Global Democracy Dialogues:
U.S.-Canada Virtual Speaker Series
International democracy assistance is entering a new era.
The Parliamentary Centre’s Global Democracy Dialogues takes a bold look at how our sector can rise to the challenge.
Over the last three decades, there has been a sustained international effort to support the emergence of inclusive democracy. However, there is now widespread backsliding and a global crisis of confidence in democracy.
Despite political consensus on its value, Canada’s support for democracy strengthening abroad has steadily declined in the last decade. During the global pandemic, as civic space shrinks, women disproportionately carry the burden and parliaments are sidelined; how political leaders and countries support and defend democracy will determine the extent to which democracy in many parts of the world is renewed or veers backward.
We are pleased to host the Global Democracy Dialogues, a series of discussions between Canada and the U.S. in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. Over the course of 12 months, the Parliamentary Centre is convening 13 virtual events bringing together top experts from both sides of the border. Global Democracy Dialogues series takes a deep look at today’s challenges to democracy worldwide and how the U.S., Canada and others can respond.
Through these conversations, we explore ways of advancing our shared values in the world. Topics range from protecting human rights and political and civil liberties against new threats to confronting hostile actors and authoritarian backsliding to considering how feminist approaches to democracy can build a safer and more inclusive world. We also look at the architecture of democracy assistance as a strategic and impactful form of foreign policy and development assistance.
Join us to help shape the way forward for advancing democracy in the world! Stay tuned for regular events. #LetsTalkAboutDemocracy
A Word from Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, Brian Naranjo, and Parliamentary CEO, Tom Cormier
October 20, 2021
After Afghanistan: The Future of Democracy Support in Post-conflict States
Democracy support is deeply connected to post-conflict stabilization and transition processes in many parts of the world. Inclusive conflict mediation processes, especially those integrating the Women, Peace and Security agenda, are reflected in more inclusive democratic processes. The international community devotes significant technical and diplomatic resources to shore up elections in new democracies, and the governments of countries affected by electoral violence have pursued a host of political reforms designed to reduce it. Despite these efforts, violence continues to haunt elections before, during and after the vote across the developing world. This session looks at the relationship between democracy assistance and peace.
- Matthew D. Steinhelfer, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, US Department of State
- Patrick W. Quirk, Ph.D. Senior Director, Center for Global Impact at International Republican Institute (IRI); Nonresident Fellow, Brookings Institute
- Dr. Stephanie M. Burchard, US national security and defense expert, Institute for Defense Analyses
- Vasu Mohan, Senior Global Advisor for Conflict, Displacement & Minority Rights, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
- Ben Rowswell, President and Research Director of the Canadian International Council
- Nipa Banerjee, Senior Fellow, International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa
November 4, 2021
Foreign Meddling & Disinformation: State actors’ influence in undermining the integrity of democratic elections
Malign foreign actors pose a major threat to global elections and democracy. This dialogue examines tactics of foreign disinformation campaigns and cybersecurity and discusses effective strategies to defend democratic processes.
Hostile foreign disinformation is no longer a platform-based problem, it is an ecosystem. We’ll look at causes and drivers, including the connection between gender-based disinformation and authoritarian strategy. What are upstream and downstream entry points for action? Where are entry points for different actors from states and legislatures to intelligence & security communities to digital activism/technology groups. How to approach coordination of malign foreign actors? How to/should we prioritize entry points? Join us as we discuss these questions and more.
- Christopher Walker, National Endowment for Democracy, author of Sharp Power
- Thomas Melia, former deputy assistant secretary of state and assistant administrator of USAID, vice president of the National Democratic Institute, and deputy director of Freedom House, author Russia and America Aren’t Morally Equivalent
- Beata Martin Rozumilowicz, Regional Director, Europe & Eurasia, International Foundation for Electoral Systems
- Kristina Wilfore, Senior Advisor, Disinformation Defense, The Democracy Alliance
- Gallit Dobner, Director, Centre for International Digital Policy, Global Affairs Canada
- Marcus Kolga, Founder, Disinfowatch.org & Senior Fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute
- Farhaan Ladhani, CEO, Digital Public Square
December 1, 2021
Supporting Women’s Political Empowerment
Women’s political empowerment is key to successful democracy and to national development, however women continue to be deeply under-represented. Canada’s Feminist International Development Policy has brought women’s rights to the forefront of international aid, but many questions continue to surround its application in the field of democracy assistance. In this session, US speakers talk about feminist approaches to democracy assistance, focusing on the nexus between development outcomes and women’s political empowerment. This session will take a different format from the others, with an extended panel of experts responding to targeted questions about why inclusive governance matters for development outcomes. The event takes places during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence in recognition of the violence and harassment faced by women in politics worldwde.
Political party assistance & campaign finance reform
Political parties – whether fractured and weak or dominant and exclusive – are a core component to translating citizens’ needs and priorities into policy. Among the many challenges to building health party systems, campaign finance reform is pivotal. US experts discuss effective approaches to these sticky challenges.
International election observation has evolved dramatically over the past decade, including observing increasingly digitalized processes. As the measures of democracy have shifted away from minimalist definitions towards the multifaceted criteria of liberal democracy, electoral observation has undergone a sea change to adapt to the evolving context.
The Role of Boards
Members of Boards of Directors play a pivotal role in determining the direction and strategy of international democracy assistance organizations. They must ask the tough and probing questions and vet all sides of issues, as well as advocate for and represent organizational interests externally. This session looks at how boards of directors are structured and leveraged to maximize impact for democracy assistance organizations.
The Role of the Private Sector in International Democracy Support
Support for international democracy is funded through partnerships with the private sector and philanthropy, in addition to traditional bilateral and multilateral aid programs. This event will explore how private sector actors contribute to progress in this area. How do democracy programs funded by foundations and other private sector sponsors align with state-supported assistance programs? How does coordination take place? What are the benefits of private sponsors in this field compared to traditional donors? Special focus will be given to the recent upswing in private sector and philanthropic support for feminist public leadership following the Generation Equality Forum — is this a new channel for Canada’s feminist foreign policy?
Integrating Learning, Research & Innovation
Policy, practice and research are the three pillars of effective democracy assistance. This session looks at different approaches to establishing rigorous research hubs to support effective policy and practice.
Community of Practice
In the fast-paced world of international democracy support, maintaining fruitful synergy between research and practice is a persistent challenge. Likewise, horizontal sharing across regions and organizations must be intentional and strategic, to avoid siloes of knowledge. This session examines current and past efforts to build useful communities of practice in the field of international democracy support.
The field of practice of democracy assistance emerged at the end of the Cold War and came of age in the 1990s and 2000s. Since then, the global democracy landscape has changed dramatically. This session questions how the democracy assistance community has adapted to these changes at an institutional level. How do practitioner organizations reflect growing diversity of youth, gender and minority representation and interests in their structures and leadership? Are the post-Cold War models of democracy assistance still pertinent in the world today? How to rethink them?
Democracy cannot deliver without effective, inclusive legislatures and connected, informed legislators. That’s why legislative strengthening needs to be a core component of international democracy assistance. We’ve invited some of the most experienced legislative strengthening experts in the US and Canada for an important discussion to examine the new challenges facing legislators in light of the pandemic and growing authoritarianism across the globe, and best approaches to addressing them.
Canada has committed to expand the availability of Canadian expertise for democracy strengthening but not defined the architecture to house and nourish that expertise. The success of Canada’s renewed support for global democracy will depend on the infrastructure it will build to direct and guide this vision. How should Canada turn its aspiration for a new Canadian democratic development institution into reality? How can it build expertise and institutional resources for democracy support within the public service? What are strategies to link these with a re-vitalized civil society? American counterparts present the rich and complex landscape of U.S. democracy support in response to these questions.
Democracy in the US and Canada faces unprecedented challenges, from rising populism, low voter participation to fraud and suppression. The second edition of the Global Democracy Dialogue takes a deep dive to look at one of the most serious threats: rising violent extremism.
The January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill was a sobering reminder of the fragility of democracy at home. Canada confronts a similar threat of domestic ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE), with an estimated 30 per cent increase in domestic hate groups over the past five years. There is a direct link between the strategies of international democracy support and protecting democracy at home. This panel will explore the roots of this rising problem and the strategies used by activists and experts in stemming the tide through counterterrorism and peace-building.
COVID-19 had a profound impact on democracy in the world. It resulted in dozens of cancelled or delayed elections and gave momentum to resurgent authoritarianism and populist movements in parts of the world. It had surprisingly positive consequences as well, from accelerating digital learning for transnational democracy movements to spurring the widespread adaption of technologies that enhanced accessibility for parliamentarians and voters. This panel takes stock of these new threats and potential gains and asks “How should democracy assistance actors adapt their post-pandemic approaches accordingly?”
The Global Development Primer
In partnership with the US-Canada Virtual Speaker Series, the Global Development Primer podcast is hosting a special series on democracy assistance in international development. Podcast host and Dalhousie Professor Robert Huish speaks to some of our guests.
- “Why the Greatest Political Idea of the 20th Century Needs a Bit of Assistance Today” an interview with Brian Naranjo, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Ottawa and Ton Cormier, President & CEO, Parliamentary Centre
- ‘”It doesn’t mean invading another country and occupying it”: What democracy assistance is really” an interview with Thomas Carothers, Interim President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- “🦄 They’re not magical unicorns: Women leaders & The COVID-19 Pandemic. 🦄” an interview with Jennifer Piscopo, Associate Professor, Occidental College
- “Hate Thrives in Apathy: Understanding How White Extremism is a Threat to Democracy” an interview with Brad Galloway, former right-wing extremist & currently Research Analyst/Case Manager with Life After Hate & Research and Intervention Specialist at the Organization for Prevention of Violence (OPV)and Dr. Kathy Hogarth, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo
- “Oh Canada, Where Art Thou? Canada’s Role in International Democracy Assistance” an interview with Monika LeRoy, Advisor to the Secretary General, Organization of American States
- “Beyond Two Swords’ Lengths Apart: Exploring The House Democracy Partnership” an interview with Derek Luyten, Executive Director, House Democracy Partnership
The U.S. Virtual Speaker Series was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of participants and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.