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Brussels Forum 2021

Women, Youth, and Exiles: The New Faces of the Global Struggle for Democracy

June 18, 2021
2 min read

The contest between democracy and dictatorship in the world has historically played out in waves. Times of democratic expansion were typically followed by periods of authoritarian backlash. Most recently, the spectacular spread of democracy that followed the end of the Cold War has made way, over the last decade or so, to resurgent authoritarianism. From Eastern Europe to East Asia, from the newer democracies of Central Europe to the older ones of Western Europe and America, strongman and one-party rule, political populism and extremism, anti-democratic and anti-Western narratives, and suppression of civic rights and dissent have been gaining ground. Increasingly, however, this authoritarian surge has given rise to new democratic movements worldwide. In Belarus, women have led a peaceful rebellion against dictatorship while in Hong Kong, young people and students have led the charge. There and elsewhere in the world, the powers-that-be responded with brutal repression, giving rise to a new global generation of political exiles. Their continued struggle for democracy back home, the changing form of civic movements worldwide, the entrenchment of autocratic rule, and the global sponsorship of dictatorship by Russia and China are all challenging questions for the transatlantic community of democracies. Ahead of the first global summit for democracy, hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, this session will feature and discuss the perspectives of key leaders in today’s global struggle for democracy.