The Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy is the premier global conference on participatory and direct-democratic procedures and practices around the world. It has convened eight times since 2008:
- Aarau (Switzerland) in 2008
- Seoul (Korea) in 2009
- San Francisco (USA) in 2010
- Montevideo (Uruguay) in 2012
- Tunis (Tunisia) in 2015
- Donostia/San Sebastian (Spain) in 2016
- Rome (Italy) in 2018
- Taichung (Taiwan) in 2019
The next two gatherings are under preparation and are planned to take place in Switzerland and Mexico.
In this letter (from February 2021) the co-presidents of the Forum are offering an outlook:
Dear Friends of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy,
You have probably heard the expression that “hope dies last.” Alas, our hopes for a 2021 Global Forum in Bern, Switzerland—hopes we expressed to you in a December letter—are now dead.
In fact, we have decided not to hold a Global Forum in 2021 at all. This decision is based on conversations with partners, advice from experts, and lived experience. Too many participants in the forum are living under circumstances that do not allow the shortest trip, and new mutations of the virus make prospects for a large gathering even late in 2021 far too uncertain.
On a personal note, one of your Global Forum co-presidents lives in Los Angeles County, which has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, infections, and the other co-president in Sweden, which after a famously open response to COVID-19 is now starting to close its borders.
We also have decided not to hold an online global forum in 2021, as we did successfully in September 2020. In our communications from many of you, we’ve received the message that the most important benefit of the Global Forum are the personal exchanges and meetings with participants from all over the world.
But we also want to be clear: we are not slowing down our work on direct democracy, or on the Global Forum. We are going to use this year to prepare our next Global Forums which we plan to hold in the years to come. And we are continuing many of the partnerships we’ve established in the forthcoming Global Forum host countries— Switzerland and Mexico. But we also want to use the time to revamp and renew the concepts of both events, and to make them more accessible for all participants, both in person and online.
But that’s not all. The Global Forum process will have a very busy 2021, because it is more important than ever before. We want to further develop our important join projects, especially the Democracy Community, the online hub of democracy that we strongly encourage you to join. We also will work on events and exchanges hosted by Democracy International and further develop the Direct Democracy Navigator. Together with our host co-organization Swiss Democracy Foundationwe develop better ways supporting and engaging young people into the global democracy work. Both of us are also expanding our journalistic work on democracy at our professional homes—Swissinfo and Zocalo Public Square. We will have more details on this later.
We are committed to asking hard questions about democracy, and our own movement. How can we contribute to the democratic progress and greater participation we’re seeing, in places large and small? And what can we do to counter the autocratic and authoritarian forces that are undermining democratic institutions and culture in many countries? We believe that, to make a bigger impact, our truly global—but rather poorly equipped—network must improve in comparing information, sharing stories, building participatory infrastructure, and investing in promising ideas and processes. We must become more active, smarter, and more innovative—at the local, regional, national, transnational and global levels.
Joe Mathews and Bruno Kaufmann
Co-presidents of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy
The Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy was launched in 2008 to better understand this extraordinary development in democracy. The Forum, the first conference on citizens’ democratic rights worldwide, has taken place eight times in the last ten years.