Forum Focus: February 2022

A monthly newsletter from the National Endowment for Democracy‘s International Forum for Democratic Studies on democracy around the world; our research and convening; and how to respond to modern challenges, including transnational kleptocracy, mis- and disinformation, and rising authoritarian influence.


EVENT: 3/2 Discussion on “An Offshore Cold War: Forging a Democratic Alliance to Combat Transnational Kleptocracy”  

Against the backdrop of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the International Forum will host author Oliver Bullough, German Marshall Fund President Heather Conley, and NED President Damon Wilson for a conversation on Bullough’s paper for the International Forum, “An Offshore Cold War: Forging a Democratic Alliance to Combat Transnational Kleptocracy.” Bullough observes that transnational kleptocracy combines “19th-century autocracy with 21st-century finance” to empower dictators, like those in Russia, to use illicit wealth to corrode both foreign and domestic institutions. This growing threat to democracy has urgent conse­quences for national security, human rights, and development. Register to attend.

Join our team at the International Forum! Our current openings are below:


The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics placed a spotlight on authoritarian censorship of foreign companies and athletes alike. In “On Thin Ice: How the World’s Companies Can Be Censored by Authoritarians,” Rachelle Faust examines how illiberal regimes draw on information manipulation tactics to “advance their preferred narratives and political agendas in settings beyond their borders.” The International Forum also compiled resources on how censorship, surveillance, and human rights intersect with the Olympic Games.

Following last year’s Summit for Democracy, Ryan Arick argues that democracies have a responsibility to stand up for democratic values and can “highlight their advantages in responding to the [COVID-19] pandemic through transparent, accountable, and effective means” to begin to rebuild democratic momentum in “A Light in the Dark: Opportunities for Strengthening Resilience in the COVID-era Between the Summits for Democracy.”

Announcing Tarek Masoud as Co-Editor of the Journal of Democracy  | JANUARY 2022 ISSUE is Now AvailabLe

Tarek Masoud has been named the new co-editor of the Journal of Democracy following Larry Diamond’s departure. Dr. Masoud, a member of the editorial board of the Journal is a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The Journal also released the January 2022 issue, featuring Diamond’s final essay as coeditor alongside three short pieces on KazakhstanUkraine, and Russia. Several Journal authors published their research based on research in the January issue, including a Slate article on “Afghanistan Collapse Was Not Inevitable” and a Foreign Policy article on “Panama’s Success is Defying Political Science.”

Key Insights from the Sharp Power Research Portal: Ukraine

Russia’s brazen military intervention in Ukraine is the latest evolution of the Kremlin’s efforts to undermine democracy and splinter democratic unity. In the Sharp Power Research Portal, the Forum has catalogued research and reporting (in English and Russian) that captures Russia’s political and economic influence activities in Ukraine.

Find these and other resources in the Sharp Power Research Portal, with additional entries added each month.

Spotlight: the hoover project’s events on “china’s sharp power in africa”

On January 18 and January 25, the Hoover Project on China’s Global Sharp Power held two events that discussed China’s safe city projects that have been “shrouded in opacity.” Country construction sectors have also seen a massive “increase of corruption” following China’s investment. These challenges pose challenges for countries that are weighing projects through China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The panelists warned that authoritarian economic influence can erode democratic norms and ideals in recipient countries over time.


REQUIRED READING FOR CHINA’s “TWO SESSIONS” IN MARCH: Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience Reports on Authoritarian Influence in the Information and Technology Sectors

China’s upcoming “Two Sessions” meetings on March 4 and 5, 2022 could produce outcomes related to increased investment in emerging technologies and a heightened emphasis on international propaganda campaigns. The International Forum’s Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience series examined how authoritarian regimes, such as the PRC, exert their influence in democratic settings. Sarah Cook claims that China’s media influence campaigns seek to promote “China as a model for governance” to countries around the world while undermining democratic integrity. In her report, Samantha Hoffman explores how the PRC leverages emerging technologies to undercut democratic stability while expanding its own influence in what she calls “tech-enhanced authoritarianism.”

What We’re Reading

Connect with Us!

  • The Forum’s Power 3.0 blog and its related podcast reflect on modern authoritarianism and other challenges to democracy around the world.
  • The Journal of Democracy is a leading publication on the scholarly analysis on the theory and practice of democracy.
  • The Forum regularly hosts democracy activists, scholars, and journalists  as part of its Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship Program.
  • The Forum houses the Democracy Resource Center, which is dedicated to the study and practice of democracy around the world.