Forum Focus: June 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 will be launching a new report, Defending the Global Human Rights System from Authoritarian Assault: How Democracies Can Retake the Initiative by Dr. Rana Siu Inboden at an event on Monday, July 10 from 10:30 am to 11:30 am EDT.

Repressive governments have worked to undermine mechanisms that are meant to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and, instead, to transform international institutions into fora for mutual praise and exculpation. Both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kremlin are working to subvert human rights norms on the international stage, peddle favorable narratives, and oppose resolutions examining their poor human rights records. Democratic societies must rally behind the global human rights system and ensure that it remains capable of assisting activists and victims around the world.

The new report by Dr. Inboden, a senior fellow with the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin, examines how authoritarian regimes exploit multilateral institutions to further their illiberal goals and how democracies can work together to uphold the system and hold abusers accountable. During the launch event, Dr. Inboden will be joined by Dr. Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, for a conversation centered on this crucial challenge to global democratic integrity.

On March 29th, the Forum released a new three-part essay series on Emerging Technology and Democracy, titled The Digitalization of Democracy: How Technology is Changing Government Accountability. At a virtual event marking the release, essay authors Krzysztof IzdebskiTeona Turashvili, and Haykuhi Harutyunya surveyed the major risks and opportunities that digital change in the public sector presents for state accountability. The authors identify principles and practices that can help state and civil society actors cooperate to ensure that the integration of next-generation technologies into government processes works in democracy’s favor.

In the latest Power 3.0 podcast episode, John FitzgeraldNiva Yau, and TtCat discuss with the Forum’s Christopher Walker and Kevin Sheives how their civil societies and diaspora groups have leveraged expertise on China to address democratic vulnerabilities from the CCP’s influence operations, and how others might be able to do the same in responding to the global China challenge.

In a new Power 3.0 blog post, we round up three opinion essays written by Forum writers on the latest trends and responses in ensuring information space integrity. Building off of the recent Shielding Democracy report on Ukrainian civil society’s responses to Russia’s manipulation of the information space:

Also in the Power 3.0 blog, the Forum’s Ariane Gottlieb and The Journal of Democracy’s Justin Daniels write about the origins of China’s sister-city partnerships, how they have become vectors of authoritarian influence, and what actions democracies should take when considering entering or engaging with these sister-city partnerships.

Ahead of this year’s Summit for Democracy on March 28th, The Forum outlined four key global challenges to democracy: authoritarian influence’s corrosive impact on institutions, threats to the integrity of the information space, transnational kleptocracy’s abuse of the global system, and emerging technologies’ impact on democratic values.

On World Press Freedom Day, Christopher Walker, Vice President for Studies and Analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on The Global Information Wars: Is the U.S. Winning or Losing?

Forum assistant program officer Ariane Gottlieb published an op-ed for American Purpose to review the techniques authoritarian-backed media outlets use to promote their regime’s preferred narratives and manipulate audiences worldwide.

Elizabeth Kerley, senior program officer for Emerging Technology and Democracy at the Forum, was quoted by Ryan Heath in an Axios article on looming AI catastrophes.

On May 18th, the NED, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the Hoover Institution hosted an event examining the human rights situation in North Korea.

At RightsCon in Costa Rica, the Forum’s Adam Fivenson moderated a discussion about how civil society actors are countering the Kremlin’s efforts to degrade democracy in Europe, and how these tactics may apply elsewhere.