As the pandemic continues to affect public life and travel all around the world, we have unfortunately seen ourselves forced to cancel the 2021 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. But stay tuned, we will be back as soon as it is possible to meet in person. Read the letter from our co-presidents below.

Dear Friends of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy,

You have probably heard the expression that “hope dies last.” Alas, our hopes for a 2021 Global Forum in Bern, Switzerland—hopes we expressed to you in a December letter—are now dead.

In fact, we have decided not to hold a Global Forum in 2021 at all. This decision is based on conversations with partners, advice from experts, and lived experience. Too many participants in the forum are living under circumstances that do not allow the shortest trip, and new mutations of the virus make prospects for a large gathering even late in 2021 far too uncertain.

On a personal note, one of your Global Forum co-presidents lives in Los Angeles County, which has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, infections, and the other co-president in Sweden, which after a famously open response to COVID-19 is now starting to close its borders.

We also have decided not to hold an online global forum in 2021, as we did successfully in September 2020. In our communications from many of you, we’ve received the message that the most important benefit of the Global Forum are the personal exchanges and meetings with participants from all over the world.

But we also want to be clear: we are not slowing down our work on direct democracy, or on the Global Forum. We are going to use this year to prepare our next Global Forums which we plan to hold in the years to come. And we are continuing many of the partnerships we’ve established in the forthcoming Global Forum host countries— Switzerland and Mexico. But we also want to use the time to revamp and renew the concepts of both events, and to make them more accessible for all participants, both in person and online.

But that’s not all. The Global Forum process will have a very busy 2021, because it is more important than ever before. We want to further develop our important joint projects, especially the Democracy Community, the online hub of democracy that we strongly encourage you to join. We also will work on events and exchanges hosted by Democracy International and further develop the Direct Democracy Navigator. Together with our host co-organization Swiss Democracy Foundation we develop better ways supporting and engaging young people into the global democracy work. Both of us are also expanding our journalistic work on democracy at our professional homes—Swissinfo and Zocalo Public Square. We will have more details on this later. 

We are committed to asking hard questions about democracy, and our own movement. How can we contribute to the democratic progress and greater participation we’re seeing, in places large and small? And what can we do to counter the autocratic and authoritarian forces that are undermining democratic institutions and culture in many countries? We believe that, to make a bigger impact, our truly global—but rather poorly equipped—network must improve in comparing information, sharing stories, building participatory infrastructure, and investing in promising ideas and processes. We must become more active, smarter, and more innovative—at the local, regional, national, transnational and global levels.

To those ends, we promise to be in closer touch with you. And we will keep you updated as we figure out new dates and details for the forthcoming Global Forums.

Yours democratically,

Joe Mathews and Bruno Kaufmann
Co-presidents of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy