How to Support Democracy against Autocracy

© SDF 2023

On 14 September 2023, the Swiss Democracy Foundation and the Polit-Forum Bern, in collaboration with other partners, organised a conference on the global threat to democracies posed by autocratic tendencies. The event took place in the Käfigturm in Bern.

Together we discussed how civil societies around the world can effectively strengthen and defend democracy. Speakers, practitioners and academics from Taiwan, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania, the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland contributed their perspectives. The conference analysed key factors in how democracies can become more resilient to autocratic threats.

The event was streamed live. Highlights of the programme are available here.



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09:30 Opening and Welcome at the Käfigturm, Bern


09:40 – 10:30 Democracy vs Autocracy – The Global Battle for Democratic Rights and Freedom

Keynote speeches:

  • Roberto Cardiel Heycher, former Executive Director of the National Electoral Institute INE, Mexico
  • Tana Foarfa, Director at europuls, Romania
  • Iryna Venediktova, Ambassador of Ukraine to Switzerland
  • Andrea Yang, Deputy Secretary General, Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan

11:00 - 12:30 Democratic Resilience in Different Threatened Environments. How can these threats against Democracy be countered?

Panel discussion with academic experts:

  • Clara Egger, Assistant Professor of Global Governance at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
  • Simona Grano, Associate Professor and Director of the Taiwan Studies Project, University of Zurich 
  • Magdalena Maria Solska, SNSF-PRIMA Assistant Professor, University of Fribourg (Political Opposition in Post-Communist Democracies and Authoritarianisms)

Moderated by Bruno Kaufmann, Board Member of the Swiss Democracy Foundation.


12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break and visit of the exhibition at the Democracy Tower (optional)


13:30 – 14:30 How Democracy Can Be Supported on a Local Level through Grassroot Initiatives  

Lightning Talks with practitioners:

  • Joe Mathews, Editor in Chief at Democracy.Local and California Columnist at Zocalo Public Square, USA
  • Yaroslav Minkin, Cultural activist and human rights defender who works in Eastern Partnership and Central Asia countries promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue 
  • Itzel Riba, Civic Education and Electoral Training at the National Electoral Institute INE, Mexico
  • Anda-Ilona Serban, Executive Director of CeRe: Resource Center for Public Participation, Romania

Moderated by Stefanie Schüpbach, Deputy Director of the Polit-Forum Bern.


14:45 – 15:30 Collecting Learnings on How Democracy Can Be Supported against Autocracy

Workshops with practitioners and panelists.


16:00 – 17:00 Cooperating Across Borders to Make Democracies Stronger

Concluding panel:

  • Rita Biconne, Senior Officer and Head of Implementation Unit, European Association for Local Democracy ALDA, Italy/Belgium
  • Corinna Borer, Project manager of projects in the Department International Projects in Education, Zurich University of Teacher Education, Switzerland
  • David W. F. Huang, Representative of Taiwan to Switzerland
  • Caroline Vernaillen, Global Manager PR & Community Building, Democracy International, Germany

Moderated by Stefanie Bosshard, Director of the Swiss Democracy Foundation.


17:15 Closing and Apéro









    Panel discussion








    Keynote Speakers








    Yaroslav Minkin








    Concluding Panel








    Dr. Iryna Venediktova








    Dr. Clara Egger








    Coffee Break

© SDF 2023


Recording Part 1: Democracy vs Autocracy – The Global Battle for Democratic Rights and Freedom

Recording Part 2: Democratic Resilience in Different Threatened Environments

Recording Part 3: How Democracy Can Be Supported on a Local Level through Grassroot Initiatives

Recording Part 4: Cooperating Across Borders to Make Democracies Stronger