The annual Athens Democracy Forum was held on 9-11 October 2019, in association with The New York Times, the UN Democracy Fund and the City of Athens.
This year’s programme centred around the theme Reinventing Democracy: New Models for our Changing World, featuring discussions such as We and Them: Why are the ideals of multiculturalism and inclusion so elusive, and so often held in disdain?; The Cost of Inequality: Can economic inequality be tempered without discouraging innovation and entrepreneurship?; Back to Basics: How can we restore faith in core values?; The Echo Chamber and the Agora: The use and misuse of new and social media; and The Collapse of the Traditional Party. Venues included the Zappeion in the National Gardens of Athens; Old Parliament House – the first permanent base of the Greek National Assembly; the Acropolis Museum; and the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora of Athens – the very birthplace of democracy.
Speakers at the Forum included President of the Hellenic Republic H.E. Prokopios Pavlopoulos; President of the Republic of Ireland H.E. Michael D. Higgins; President of the Republic of Slovenia H.E. Borut Pahor; Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis; Former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, President of the European Council Donald Tusk; European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager; New York Times writers Roger Cohen and Steven Erlanger; Nigerian Nobel Literature Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka; and UNDEF Executive Head Annika Savill, whose remarks at the Zappeion can be read here.
A closing debate, Global vs. National, featured a mano-a-mano between French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres sent a message of support, which can be read here.
The New York Times article on the event quoted Annika Savill as reminding the Forum on that in large parts of the world, democracy “is a distant dream”. The Times added: “In an opening-night address, Ms. Savill said the word ‘democracy’ appeared nowhere in the United Nations Charter, and about half of the world’s countries ‘do not embrace it as a form of governance, or merely pay lip service to it’."
The new Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, presented the annual City of Athens Democracy Award in memory of Pawel Adamowicz, the assassinated mayor of Gdansk. The award was accepted by Magdalena Adamowicz, Member of the European Parliament.
Annika Savill also spoke at a youth event on ‘Speak Truth to Power’ at the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, along with philanthropist Marianna Vardinoyanni (pictured); Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Right (pictured); and HRH Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark. The event featured students from Greece, including the remote island of Kastellorizo, and young unaccompanied refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan, who all spoke of their understanding of human rights. Annika Savill’s remarks focused on inclusion and participation by vulnerable communities, and the engagement of youth in the urgent work towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Further information about the Forum can be found here.