Reforming Democracy for a more Peaceful World

Replay the panel discussion and read the summary below



Reforming Democracy for a more Peaceful World (Panel 9)

Chaired by: Christian Lequesne, Professor, Sciences Po | Student Greeter: Sophia Otoo, PSIA student, Master in International Development.

  • Charlotte Osei, UN International Elections Commissioner; former chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Ghana; Lawyer
  • Akshaya Jose Devasia, PSIA student, Master in International Security
  • Ivan Krastev, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Bulgaria; Permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, Austria
  • Mohamed Mahmoud Mohamedou, Professor of International History and Chair of the International History Department, Graduate Institute of Geneva
  • Kati Piri, Member of the European Parliament


Panelists discussed the correlation between democracy and peace, exposing the instability risks in countries in the process of democratization and analyzing the role of the EU in supporting more inclusive societies.

A condition for peace

UN International Elections Commissioner Charlotte Osei spoke about multilateralism as one of the conditions for peace, but she stresses that it cannot work if autocrats hijack institutions meant to promote democracy. Therefore, she emphasizes the importance of holding government leaders accountable: "We should start looking at the entire ecosystem of democracy and we should be more demanding of our leaders. Democracy needs democrats" she says. Akshaya Jose Devasia, a PSIA student, argued that nonviolent resistance is key in fighting exclusionary forms of nationalism that the government may impose on minorities, as “nonviolent protests as creating new active spaces of resistance, for those the state might otherwise fail to treat a serious political subject.”

Flawed democracies impact global peace

Ivan Krastev, Chairman of Centre for Liberal Strategies and specialist of illiberal democracies, spoke about illiberal democracies and their peace objectives. He points out that in a country in the process of democratization, risks of conflict, both internal and external, can be quite high, because they tend to consider internal political opponents as enemies. He also highlights that illiberal democracies do not believe in multilateralism and are thus less easy partners to negotiate with. Similarly, he argued that internal tensions inside a regime that is democratic, are also determining in defining the perceived external threat. Thus, he explains that the internal instabilities of democracies, and not only illiberal democracies, impacts on the global state of conflicts. 

Protecting democracy

Mahmoud Mohamedou, professor of International History, emphasized that the nature of today’s conflicts is a key challenge to democracies.  As he points out: "we have been witnessing a growing militarization of international affairs, which have eaten away at the fabric of democracy.” Beyond the instability of international relations, all panelists agreed on the negative impact of growing socio-economic inequalities on democracy. Akshaya Jose Devasia argued that democratic institutions are not failing to appeal, but that they may be captured by powerful people, thus creating inequalities that destabilize the democratic process. 

Kati Piri, Member of the European Parliament, points out that the EU has a key role in preserving peace because it is a soft power. She believes the EU has tools to assist strengthening democracies and support democratic opposition abroad, while acting thanks to its legislation as a “global trendsetter.” However, asked about the role of illiberal democracies within the EU, she regrets: “I'm afraid that we are always too late because of the compromise we need with the 27 European countries.” Ivan Krastev also talked about the EU sanctions and their efficiency in supporting the democratic process. He argued that the main question is not only how effective the sanctions are, but also how legitimate they may be, explaining that some sanctions may be a game changer in a situation of violation of democratic principles, because they are more legitimate.

Make democracy appealing again

Asked about what could make democracy appealing again, panelists said that democracy is a self-correcting process. Akshaya Jose Devasia believes that democracy regulates itself as “we haven't reached a scenario where there are people who see credible, viable alternatives to democracy.” Mahmoud Mohamedou explained that polarization and conflict is also part of the democratic process, which Charlotte Osei agreed, on the condition that institutions function properly.


(c) An article written by Aude Dejaifve, PSIA student in the Joint Master in Journalism and International Affairs, 2021


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