International Forum for Democratic Studies March 2020 Newsletter

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March 2020

Cultivating democratic resilience


The International Forum for Democratic Studies launched its Sharp Power and Democratic Resilience Series at the 2020 Munich Security Conference. The series analyzes the ways in which authoritarian regimes seek to manipulate the political landscape and censor independent expression within democratic settings and highlights potential civil society responses.

The initiative focuses on emerging challenges in four crucial arenas relating to the integrity and vibrancy of democratic systems: challenges to free expression, and the integrity of the media and information space; threats to intellectual inquiry; contestation over the principles that govern technology; and leverage of state-driven capital for political and corrosive purposes.

The first report, entitled “Firming Up Democracy’s Soft Underbelly: Authoritarian Influence and Media Vulnerability,” by Edward Lucas, explores how authoritarian regimes like Russia and China have invested billions of dollars in media enterprises and information initiatives to manipulate, distort, and censor the global information environment. The second report in the series, on the subject of authoritarian corrosive capital and its impact on democratic institutions, will be released in April.

The Forum also released a working paper entitled “Demand for Deceit: How the Way We Think Drives Disinformation” by Samuel Woolley and Katie Joseff. This paper seeks to understand why some users repeatedly seek out and believe sources of disinformation while rejecting other information sources. The paper also discusses the psychological drivers behind the spread and consumption of disinformation, how they interact with new and emerging technologies, and how civil society should adapt to these trends.

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We need to accept the bleak truth that we are losing the battle of ideas with authoritarian regimes, not because our ideas are weak, but because the battlefield is skewed against them. If we fail to rise to this challenge, our information systems will cease to be a bulwark against hostile sharp power, and will instead become a vector for its transmission.” 


JOURNAL OF DEMOCRACY Celebrates 30 years

Democracy Embattled” was the theme of the Journal of Democracy‘s 30th anniversary issue, in which leading democracy scholars and analysts reflect on democracy’s prospects in the shifting global landscape. The International Forum celebrated the occasion with an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.

Defending Democracy in an Era of DIgital Disruption

NED’s Christopher Walker delivered the prestigious Alexis de Tocqueville lecture at the Catholic University of Portugal on March 5 in which he discussed the factors leading to the current era of digital disruption, emerging challenges in the present digital revolution, and how democracies and civil society can respond.


Allison McManus’ Power 3.0 Blog post traces the increasing levels of Chinese investment in telecommunications and surveillance technology sectors in Egypt, raising concerns about the implications for Egyptian activists, journalists, and civil society leaders.

COMPETITIVE AUTHORITARIANISM: An Interview with Lucan Way and Steven Levitsky

Lucan Way and Steven Levitsky, Journal of Democracy editorial board co-chairs, sat down with the Journal‘s Brent Kallmer to discuss the new competitive authoritarianism that has emerged in some countries with relatively strong democratic traditions and institutions.

The Rise and Fall of “Good Governance” Promotion

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi of the Hertie School of Governance delivered the Sixteenth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World on November 4, 2019, in which she outlined the historical evolution of good governance norms and the importance of ethical universalism standards.


OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic participated in a Power 3.0 Podcast episode on the subject of “Investigating Transnational Kleptocracy,” in which she explained how the cross-border networking of investigative journalists serves as a critical tool to counter the challenge of modern transnational kleptocracy.

“Democracies likewise must purposefully develop policies and civil society-based approaches to shape the development of norms concerning technology’s use. Such norms should protect space for the exchange of ideas and freer information flows, while also setting standards for accountability, transparency,
and human-rights adherence.”

Christopher Walker  in  the annual alexis de tocqueville lecture at the catholic university of portugal



Read more posts from the Power 3.0 Blog.


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