Dr. Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center Professor Moderates Important Panel at the Summit for Democracy
By College of International and Security Studies
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (December 2, 2021) — Dr. Valbona Zeneli, Chair of the Strategic Initiatives at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies moderated a panel at the Legislative Track of the Summit for Democracy hosted by the House Democracy Partnership of the United States Congress, on December 2, 2021. The Legislative Track of the Summit, specifically designed for lawmakers from around the world, provides an opportunity for reform-oriented members of parliaments from around the world to come together to connect and learn more about their shared responsibilities and democratic practices. The Summit focused on three main pillars: Countering Corruption, Curbing Authoritarianism, and Safeguarding Human Rights.
Dr. Zeneli moderated the session entitled “Curbing Authoritarianism through Strong Legislatures and the Defense of Democratic Institutions and Principles”, and panelists included the Honorable Diana DeGette, Representative of the US Congress from Colorado; the Honorable Agnieszka Pomaska from Poland; and the Honorable Benson Rolland Igbakpa from Nigeria. The interactive conversation focused on the role of legislatures to ensure the balance of power, with regard to the executive branch, is respected in order to protect civil liberties and to ensure citizen needs are at the center of governing.
Parliamentarians discussed the tools that they have to increase oversight and strengthen transparency and accountability of their governments. They discussed the need for and best ways to engage with civil society to build trust and enhance their oversight capacity. One of the main concerns all members mentioned is how disinformation weakens democratic governance. The members discussed ways to balance the fight against disinformation with the need to protect freedom of speech. Technology, despite having the potential to better link people to their representatives, has compounded these challenges by enabling a form of “techno-authoritarianism” able to project malign influence abroad.
The virtual session was a unique opportunity for the parliamentarians to come together and share lessons learned. Congresswoman DeGette spoke about the role of the US Congress to support democratic development in other countries and in promoting democracy and supporting the capacity building of legislative bodies.
President Joe Biden will convene the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021, with the aim to revitalize and strengthen democracy around the world. The Summit will bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to recognize the importance of a whole of society approach to strengthening democracy and counter autocratic tendencies. The virtual Summit comes at a pivotal time as political actors around the globe are increasingly turning to authoritarian tactics to advance their interests, including campaigns that disregard the role of representative institutions. . The legislature is one of the strongest safeguards of a democracy and the Legislative Track of the Summit for Democracy reflects the need to engage lawmakers in building democratic resilience.
The House Democracy Partnership (HDP) led by Chairman David Price and Co-Chair Vern Buchanan, is a bipartisan Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives that works with countries around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislatures. The Marshall Center is a proud partner of the HDP as it focuses on capacity building to strengthen democratic resilience and foster good governance reforms for parliamentarians from all around the world.