those seeing gains in democracy.
- In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Alliance of Young Democrats–Hungarian Civic Union party pushed through constitutional and legal changes that have allowed it to consolidate control over the country’s independent institutions, including the judiciary.
- In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega won reelection in 2021 through the escalation of attacks on civil society, intimidation of members of the political opposition and dubious electoral processes.
- In Senegal, one of Africa’s most stable electoral democracies, politically motivated prosecutions of opposition leaders and changes to the electoral laws have made elections less free and fair.
- And the Chinese Communist Party continues to use sharp power to undermine democracy across the globe as it pursues its interests.
The conference will also examine countries that are gaining in democracy. “There are success stories as well,” Dinar said, “and we will draw lessons from those successes to reflect on how we can strengthen democracy.”
The Miami Conference on Global Democracy is presented in collaboration with the George W. Bush Institute; the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation, a Swedish organization that promotes freedom and democracy in Europe; and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, a Brussels-based think tank focusing on EU policy and advancement.
In addition to expert faculty from the Green School, the roster of prominent speakers includes Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy; Jakub Klepal executive director of the Forum 2000 Foundation; Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Carol Guzy; Martin Kimani, Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations; Brian A. Nichols, assistant secretary of state for Western hemisphere affairs; and Nancy Okail, president and CEO of the Center for International Policy. In keynote speeches and panels, these and other speakers will reflect on the political movements and social tensions that have led to a weakening of democracy and how this alarming trend can be reversed.
“Our mission at the Green School is to prepare our students to be the changemakers of tomorrow,” Dinar said. “In this conference, we’re taking a close look at the world they will inherit. I hope they will derive lessons that, as future policy makers, advisors, presidents, and prime ministers, they can use to strengthen democracy.”
He added, “Our plan is to present the conference annually as a major Green School event. Democracy is one of our areas of expertise, so we’re a natural host. And Miami, as a global, cosmopolitan city, is the right convening place for such an important conversation.”
This event is free and open to the public. More information about the conference and a registration link are available here.