Democracy & Human Rights in Decline? A Call to Action
Florence, Italy • 24-25 November 2014
A Policy Dialogue organized by Club de Madrid & Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and hosted by the European University Institute (EUI)
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“Democracy and Human Rights in Decline? A Call to Action," is a Policy Dialogue co-organized by the Club de Madrid (CdM) and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), and hosted by the European University Institute (EUI) taking place November 24-25, 2014 in Florence, Italy. The conference will serve as the launch of the two-year multi-stakeholder Next Generation Democracy (NGD) Project.
Today, half of the world's population lives under a democratic regime of some form. Over three billion people, around 40% of the world's population, will vote in elections this year alone. This is the result of the considerable increase in the number of democratic countries during the twentieth century.
Representative democracy, however, may be at a turning point, as signals of decline have appeared globally since the beginning of the present century. There is a growing perception that democratic governments are not delivering, while citizens' expectations are on the rise. Disaffection, populism and social unrest are growing in consolidated democracies, and less consolidated ones are experiencing an apparent regression towards authoritarian behavior by their governments.
Even as citizens, and indeed protesters, are demanding real democracy, not necessarily turning against it, the present situation points to the limits of political representation. A continuing erosion of democracy, further exacerbated by the economic crisis experienced since 2008, constitutes a major additional threat to stability and peace. At the same time, international efforts to deepen and foster democracy and human rights seem to have halted or, at best, slowed
The policy dialogue, Democracy and Human Rights in Decline? A Call to Action, presented in partnership by Club de Madrid and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, will examine the state of democracy and mark the launch of Club de Madrid's Next Generation Democracy (NGD) project. The overall aim of NGD is to empower democracy to fully meet the expectations and needs of citizens and secure a sustainable future for the generations to come. This participatory process will engage scholars, policymakers, human rights defenders, representatives of civil society and the corporate sector, as well as opinion leaders, in a series of regional and global discussions.
Using research data and analysis, participants at the conference will first identify democratic trends in different regions between 2000 and 2015. Next, they will assess the impact that these regional and global trends could have on the future of democracy over the next fifteen years. Conference participants will then discuss forward-looking tools and actions aimed at reversing democratic decline in their region and ways in which democracy that delivers can better be shaped. Following the conference, these tools and actions will be refined in NGD regional workshops where region-specific agendas will be created. The common elements of these regional agendas will form a global agenda for action.
The linkages between democracy, human rights and foreign policy will be evaluated throughout the process. The impact of these linkages on poverty reduction and inequality, human security, conflict prevention and resolution, justice, social inclusion and shared societies, as well as natural resource management, will be thoroughly assessed. A fundamental question in this regard will be how to progressively align the external action of global and regional actors to advance values and rights, without imposing or exporting one-size-fits-all democracy.
The conference will feature plenary and break-out sessions, with a combination of debates, panel discussions and conversations, creating a space for dialogue among all participants. Plenary sessions will be open to a wider audience of national and local authorities, academia, think tanks, representatives of civil society, and the business community.
The organizers anticipate the active participation of at least 40 CdM members from different regions and political affiliation. In addition, approximately 100 international experts and practitioners, including representatives from governments, multilateral institutions, human rights organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector will be invited to participate in the conference.
On the first day, working groups will review regional dynamics and main threats to democracy in different regions, and propose possible responses to regressive trends and disquieting scenarios. On the second day, participants will share the results of initial analyses, identify commonalities and differences among regions, and define the initial elements of NGD regional agendas.
Democracy and Human Rights in Decline? A Call to Action will offer a unique opportunity to engage in a comprehensive analysis of regional dynamics and potential threats to democracy, by complementing expert analysis with the perspectives of a variety of political and social actors. The region-specific agendas, as well as the preliminary ideas shared on global challenges and opportunities for democracy, will be the main deliverables of this conference and a first fundamental input to the broader Next Generation Democracy objectives. The conference will kick-off an inclusive process of regional workshops and other interactive exercises to identify best ideas and practices on democratic governance.
The outputs of the Policy Dialogue will be broadly disseminated as they are produced, primarily online but also in printed formats. NGD will also facilitate on-line exchanges, workshops and discussions