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The OSUN Forum on Democracy and Development project emerges at a particularly challenging moment for democracies. The tide of democratization experienced in the late 20th century has been reversed. Political rifts between the Global South and Global North are ever more palpable even as epochal challenges such as climate change would necessitate global collaboration to ensure our collective survival. The concept of democracy concentrates and catalyzes many of these contentions: mounting criticism points to limitations in conceptions of democracy which reduce it to a set of political institutions, failing to consider the interplay between a just distribution of economic resources and opportunities necessary for human dignity, individual and collective welfare, peace, security, and thriving political participation.

Taking stock of these unprecedented challenges, the OSUN Forum on Democracy & Development project aims to reimagine democracy in its political, social, and economic dimensions, creating a unique platform for an interdisciplinary and cross-regional exchange of ideas between scholars hailing from the Global South and Global North.

Building on the rich resources and collaborative capacities of the Open Society University Network (OSUN), the project is a platform for scientific and policy-relevant knowledge production, research incubation and curriculum development. The project provides a space for experts from the Americas, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia coming together to share their diverse experiences and expertise in varied disciplines such as Law, History, Economics, Political Science, or Anthropology.

Recognizing the complex interplay between the material distribution of resources and opportunities and democratic politics, the OSUN Forum on Democracy and Development proposes to rethink democracy in its political, economic and social dimensions across national and transnational scales.


The project will operate over a three-year period through four regional hubs in Bogota, Budapest, Cape Town and Colombo. These hubs will act as fertile grounds for research incubation, and new teaching modules and materials. Each of these four regional hubs will further connect with a network of universities, research centres and think tanks in their respective continents, fostering multidisciplinary discourse on democracy and development. In addition, the hubs will actively engage in public exchanges and policy dialogues, facilitating a holistic understanding of the challenges at hand and promoting collaborative solutions.

The four regional hubs are anchored in distinct themes: Cape Town delves into “Democratizing the Developmental State”, Colombo focuses on “Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy”, Bogota explores “New Patterns of Mobilizations for and against Democracy”, and Budapest investigates “Populism and Ideology: Supply and Demand Side Analysis”. These four research themes raise policy-relevant questions facing billions of people in the Global South and the Global North. The answers to these questions over the next decades will determine the nature of political and economic regimes in the 21st century – and set the parameters for democratic resilience and revitalization.


Rooted in a commitment to academic excellence and collaboration, the  project is poised to produce a series of high-impact outputs. Interdisciplinary and multi-regional teams of scholars in residence at each regional hub will produce path-breaking original research, and submit collaborative grant proposals, which will lay the groundwork for future joint projects and ensure the long-term impact of the initiative. High-quality academic publications will set the research agenda and contribute significantly to leveraging academic research of the highest caliber for rethinking the interplay between democracy and development.

The project will also play a pivotal role in training, producing comprehensive syllabi and teaching materials for distribution across and beyond the OSUN network. This initiative will enhance the educational experience at both undergraduate and graduate levels by embedding multidisciplinary perspectives into the curriculum.

In addition to these educational outputs, the project will facilitate methodological clinics and research development sessions focused on capacity building and the promotion of collaborative scholarship. The policy labs and capacity building courses will act as a conduit, translating academic insights into tangible tools for policymakers and civil society leaders, ensuring that the project’s impact extends beyond the academic sphere.