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Can Democracy Catch up with Technology?


Thursday 21 December 2020 between 5 pm and 6.15 pm GMT

In partnership with Salzburg Global Seminar, 21st Century Trust was delighted to present the latest Designs on the Future webinar featuring guest speaker Professor Stephen Stedman.

Kofi Annan once said, “Technology does not stand still; neither can democracy.” Is democracy in danger? Around the world polarization is increasing, trust is declining, traditional media is suspect, political parties are becoming more sectarian, and significant numbers of citizens appear to be ever more disengaged or hostile to democratic processes. Is social media the culprit or the scapegoat? Are technology and politics pulling in opposite directions? What can and should be done to uphold democracy?



This health check on global democracy took place one day after the US Presidential Inauguration, and one year after the Kofi Annan Commission’s seminal report on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age. While the stress test for America’s Constitution dominated 2020 headlines, Kofi Annan was particularly concerned about the threats to newer democracies – and interested in creative responses across the global south to some of the challenges and opportunities accelerated by new technologies.

The Kofi Annan Foundation set up the Kofi Annan Commission shortly before Annan died in 2018 to examine the rapidly changing role of technology in elections around the world and recommend ways to ensure that digital tools strengthen – not undercut – democracy. Please join us to debate the report’s key findings with the Kofi Annan Commission’s Secretary-General, Professor Stephen Stedman.

Prior to the Kofi Annan Commission, Stephen Stedman served as Assistant Secretary General and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General. He directed the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change focused on international peace and security and is currently a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.