The 18thannual Forum 2000 conference, titled Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen will be attended this year by a record number of more than 170 delegates, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Until the end of September, it is possible to register for the conference, which is traditionally open to the public for free and is taking place in Prague on 12-15 October and in 13 other Central European cities.
"During the Velvet Revolution people used to jingle keys to show that previously locked doors were opening,” says Mikhail Khodorkovsky in regard to his participation in this year’s Forum 2000. “Almost exactly 25 years after those events it is time to evaluate the state of democracy, see how open those doors are and ask which doors in post-communist Europe still need the keys to democracy."„
This year’s conference offers a critical reflection on the period of democratic transformations over the past few decades and naturally the current situation in the Middle East, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Russia will also not be neglected. “We are really delighted that in this context we have managed to get many important people for the panel debates, including the founder of the Open Russia Foundation Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” says the executive director of Forum 2000 Jakub Klepal. “Besides his appearance, with respect to Putin’s Russia, it will be undoubtedly be interesting for conference visitors to hear the opinions of the editor in chief of the Russian opposition daily Dmitry Muratov, the Russian opposition politician Grigory Yavlinsky, and the former Czech ambassador to Russia Petr Kolář. One of the most important themes of this year’s conference, which brings together the subject of growing extremism in Europe and the increasingly aggressive behaviour of Vladimir Putin, will also be a series of events on the subject of links between the Kremlin and Europe’s extreme right parties. Besides Prague, one of these debates will also take place in cooperation with our Hungarian partners in Budapest.”
This year Forum 200 have managed to organise an whole range of partnership events in other cities and that – besides Budapest, Ostrava, Plzeň, Bratislava, and Krakow – conference debates will now also be taking place in Budapest, Košice, Banská Bystřice, Kutná Hora, Liberec, Opava, Litomyšl, and Brno. Besides the aforementioned cities, Forum 2000 this year is also being presented in České Budějovice, where the Ukrainian analyst Mykola Riabchuk will be speaking at the local University of South Bohemia. “Forum 2000 partnership events fit perfectly into our philosophy, whereby we always strive to facilitate the possibility for our guests to meet with the biggest number of interested parties,” says Jakub Klepal. Consequently, this year it will also be possible to follow an online broadcast of the main part of the conference on the websites of Forum 2000’s media partners respekt.cz and IHNED.cz as well as on the website of Novaya Gazeta (a new foreign media partner, which is Russia’s largest opposition daily), the website of Columbia University, the Malaysiakini website or Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s headquarters in Washington D.C.
This year, the conference programme is also being extended to include culturally oriented themes. On Sunday, 12 October, in the Marble Hall of Prague’s Lucerna Palace, there will be a panel discussion on the role of art in society and politics, which will comprise participants such as the Slovak writer Michal Hvorecký. The renowned Czech scientist Ivan M. Havel will also be speaking in Brno’s Husa na provázku (“Goose on a String”) theatre. There will also be other issues on the conference programme, including the role of religion in building liberal democracy, the global rise in extremism and fundamentalism, the decline in trust in democratic processes, as well as various opinions on this topic across generations. The conference themes are based on the legacy of Forum 2000’s founder Václav Havel, who was troubled by the increasing fragility of democracy in our societies.
Forum 2000 will once again dedicate a number of debates to the need to observe human rights in the world, particularly in countries with authoritarian or undemocratic regimes. In this context, invitations to the conference have also made their way to several prisoners of conscience, including, for example, the Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, the Chinese writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and the Egyptian blogger and activist Ahmed Maher, who – like Leopoldo López – attended Forum 2000 in previous years. Conversely, the recently released Belarusian writer and activist Ales Bialiatski will be coming to the conference. Last year, he received the inaugural international 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,” says the chairman of Forum 2000’s board of directors, Tomáš Vrba.
Guests who have been confirmed so far include the former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar, the Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former Lithuanian president Vytautas Landsbergis, the Palestinian ex-prime minister Salam Fayyad, 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 Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, the well-known Egyptian author and analyst Tarek Osman, the Cuban activists Antonio Rodiles and Manuel Cuesta Morúa, 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 Slovak politician and actor Milan Kňažko, and many others. You can find a continually updated list of confirmed conference guests here.
Despite previously confirming his attendance and his great interest in the topics of this year’s conference, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev will sadly not be attending. The 83-year-old Russian politician’s personal participation at Forum 2000 has been rendered impossible by other commitments. “I really appreciate the spirit and the orientation of your project and I wish great success for its work,” Gorbachev said in a message conveyed to the conference organisers. “I believe that, in the world of today, the universal values of democracy and defence of human rights and civil liberties acquire additional importance and should be promoted and defended by all means.”
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 30 September 2014, or until full capacity has been reached. You can find continually updated information on the programme for this year’s conference, its guests, and registration at www.forum2000.cz.
Source: Press Release Forum 2000