Resisting Authoritarian Pressure cohort launched in Vilnius
On 9-11 November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania held the second Future of Democracy Forum in Vilnius, during which an official launch of a working group of like-minded people (known as the cohort) was announced. The cohort aims to tackle the rising threat of authoritarian pressure.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis opened the forum. According to him, it is time to bring back the narrative into the hands of democracies.
“Authoritarianism itself has drawn a physical frontline between the free world and the area of enslavement – in Ukraine. Putin does not even hide that his war is not against Ukraine, but against democracy as such. Autocrats attempt to create an illusion of representing the future. They seek to create an image of effectiveness and stability and reshape the international order after their own image. In reality, authoritarians only show-off their strength through military parades and transnational repressions against unarmed people. Yet they stumble and collapse once they face courage," Landsbergis said, stressing that democracy activists around the world — in Afghanistan, Iran, Myanmar, Russia, Belarus and elsewhere — need our help.
Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry co-runs the Resisting Authoritarian Pressure cohort with the Freedom House (the USA) and the Alliance of Democracies (Denmark). The purpose of the cohort is to build resilience to authoritarian coercion and offer support to democracy activists and human rights defenders working in non-democracies. The working group was set up in preparation for the second Summit for Democracy, which was organised by the President Joe Biden.
“We are grateful to the President and the Administration of the United States for the initiative that is important for the existence of democracy and will help to mobilise the whole democratic world and its supporters. Lithuania, for which freedom and democracy constitute its identity, is ready to contribute as much as possible to these efforts by establishing the cohort together with our partners —the Freedom House and the Alliance of Democracies", said Mantas Adomėnas, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
According to the joint press release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Freedom House and the Alliance of Democracies, the time for democracies to collectively resist authoritarian pressure is long overdue. Russia’s barbaric, illegal invasion of Ukraine highlights a need for urgent international actions. Appeasement and hopes to achieve behavioral change in autocracies via positive means of cooperation, such as trade, are futile when facing aggressive authoritarian regimes. Without additional safeguards and policy measures, peaceful cooperation principles only encourage hostile autocratic regimes to pursue further acts of aggression against their own populations and neighboring countries.
Examples, such as Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus, show that decades of tireless work by the diplomatic community to soften such regimes have not succeeded. Likewise, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has repeatedly tried to leverage its economic influence, especially in the energy sector, to discourage other countries from providing support to Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty. The new cohort will encourage the democratic world to halt its engagement with autocrats and to refocus its efforts on helping those working for democratic improvements in the most unfree environments.
In preparation for the Second Summit for Democracy, the cohort will focus on the following four areas:
1. Bringing visibility to the stories of political prisoners and increasing pressure for their release;
2. Sheltering and protecting democratic activists fleeing authoritarian regimes;
3. Countering the phenomenon of transnational repression; and
4. Building resilience to economic coercion by authoritarian regimes.
The Future of Democracy Forum, which took place in Vilnius these days, brought together a community of supporters of the democratic world and democracy, who discussed the greatest challenges and possible actions to address the growing pressure of authoritarian regimes. The Forum gathered high-ranking foreign politicians, policymakers, representatives of international and non-governmental organisations, intellectuals and democracy activists from all over the world. Participants came from more than forty countries representing different regions of the world — from the U.S. to Australia, and from South Africa to Sweden.
Summit for Democracy:
The first Summit for Democracy was held on December 9-10, 2021, during which participating democratic governments from around the world gathered and pledged concrete actions to advance democracy at home and around the world in the areas of strengthening democracy and defending against authoritarianism; fighting corruption; and promoting respect for human rights. The first Summit gathered a diverse range of representatives of governments and multilateral institutions, activists, journalists, parliamentarians, human rights defenders, mayors, and business and labor leaders. A second Summit for Democracy is planned for the first half of 2023.
Summit for Democracy Cohorts:
The organizers of the Summit for Democracy have encouraged participants to create cohorts (i.e., working groups) among governments, civil society groups, private businesses, and other actors to encourage international coordination in individual areas aiming to strengthen democracy globally. As of today’s announcement of the “Resisting Authoritarian Pressure” cohort, there are currently nine other officially launched cohorts—and the number continues to grow. The “Resisting Authoritarian Pressure” cohort also strongly supports the efforts of other cohorts, particularly those working on media freedom, resilience against disinformation, and financial transparency—all of which are critical aspects of restricting tools for autocrats to build influence in democracies.
Future of Democracy Forum:
The Future of Democracy Forum was organized in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the first time in 2021 in preparation for the first Summit for Democracy. Building on Lithuania’s successful democratic transition after achieving independence in 1990, the Lithuanian government plans to turn the country into a hub for democracy, and to make this Forum an annual event where high-level politicians, diplomats, think-tank members, academics, and democracy activists regularly meet to discuss the most pressing challenges posed by authoritarianism.