Democracy Conference: Countering Modern Authoritarianism | Freedom House

Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy Annual Conference

Countering Modern Authoritarianism

Friday, March 23, 2018
12:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Registration and a light lunch will begin at 12:00 p.m.

Freedom House
1850 M Street NW
Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20036

Around the globe, democratic political systems and values are under threat from authoritarian states seeking to stifle dissent at home and project influence internationally. Yet people who aspire to live in free societies continue to assert their fundamental freedoms and to push back against both democratic erosion and aggressive despotism. The Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy will examine the challenge posed by modern authoritarianism and how governments and activists may overcome it.

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Event Program

12:30 p.m. — Introductory Remarks
Michael J. Abramowitz, President, Freedom House

12:45 p.m. — Keynote Speaker
Yascha Mounk, Lecturer, Harvard University

1:30 p.m. — Panel Discussion 1 Repression and Resilience in Authoritarian States

Russia, China, and Iran have sought to maintain their monopoly on power by crippling or coopting formal political opposition, severely curtailing freedom of expression, and limiting the ability of pro-democracy and human rights activists to organize. At the same time, ongoing protests in Iran, anti-Putin protests across Russia in the lead-up to presidential elections, and public pressure on the Chinese Communist Party to permit greater political pluralism show that the dream of democratic freedom continues to catalyze collective action.

Masih Alinejad 
Founder, My Stealthy Freedom (Iran)

Maria Kanevskaya
Former Director, Human Rights Resource Center (Russia)

Yaxue Cao
Founder and Editor,

2:45 p.m. — Coffee Break

2:45 p.m. — Panel Discussion 2 Modern Authoritarianism and the Struggle for Democracy

Modern authoritarianism is distinguished by its unprecedented global reach, capacity for innovation, increasingly sophisticated use of soft power, and its highly collaborative nature. The authoritarian surge is ever more formidable as democracies contend with nativism and doubts about democracy's ability to deliver economic security. What are effective policies and strategies to overcome these threats to democratic societies?

Sarah Margon
Washington Director
Human Rights Watch

Maria J. Stephan
Senior Advisor, U.S. Institute of Peace

Christopher Walker
Vice President for Studies and Analysis
National Endowment for Democracy

Robert Herman
Senior Advisor for Policy
Freedom House