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CEU DI Annual Conference: Democracy and Development - Global Dialogue on Autocracy and Re-Democratization

By Mahitab Mahgoub and David Karas

The CEU Democracy Institute’s Annual Conference entitled “Democracy and Development: Global Dialogue on Autocracy and Re-Democratization,” took place on May 31 and June 1, 2024 in Budapest, Hungary.

The event fulfilled two, complementary objectives: Firstly, it offered a platform for scholars from four continents to engage together in a global, cross-disciplinary and cross-regional dialogue to rethink democracy in its political, social, and economic dimensions. Secondly, the conference was also a large-scale public launch event for the Global Forum on Democracy and Development, a three-year research and higher education project funded by the Open Society Foundations.

László Bruszt and CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria

Program Director László Bruszt and CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria

The two-day conference brought together the Global Forum’s institutional partners and associated expert scholars on development and democracy from diverse academic and policy institutions hailing from the Americas, Africa, Europe and South Asia. Structured around four thematic sessions broken down into eight panels (two panels for each theme), the conference addressed contemporary debates on a wide range of issues simultaneously linked to democracy and development.

The first theme, titled “Democratizing the Developmental State,” first scrutinized the institutional and political scope for economic development  and industrial policy with particular attention for developmental opportunities in the Global South. A second panel debated the domestic and international dimensions of a “Just Transition” exploring the complex and sometimes contradictory implications of fostering development and democratic governance while simultaneously advancing global decarbonization.

Lindsay Whitfield, Rachel Betty Riedl, Dan Slater, Pritish Behuria and Ho-Fung Hung

The second theme focused on “Populism”: A first roundtable explored the paradoxical nature of populism rooted in a democratic ethos– yet linked to anti-democratic praxis. The panel offered a panoramic overview of an often contentious concept from different theoretical and methodological approaches. The second panel zoomed in on the implications of Artificial Intelligence for political (mis)communication, (de)mobilization – and even more broadly, for the future of democracy and economic development writ large.

The third theme, “Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization, and Democracy,” examined in two panels how instead of simple causalities, there are complex causal linkages between simultaneous processes of political, social- and economic forms of inclusion- and exclusion in both autocratic regimes and liberal democracies. The panels focused in particular on the role of redistributive and social policies in democratic and authoritarian contexts.

Finally, the fourth theme, “New Patterns of Mobilization for – and Against – Democracy” explored in a first panel the complex interactions and complementarities between local/municipal state capacities and social movements/civil society organizations in delivering developmental public goods. A second panel discussed the current state of contentious politics in the Global North and the Global South, including new forms of mobilizations and new forms of depoliticization.

Zachariah Mampilly

The event concluded with a keynote intervention by Professor Larry Diamond, who provided an overview to the multidimensional crises of liberal democracy on a global scale.

In alignment with the objectives of the Global Forum on Democracy and Development, this two-day event not only provided a space for crucial scholarly debates, but it also offered a first, shared experience of socialization and active collaboration for the project’s stakeholders as they will spend the upcoming months to develop the academic roadmap of fellowship programs running simultaneously in Bogota, Budapest, Cape Town and Colombo between October 2024 and May 2025.

Image courtesy of María Belén Soriano Zamora