Recorded on June 22nd, 2018
At the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Peter Robinson moderated a panel discussion featuring prominent politicians from some of the world’s leading democracies as they discussed why democracy is declining around the world and what the prospects for democracy are in the future. They discussed how we can build friendships that will support our ambition of bringing together an international alliance of democracies for a freer and more prosperous world.
Participants include José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain; Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico; Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada; and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of Estonia and Hoover Institution fellow.
For many citizens around the world they do not feel that democracy is working, that there is too much corruption, too much nepotism, and too much bad behavior for democracy to survive. The 2008 crisis and the technology revolution created continued suffering, and citizens feel that democratic systems are not working and that the citizens are burdened with the consequences. The weaponizing of social media has further exacerbated the pain as bad actors can quickly mobilize and cause more confusion and problems.
So what can be done?
Countries need to work together and act super-nationally to give their citizens as well as citizens of other countries security, prosperity, and sustainability. Countries need to use technology to implement coordinated responses to quickly stop the misleading attacks that are causing disruption, disinformation, and decentralization.
Democracies need free and fair elections, an independent judicial system, an independent legislature, freedom of speech, property rights, and an immigration system that works for everyone especially the citizens of a country.
Populism and disagreements are expressions of democracy, and disagreements do not mean we should delegitimize and reject unconventional choices for leaders and label them undemocratic. When we do that, we are heading in the wrong direction. Instead we should ask: what are our citizens telling us and why are they unhappy? How can we offer citizens democracies with better solutions?
As a world, we need to provide security together, but strength comes from within. Countries need to address the shortcoming of how democracies are developed socially, economically, and politically in their own countries first. Democracies must be able to adapt and innovate and they must be allowed the freedom to thrive. The strength of democracies over time is resilience.
Countries also need to promote free trade while respecting borders, which are not incompatible especially when using the United States and Canada as examples.
If we go towards a Chinese style of government there will be no more Facebook or Twitter and fewer freedoms. One man ruling for life almost always ends up with stagnation, tyranny, or both.
Part of the problem democracies are having is that people do not remember what it is like to live in a country where you do not have democratic rights and freedoms. People really need to understand technology and history and to remember what communism and authoritarianism were like in order to avoid those forms of government in the future.
With all of the technologies, ideas, and access to information that we have today, we have greatest possibilities for human life ahead of us if we embrace free and fair elections, an independent judicial system, an independent legislature, property rights, and freedom of speech. If democracies do those things then the force of freedom will be unstoppable and democratic societies will thrive.