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May 31-June 1, 2024

Budapest, CEU Democracy Institute, Auditorium A

Based on the collaboration of scholars from four continents, the CEU DI Annual Conference aims at furthering the rethinking of democracy in its political, social, and economic dimensions by establishing a unique platform for interdisciplinary dialogue and a cross-regional exchange of ideas. The conference launches the  “Democracy & Development” global project funded by the Open Society Foundation. The project aims to provide a platform for creative and critical collaboration between scholars from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the Global North to confront a series of conceptual and policy-relevant challenges that are associated with reviving and reclaiming democracy.


May 31 (Friday)

9:00-9:30 Welcoming Remarks by Shalini Randeria (CEU Rector & President) & Laszlo Bruszt (Director of CEU Democracy Institute)

Section I: Democratizing the Developmental State

9:30 – 10:45 Democratizing the Developmental State 

Conventional theories have tended to assume that political and economic transformation follows a particular sequence. The history of East Asian and European development is often presented as having occurred through the development of agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The empowerment of working classes then made increasing claims for economic redistribution and democracy. Whether past development experiences and present ones follow this trajectory has been debated. Yet clearly some governments characterised as ‘developmental states’ are authoritarian while many democracies have delivered very poor development outcomes. Thus, we will respond to the following three questions: 1. Is there a clear sequence to development trajectories, as most clearly presented in modernisation theory? 2. How can developmental states be more democratic? 3. How can democratic states deliver better development outcomes? 

Chair: Ho-Fung Hung (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, U.S.)



 10:45 – 11:15 Coffee Break 

11:15 – 12:30 What Is a Just Transition?

Environmental issues have distributional consequences that make them key to thinking about the relationship between democracy and development. Environmental change (e.g., global warming, droughts, etc.) creates winners and losers. So do efforts to solve environmental problems, including energy transitions and theoretically win-win approaches like green industrial policies, a “just transition” issue. This is obviously a set of challenges closely related to concerns with inequality, with worries about environmental change – and possibly environmental policies – one of the emerging issues that can trigger mobilisation or even populist backlash. It can also be considered prospectively, with the new democratic developmental state increasingly charged with developing plans to address the environment. 

Chair:  Lindsay Whitfield (Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)



 12:30 – 13:30 Lunch  


Section II: Populism, Ideology and Discourse in the Global South: Sources of Polarization and their Mitigation

13:30 – 14:45 The Paradox of Populism

Contemporary populist leaders and movements create a special challenge for democracy. Populist forces polarize society by demonizing their opponents, and once in power they undermine key institutions of democracy in order to protect the will of the people from a supposedly conspiring elite. Yet populists are generally elected to office and preserve aspects of democracy because of their belief in popular sovereignty, and they frequently have strong popular support that is rooted in their ability to echo and channel popular grievances with the status quo. Populists are democrats who undermine democracy. This creates a paradox for defenders of democracy: to save democracy from populism, we may feel we have to destroy it, eliminating the rights of populists and their followers to compete for or participate in governing. In this panel, we try to work around this paradox by thinking more systematically about both the nature of the challenge that populism creates for democracy as well as alternative policy solutions. Why do populists ultimately harm liberal institutions? And why do citizens vote for populists? What solutions are currently being offered to address the societal grievances that give rise to populism, and how effective are they likely to be? 

Chair:  Kirk Hawkins (Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, U.S.)



14:45 – 15:15 Coffee Break 


15:15 – 16:30  Artificial Intelligence and the Study of Democracy and Development

Advancements in generative AI technology have had an overnight drastic effect on just about everything, including labor and stock markets, and have highlighted democratic fears of mass production of disinformation. It also raised immediate questions on the future of education, of scientific advancement and offered the possibility of more efficient ways of conducting research. These topics touch on both the subject and the process of OSUN Forum’s scientific inquiry on Democracy and Development. Instead of firmly planting our heads in the sand or just going with the flow, this panel proposes to be proactive on the topic and discuss how the use and study of AI in our social and academic reality influence the project with the aim of making the best use of both a quickly emerging hot topic and a potential productivity tool. 

Chair: Levente Littvay, (CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary/HUN-REN Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest, Hungary)


  • Carlos Melendez (CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Orsolya Vásárhelyi (Corvinus University Budapest, Hungary/CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Balázs Vedres (Central European University, Vienna, Austria/CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)
  • Erdem Yörük (University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K./Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey)

16:30 – 17:15 Keynote Lecture by Larry Diamond (Stanford University, Stanford, CA, U.S.)


17:30 – 18:30 Surprise social event

June 1 (Saturday)

9:00 – 10:00 CEU Democracy Institute Working Group Lead Researchers Introduction



Section III: Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy

10:00 – 11:15 Understanding Exclusionary Regimes and Autocratization

The intricate relationship between development and democracy constitutes a critical frontier for social scientific inquiry. As the world grapples with a confluence of unprecedented challenges—ranging from ecological crises and pandemics to migration and geopolitical conflicts—the emergence and persistence of exclusionary regimes within these contexts demand our focused attention. This will reveal profound questions about the nature of power, the mechanisms of exclusion, and the possibilities for inclusive governance. This panel is convened with the ambition to dissect these phenomena through a critical lens, aiming to uncover the underlying processes that drive the formation and sustainability of exclusionary regimes. Our exploration is rooted in a multidisciplinary approach that draws upon political science, sociology, anthropology, and development studies to offer a comprehensive understanding of how historical legacies intersect with contemporary forces to shape the landscapes of power and governance that characterize exclusionary regimes and autocratization. By examining the confluence of political, social, institutional, and cultural factors, we seek to trace the genealogies of exclusion.

Chair: Erdem Yörük (University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K./Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey)


  • Dan Slater (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, U.S.)
  • Linda J. Cook (Brown University, Providence, RI, U.S./Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, U.S)
  • Priya Chacko (University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA, Australia)
  • Andrea Krizsan (Central European University, Vienna, Austria/CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)


11:15 – 11:45 Coffee Break


11:45– 13:00 Democracy and Inclusive Development

In an era marked by significant political, social, and economic upheavals, understanding the multifaceted relationship between democracy and development has never been more crucial. This panel unites diverse perspectives to explore the challenges presented by exclusionary regimes, the quest for democratizing developmental states, the rise of populism, and emerging patterns of mobilization. Through an interdisciplinary lens, panelists will examine the ways in which these factors interact with global issues such as migration, pandemics, ecological crises, and the dynamics of political discourse. The goal is to illuminate pathways towards more equitable and democratic societies, highlighting the role of policy, resistance, and international cooperation in shaping the future of global democracy and development. By bridging the gaps between the themes of exclusionary regimes, democratizing developmental states, populism and its discourses, and new mobilization trends, the panel endeavors to offer a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics at play in both the Global South and North. Scholars and fellows will engage in a critical dialogue that not only addresses the theoretical underpinnings but also delves into the practical implications and strategies for fostering inclusive, democratic, and sustainable development across different regio


  • Yamini Ayar (Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India)
  • Joseph Wong (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
  • Dorottya Szikra (Central European University, Vienna, Austira/CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)


13:00 – 14:00 Lunch


Section IV: New Patterns of Mobilization for – and Against – Democracy

14:00 – 15:15 Mobilization for – and Against – Democracy: What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Know?

Chair: Laszlo Bruszt (Central European University, Vienna, Austria/CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)



15:15 – 15:45 Coffee Break


15:45 – 17:00 Democracy and Development: What Is the Role of Social Movements in This?

The panel aims to explore the role played by social movements and civil society in crisis moments as well as in more stable moments in supporting or undermining democratic governance. How do social movements and the different configurations of civil society contribute to diverse trajectories of de- and re-democratization in moments of crisis. And what role is played by social movements and civil society organizations in the evolution of developmental interventions and social  policies against the backdrop of different political and socioeconomic challenges?

Chair: David Karas (CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, Hungary)



17:00 – 17:30 Coffee Break


Image courtesy of | OSUN Forum