The Battle of Ideas: Authoritarianism vs Democracy

Authoritarian governments are waging an ideological war, and proponents of democratic ideals are on the defense. Russia actively exports its methodology: spread false news, restrict civil society, and demonize marginalized communities, including LGBT people. Egypt promises security in a trade off for independent media and freedom of assembly. China is happy to offer development assistance throughout the Global South without human rights conditions and claims to have developed a model for growth and prosperity at the expense of political freedoms.

As authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes make gains, the space for civil society, press freedom, and open political dialogue narrows. Human rights defenders are jailed. The Internet becomes a spying tool. Minorities are persecuted. Multilateral institutions, like the United Nations Human Rights Committee, are undermined.

The United States and its democratic allies must not lose the clash of ideas against authoritarianism. How can the U.S. and democratic allies push back against the lure of authoritarianism? Can multilateral institutions still be effective? If the battleground is ideological, what does victory entail?

We’ll tackle these questions and more at the Human Rights Summit in a conversation featuring Lu Jun, the Chinese “barefoot lawyer,” Barbara von Ow-Freytag, Coordinator of Eastern Partnership Group of EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, and Executive Director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies Christopher Walker. Join us on December 9th at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Register here.


Published on November 23, 2015


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