International Preconference

Populism vs. Democracy

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The rise of populism and nationalism during the last five years is eroding democracy worldwide. While internet and digital technology have prompted increasing political engagement, income inequality, conflicts, climate change and migration have fueled the frustration and fears of the public. Those feelings have been hijacked by populist politicians with an exclusionary agenda and clear authoritarian tendencies. This international preconference will provide US and international participants with a snapshot of the state of democracy and the impact populism is having around the world.

9:00 am – 10:30 am – From frustration to action: taking back Brazil through the 2020 local elections

Two years after the assassination of Councilwoman Marielle Franco and a year after one of the most polarizing elections in modern Brazilian history, a reinvigorated social movement opposing President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies is regrouping and channeling their frustration through politics. As in the U.S., a historic number of women, black and queer people ran for office in 2018, driven by a desire to protect their rights and vision for their country. Panelists will discuss the current strategies of the progressive movement to win back power through local elections as part of a larger effort to counterbalance the current government.

10:45 am – 12:30 pm – Far-right nationalist parties and the new power balance in the European Union

Growing inequality, the transformation of labor relations, and a massive influx of migrants have provided the breeding ground for the current wave of populism and nationalism that is sweeping the European Union. In providing seemingly easy solutions for complex problems, these parties have won over 20 percent of seats in the European Parliament, attracting a frustrated and increasingly disaffected electorate. How is this affecting democracy in the region? What will be the impact on the policies and efficacy of the European Union? Panelists will explore these and other questions about the state and future of democracy on the other side of the Atlantic.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm - Lunch

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm – Breaking Venezuela’s stalemate: what’s next?

Three years of continued escalating tensions and democratic deterioration have left Venezuela with two parallel presidents and parliaments, but without a clear path to solve the economic and humanitarian crisis that has pushed over 3 million of its citizens to migrate to other countries. Join this panel to learn about a variety of future scenarios that lay ahead of the stakeholders involved that could break the current stalemate and lead to a solution.

3:15 pm – 4:45 – Democracy vs. the Internet: U.S. and Beyond

Similar to how the printing press revolutionized access to information in the Middle Ages, the internet has led to the ultimate democratization of information. But what is the impact on democracy? On one hand, wider access to information and social media is deepening democracy, making governments more accountable and allowing people to organize faster, as seen during the Arab Spring and the subsequent Occupy Movements around Europe and North America.

At the same time, elections are being tainted across the globe, which in turn is used by undemocratic rulers to weaken trust in the democratic system and limit freedom of speech and assembly, among other rights. How can we limit the impact of fake news while deepening democracy and reinforcing human rights? Experts from a wide range of fields will discuss potential solutions and their pros and cons.