Forum Focus: January 2023

Monthly news from the National Endowment for Democracy‘s International Forum for Democratic Studies on global challenges facing democracy around the world.


The International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has translated many of its publications about emerging global challenges to democracy into Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Featured essay topics include:

On webpages devoted to four of these languages (Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish) you will find newly translated Forum publications; translated materials from NED’s largest partners such as the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and the Center for International Private Enterprise; and links to foreign language research on transnational authoritarian influence by the world’s most powerful regimes in virtually every corner of the world (housed in the Sharp Power Research Portal). READ MORE

On Friday, January 20th from 1:00-2:30pm, the International Forum will host a virtual event and release of the report, Kleptocratic Adaptation: Next Steps in the Battle Against Kleptocracy,” with authors Jodi Vittori and Matthew Page and comments from Larry Diamond.

After Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, kleptocrats are increasingly weaponizing corrupt networks, relying on opaque shell companies, and turning to professional enabling services to allow them to continue their theft. This all continues despite recent restrictions placed on them. As authoritarian actors adapt to the changing landscape, democracies must also elevate the issue of fighting kleptocracy to other pressing national security threats and adapt accordingly. RSVP HERE

In the latest from the Power 3.0 blog, the International Forum published two pieces related to China’s global authoritarian influence. READ MORE

  • Kenton Thibaut of DFRLab analyzes the CCP’s “pitch” to the Global South for non-U.S.-led global economic and security arrangements. She argues that democracies must communicate the appeal of a free, open, secure, and interoperable digital model to the developing world if they are to remain competitive.
  • The International Forum’s Kevin Sheives discusses China’s 20th Party Congress and how the CCP’s transition from collective to singular leadership under Xi Jinping will have an impact on democracies’ interactions with the Chinese party-state.

The International Forum’s newly relaunched Power 3.0 Podcast explores how new forms of authoritarian influence are reshaping the contest over democratic values. On monthly episodes, we speak with distinguished guests from the democracy community about their expertise and personal experiences addressing the modern, transnational authoritarian playbook. LISTEN HERE

  • Rafael Marques, founder of Maka Angola, analyzes the state of kleptocracy in Angola, Portugal’s role in facilitating and enabling kleptocracy in the country, and the Angolan government’s unrelenting attempts to silence courageous activists working to bring about democratic change.
  • Jakub Kalensky of the European Centre for Excellence of Countering Hybrid Threats discussed Ukrainian resilience against Russian disinformation and shares his ideas for how democracy defenders can retake the initiative in the information space.
  • Vidushi Marda from Article 19 explores how unregulated AI surveillance technologies threaten the rule of law and deepen authoritarian control. She also argues that emerging technologies offer authoritarian states new ways of surveilling citizens.

In December 2022, Anne Applebaum, staff writer at the Atlantic, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, delivered the Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World. Inaugurated in 2004, the Lipset Lecture is a joint annual lecture sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Embassy of Canada to the United States, and the Munk School of Global Affairs as an important forum for discourse on democracy and its progress worldwide.

Applebaum described how authoritarian actors cooperate and learn from one another, with the aim of tightening their grip on power and enriching themselves and their allies. In this new environment, dictators weaponize networks composed of security organs, propagandists, and kleptocratic financial institutions. These networks are then mobilized across borders to prop up other illiberal actors. Applebaum labeled this alarming trend “Autocracy, Inc.” WATCH HERE

The Journal of Democracy released its January 2023 issue as well as several web essays focused on Russia and China’s authoritarianism:

The Democracy Resource Center published its list of “22 Notable Books of 2022.”