Futures of Democracy: Research and Policy Perspectives from Eastern European Neighborhood Countries Regional Conference of OSF Scholars and Alumni

21 Jan, 2014

Up to 100 scholars and practitioners from EaP countries gathered in Budapest, Hungary on December 12-13 to debate democracy and human rights agendas in their countries at the conference entitled “Futures of Democracy: Research and Policy Perspectives from European Neighborhood Countries.” The regional event was organized by the Open Society Foundations Scholarship Programs in partnership with the School of Public Policy, CEU.

With the 10th anniversary of the European Neighborhood Policy approaching, the global political contenders debate the extent to which the European Neighborhood Policy has failed expectations for the development of democracy and human rights in the neighborhood countries. The conference provided an excellent timing and opportunity to the OSF scholars and alumni to engage in the discussions on the range of pressing social and political issues facing their countries and develop policy recommendations.

The participants themselves were largely responsible for shaping the conference agenda which consisted of the plenary sessions on States of Democracy – Politics and Participation in the Eastern European Neighborhood, and A Very Political Economy-Challenge for Inclusive Socio-Economic Development; alumni-led cluster sessions on Critical Assessment of Developments and Challenges, and Looking Forward-An Analysis of Pressing Priorities in the fields of Diplomatic Relations and Regional Integration, Economic Development and Resources, Rights and Social Justice, and Political Participation and Public Administration; and and workshops for activating change on Role of Social Media in Civil Society Development; Activating the OSF Alumni Network, and How to Influence Public Policy.    

The participants including scholars, public servants and civil society representatives working in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine brought diverse perspectives and stimulated critical assessment of complex issues. Lively discussions evolved around the questions such as to what extent EaP has achieved its stated goals, whether the EaP countries are on a path to sustainable economies, what is the impact of socio-economic inequalities on democratic transition, how can the cooperation between the EaP countries, EU and Russia be strengthened and what is the role of civil society in democratic transition.  More than 20 Georgian graduates of OSF’ s Scholarship Programs, as well as the OSGF’s Civil Society Program Manager contributed to the event in different capacities: as presenters, facilitators and rapporteurs. 

The conference facilitated experience and best practice sharing, building relationship between the participants from different countries and development of recommendations for strengthening open societies in EaP countries. The conference report summarizing the conclusions and recommendations will be produced soon to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2014.