Forum 2000’s Guests This Year Will Include Mikhail Gorbachev, Ales Bialiatski, and Toomas Hendrik Ilves

The 18th annual Forum 2000 Conference, called Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen is taking place from October 12 to 15, 2014 in Prague and in other Central European cities, including Budapest, Krakow, and Košice. The conference is open to the public and it is now possible to register for it free of charge. 

This year’s Forum 2000 Conference aims to offer a critical reflection on the period ofdemocratic transformations over the past few decades. “We find ourselves roughly one or two generations after the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, the end of military regimes in Latin America, democratic transitions in some East Asian countries, and the end of Apartheid in South Africa,” says Forum 2000’s Executive Director Jakub Klepal.

“But, at the same time, we are also commemorating the bloody suppression of protests on Tiananmen Square and the unrecognized election victory of the democratic opposition in Burma in 1990. Consequently, the debates will focus on the successes and failures of the democratic endeavors that have taken place since that time and on the current state of democracy, which is causing disquiet among many of us. At the conference, we will also look at current international problems, such as the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as the gradual restriction of the space for freedom in some Latin American countries. For this reason, we sent our traditional invitation to the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Leopoldo López, who accepted it. However, since February of this year, he has been imprisoned for political reasons. Therefore, we are calling on President Maduro for his government to immediately drop all the trumped-up charges and to release him, while letting him return to his family and work, as well as also allowing him to attend this year’s Forum 2000.”

The conference program will also cover other issues, including the role of religion in building liberal democracy, the worldwide growth in extremism and fundamentalism, the decline in confidence in democratic processes, as well as differing opinions on these subjects across generations. The themes of the conference stem from the legacy of the founder of Forum 2000, Václav Havel, who was alarmed by the increasing fragility of democracy in our societies. 

As is the case every year, a number of debates this year will also be devoted to the need to observe human rights in the world, particularly in countries with authoritarian or undemocratic regimes. “In this context, we are really delighted that the recently released Belarusian writer and activist Ales Bialiatski is coming to the conference,” says the Chairman of Forum 2000’s Board of Directors, Tomáš Vrba.“Last year, he received the Václav Havel Award for Human Rights. During his unjust imprisonment, we tried every year to send him an invitation to the conference and to inform the Belarusian authorities of this, so that they would know that the fate of this prisoner of conscience was being carefully watched beyond the borders of Belarus.”

Guests who have been confirmed so far include the Russian politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Ukrainian analyst Mykola Riabchuk, the former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis, the Chinese dissident and founder of Initiatives for China Yang Jianli, the Slovenian ex-President Danilo Türk, the sociologist and former Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, the Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri, the former German Minister for Foreign Affairs Markus Meckel, the Polish journalist and Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Warsaw Konstanty Gebert, the renowned Slovak economist Ivan Mikloš, the French philosopher and economist Guy Sorman, the Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, the well-known Egyptian author and analyst Tarek Osman, the Cuban activists Antonio Rodiles and Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the Palestinian diplomat and philosopher Sari Nusseibeh, the Turkish political scientist Suat Kınıklıoğlu, the Venezuelan diplomat and former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Enrique ter Horst, the Indian sociologist Surendra Munshi, the Greenpeace activist Dimitri Litvinov, the renowned French political scientist Gilles Kepel, the founder of the Ukrainian think tank Pro.mova Yevhen Hlibovytsky, the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, the Russian opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, the Palestinian ex-Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Slovak politician and actor Milan Kňažko, and many others. You can find a continually updated list of confirmed conference guests here

After last year’s extraordinarily successful conference, which included participants such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Frederik Willem de Klerk – and whose panel debates were attended by more than 4,000 interested members of the public, Forum 2000 this year will also be held in other Central European cities besides Prague. Like last year, conference debates will be held in OstravaPilsenBratislava and Krakow. There are also new additions to this list of cities – BudapestKošiceBanská BystricaKutná HoraLiberecOpava and Litomyšl

The conference is traditionally open to the public free of charge. To attend most of the discussions held in Prague, it is necessary to register in advance. Registration is only possible via the online registration system by September 30, 2014, or until full capacity has been reached. You can find continually updated information on the program for this year’s conference, its guests, and registration here.