The first conference of 2015 saw us commemorating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta with a debate dedicated to the state of democracy today, and the challenges it faces for the future. We were very grateful for the support of the Magna Carta Trust 800th Committee. The warmth and vigour of the discussion belied the cold outside and, although we were rather better at identifying the problems than the solutions, there were some clear pointers to where progress most needed to be made. Wise chairmanship helped encourage us in the right direction. Although the history of Magna Carta was not our subject of debate, we kept coming back to its significance as a fundamental building block of even the most modern conceptions of democracy.
We were agreed that democracy, with its extraordinary success around the world in the last 60-70 years, remained the least worst form of government yet devised, and that no attractive alternatives to it had yet appeared. More authoritarian systems could appear better able to deliver results, particularly in the economic field, in the short term. But we were not convinced that such systems could endure and deliver over time, through bad times as well as good, still less satisfy their citizens’ aspirations for a say in how they were governed and the securing of their basic rights as citizens. We did not accept that some countries or peoples were not ready for, or unsuited to, democracy, or that religion was incompatible with democracy, despite current questioning of this in relation to Islam. However we did recognise that democracy was not necessarily destined to be the dominant form of government everywhere, that its success was increasingly questioned, and that some authoritarian regimes were pushing back.
We did not attempt a comprehensive definition of democracy, but identified some essential features, including the ability to vote to change governments regularly, the existence of fundamental freedoms of expression and association, and the rule of law. Democracy was best viewed as a continuum rather than a binary issue. Each democracy was both context-specific and dynamic. Each also contained the seeds of its own destruction through the potential election of a democracy-destroying party or individual. We struggled to agree on whether there were identical fundamental values in every democracy, and if so which, but did agree that democracy was the best way of securing and preserving basic human rights, despite variations in practice around the world.
We worried about problems facing established democracies, including apparent voter apathy, particularly among the young. The growing distance between politicians and voters was worrying. There was a disconnect between the digital world, where the younger generation felt at home, and traditional politics. Political parties were losing membership and credibility. Some participants questioned whether representative democracy could survive in its current form. New ways of engaging with the voters and increasing participation were urgently needed, particularly online.
Newer democracies and countries trying to transition to democracy were often more enthusiastic about the precious gift of the vote, and more innovative, but could also face more serious problems: elected dictatorships, corruption and trampling of basic rights. The lack of a strong civil society was often a fundamental handicap, particularly where previous dictators had deliberately destroyed institutions and traditional sources of influence.
In all cases the survival of democracy could not be taken for granted, and needed to be protected through active promotion of its virtues, within countries and internationally. It was important that there were international standards against which countries could be measured, and that international organisations should uphold these. We struggled more with the concept of international intervention to protect or restore democracy. Peaceful means of pressure were not controversial, but views were divided about whether military intervention could ever be justified. We also looked at the tricky relationship between democracy and the nation state and nationalism. Which regions could or should have the right to secede?
We had no neat solutions for these problems, but a number of recommendations and pointers for the future emerged clearly from our discussions, and are listed. Our overall conclusion was that democracy faces some serious challenges but is vital to all our futures, and is worth the struggle. Losing it accidentally would be unforgiveable, as foundational documents like Magna Carta constantly remind us.
Is democracy still the least worst form of government?
The answer to this question was a resounding yes. Whatever the problems faced by democracy in many parts of the world, it was still what most people from all backgrounds and cultures wanted, if they were given a choice. The spread of democracy since the end of the Second World War had been astonishing. Even the worst dictators now felt the need to give themselves some democratic trappings. People were not wedded to particular models of democracy (and the distinction between Western and other forms of democracy was ultimately a false one), but they valued and craved freedom, and the ability to have a say in who ruled them and how, underpinned by respect for fundamental human rights and values, and institutions like an independent judiciary. More authoritarian systems might be able to deliver faster economic growth and decision-making in certain circumstances, as China in particular had shown. But they were not capable of engaging and satisfying people in the longer term, through bad times as well as good. Truly benevolent dictators were few and far between, if they existed at all — and you could not choose or fine-tune your dictator. There was also a link between open democratic societies and the opportunity and desire to exercise entrepreneurial skills, and therefore economic success, which we should not ignore.
Acceptable alternatives to democracy as we currently knew it had not so far emerged in any recognisable form. Attempts to claim that there were alternative value systems to those which underpinned democracy, such as “Asian values” or “Islamic values”, had so far proved little more than efforts to justify more authoritarian rule in one form or another.
Similarly, while resistance in other parts of the world to a system which could be seen as “western”, or even “colonial”, in origin, was understandable, claiming that such a system was not appropriate for a particular country or region had not proved credible. The ideas of consultative forms of government and individual rights were in any case not exclusively western, as the Ashokan pillars in India reminded us. Most participants rejected the view that some countries or peoples could somehow be seen as “not ready” for or “not suited” to democracy. While education and prosperity undoubtedly helped to allow desire for democracy to grow, the poor and uneducated were also quite capable of understanding what freedom meant and fighting for it, as we had seen in countries like India and Bangladesh and in parts of Africa. We did not accept that some groups, such as Russians, would necessarily always want or need a “strong man” to lead them. This was just a convenient myth.
On the negative side, we had to recognise that the automatic assumption prevalent in the western world for the past 60 or 70 years, that democracy would ultimately spread everywhere, was now under serious challenge from some authoritarian regimes around the world, even in Europe itself. Democracy was not destiny, and had to be defended and fought for. Within democracies too, even established ones, there were some major challenges. Old verities had gone, and the new ones were not yet in place.
We had some debate about whether democracy and Islam were easily compatible, given the view of many Muslims that religion and state could not be separated, and that their religion and its tenets should trump human rights in some areas, for example the place of women in society, or tolerance of some areas of freedom of expression. The majority did not accept that there was any fundamental incompatibility, pointing to cases like Indonesia and Malaysia, and up to a point Turkey, to demonstrate this. But there was a debate to be had. This issue is explored further elsewhere in this Note.
Can the people be trusted?
This was an interesting discussion. The obvious answer was yes — there was no realistic alternative to trusting the people. However many participants made the point that democracy contained the seeds of its own destruction, in that people in a particular country might well vote at some point for an individual or party who would subsequently abolish democracy. Germany in the 1930s was a dramatic example from the past, and there were plenty of current examples of leaders who were apparently popular and who won elections which looked legitimate, at least on the surface, but whose commitment to democracy was suspect, to put it no higher. Questions had for example been asked about the commitment to democracy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt — would the Morsi government inevitably have been one man, one vote, once? The subsequent military coup meant that we did not know the final answer in the Egyptian case, though the Brotherhood in Tunisia had behaved democratically so far.
A more subtle threat came from majoritarianism — the ability of the majority to oppress the minority or minorities. It was hard to avoid this risk entirely — some minorities, however defined, would always resent the ability of the majority to impose their view. But this pointed to the necessity of accompanying fair electoral systems with other devices designed to ensure fairness and protection of basic rights — written constitutions, independent judiciaries, Bills of Rights etc. — and with agreed values. Strong civil society was another essential way of ensuring checks and balances in any particular system. Devolution and decentralisation of power could also be extremely valuable in guarding against “winner takes all” attitudes and outcomes.
What is democracy?
Questions like these inevitably brought us back to the basic issues of how to define democracy. We tried to avoid disappearing too far down this particular rabbit-hole, which could have derailed the whole conference. We were agreed that there was not, and could not be, a universally accepted and completely satisfactory definition of democracy. Even among the established mature democracies, there were great variations of policy and practice, and even of principle in some areas. Each democracy was society-specific, and also constantly changing its own dynamics. Moreover whether a particular country was democratic or not was not a binary question. Instead there was a continuum, and the question was how far along it in any particular direction individual countries should be placed.
At the same time, there were certain essential features of any system which aspired to be democratic, including:
- The ability of the people to change their governments peacefully, at regular and reasonably frequent intervals.
- Freedom of expression.
- Freedom of association.
- Freedom of individuals to be candidates for elected office.
- Equality before the law, and rule of law (assuming the law itself was democratically devised and protected).
We struggled with the extent to which democracies had to have shared value systems within themselves, or between themselves and other democracies. For example which human rights should be regarded as fundamental to any democracy? The UK of the 1930s, once universal suffrage had been achieved, was basically democratic, but laws were in force then, such as the illegality of homosexuality, which, while supported by public opinion at the time, would be regarded as undemocratic by most Britons today. Many countries around the world, with many of the attributes of democracy, still repressed and oppressed gay people and indeed women. This suggested that it was difficult to lay down hard and fast rules about particular values, whose absence, or the absence of means to enforce them, would make a country basically undemocratic. The continuum approach was valuable here. However this view was certainly not shared by all around the table. Some argued that societies where women and minorities were denied their rights simply could not be regarded as fully democratic. Universal values and rights were just that, universal, even if some were not (yet) universally accepted.
We also struggled with the relative importance for democratic status and promotion of democracy of processes, such as elections, and values. Our general conclusion was that this was a false choice. Values by themselves were insufficient if there were no effective institutional mechanisms to put them into daily practice. Processes were crucial but, in the absence of key essentials such as freedom of expression and association, were also clearly not enough to guarantee democracy. There were many countries round the world which held elections which were not, and could not be, genuinely free and fair, even if an individual electoral result might appear to outside observers to conform to the popular will.
The importance of voting
While we agreed that elections were certainly not enough by themselves to deliver genuine democracy, and thought that this point needed to be hammered home regularly, we also agreed that the vote under universal suffrage was not only essential but precious, and by no means guaranteed for ever, even in mature democracies. Many newer or emerging democracies had preserved this sense of preciousness, as shown both by consistently high turnout levels and the sense of civic pride and enjoyment in going into the ballot booth. Sadly some established democracies seemed to have lost it. Voting was not associated by younger generations with exercise of their fundamental rights or their civic duty, and turnout levels were declining worryingly in many mature democracies.
What solutions were available for this? Compulsory attendance at the voting stations, as in Australia or Belgium, seemed to have significant support around the table, although some pointed out the risk of perverse consequences if those who knew and cared least about the outcome of a vote nevertheless could have a big influence on the outcome. Making voting easier (more and more attractive physical places to do it, voting online etc.) was another obvious route. Paying people a small sum to vote could help in some cases. We also noted an interesting trend towards allowing the vote to 16 year olds and above, rather than the more normal starting age of 18. The arguments in favour were not only that 16 year olds were entitled to do many other things, and would be hugely affected by the results of elections, but also that if they were voting while still at school they could be more easily educated about why it was so important.
In this context we noted the risks of the old voting more than the young, as was increasingly the case in many established democracies. Politicians would naturally look to appeal to this grey vote, which could both further alienate the younger generations from the political process, and risk an unfair bias in the ways benefits and advantages were distributed.
Problems of established democracies
A significant part of the discussion was taken up by an enumeration of the ills of mature, “western” democracies. On the one hand we noted that these were mostly “first world” problems which did not yet threaten basic democratic rights and freedoms, and could hardly be compared to the more direct challenges to democracy in parts of the developing world. It could be argued that if people were not very interested in politics or elections, that meant they were basically reasonably happy with the system and its outcomes. On the other, there were fears that the trends were relentlessly negative; that if they continued, the threat to democracy as we knew it could become more actual; and that if the classic role models of democracy such as the UK, US and France began to falter, and lose confidence in themselves, this would be very bad for democratic campaigners, and indeed democracy, in the rest of the world.
Beyond the obvious problem of falling turn-out already noted, we identified the following mature democracy problems:
- Disillusion with the democratic process as unable to deliver results.
- A voter sentiment that the distance between them and their political masters was wide and widening further.
- A voter view, at least partly driven by media coverage, that politicians were only in it for themselves, were all the same and did not keep their promises.
- A feeling among some that western democracies could no longer deliver economic success, as they had done for so long, because the accompanying capitalist model was broken.
- A disconnect between the current democratic process and the digital communication age.
- Loss of membership and credibility by political parties.
- Unhealthy role of money in elections (above all in the US).
- Deepening economic and social inequality, which appeared hard to square with democracy.
- The rise of a professional political class with little or no other experience of life, creating even greater distance of politicians from voters.
- Debased use of language by politicians: clichés and “borrowed words” which failed to connect with, or inspire, voters.
- The rise of populist parties and politicians.
- The sentiment among some voters that politicians were not the ones who held real power, and that those who did were not accountable.
- Voting systems where parties came into government with only a relatively small proportion of the popular vote, or the results of only a few constituencies really mattered to the final outcome.
Fundamental linked factors behind many of these problems were the tendency of many politicians to over-promise and under-deliver, and the consequent tendency of many modern voters, despite their underlying disillusion, to have exaggerated expectations of what politicians could do. The reality in a complex and globalised world was that national politicians had limited power to influence developments, even within their own countries, but were reluctant to admit this, or to discuss the big issues seriously and honestly. Instead politicians tried to market themselves and their proposals like soap powder, while telling voters falsely that their views really mattered. This just increased voter disillusion. Greater humility by politicians would help a lot.
The other fundamental issue was how to mesh democratic practices with the digital world. Currently, the social media could be very powerful influences in some political areas, but mostly on a self-selecting and self-reinforcing basis, and more often negative about individuals or policies than constructive. Politicians used the social media themselves as communication devices, but politics had not yet changed significantly. There was no consensus on whether the internet had changed everything or just speeded things up, but the former view predominated.
How serious were these problems? Most mature democracies could probably continue to muddle through for some time yet. But the lack of interest in traditional democratic processes by the young (who were just as engaged as ever by issues, but not by current politicians) could prove fatal over time. Revolutions and “democratic accidents”, where populist, or even openly undemocratic, parties using more appealing language and promising simple solutions were elected, certainly could not be ruled out. The current trends in some European countries were genuinely alarming, not least the rise of the Front National in France. However there were also counter-examples available — the Scottish referendum had engaged the Scottish population fully because they had seen the result as key to their futures, and the Scottish National Party had recently gained members dramatically.
What were the cures for these ills? We were agreed that there were no magic bullets. But one key had to be to find new ways of engaging voters through allowing them greater participation, and using the power of the digital world. It was easier to say this than to identify effective ways of doing it. We were on the whole suspicious of devices like on-line referenda on wide ranges of issues. But greater use of online consultative groups chosen at random (to avoid the problem of self-selecting lobbies) needed to be explored. Active online monitoring of political decisions was another way forward, and an already increasing phenomenon, as was “watchdogging”, where claims were constantly checked against facts. An interesting proposal made by a number of participants was to use a lottery to select citizens to be given political responsibilities at local level, as a way of both increasing participation and demonstrating how difficult political decision-making was in reality.
The question of money in politics came up quite a lot, mostly in the US context, where the sums involved massively outweighed those in other mature democracies, and seemed to be a major distorting factor. We saw little prospect of substantive change in the US, while hoping that there would be. Elsewhere, there was a lively debate about how best to finance political parties, and many different models, but no obvious right answer.
Several participants questioned whether the model of representative democracy was still relevant and effective, when its key mediating elements, political parties, were so weak and discredited. Perhaps the time had come to move toward more direct, participative models. Others were worried that such models could prove unmanageable and ultimately undemocratic, and could certainly prove dangerous to hard-won rights in areas where unmediated public opinion could be crude and hostile (e.g. the death penalty). Individuals could be harder to control than parties. The majority view seemed to be that new participatory techniques and devices should be seen as complementary to, rather than an alternative to, representative democracy and the role of political parties. But this was an area which needed further exploration. Certainly something had to change and soon.
The other issue raised frequently around the table was the quality of current democratic leadership, which often appeared mediocre at best. We agreed that heroic leaders in the Churchill mould only appeared when there was an existential crisis demanding such qualities. However, it was still not unreasonable to hope that our leaders might occasionally rise above their short-term tactical concerns, and electoral deadlines, to present visions of the future and debates on the fundamental issues which would really engage the voting public, without lapsing into simplistic and dangerous populism.
Problems of newer democracies
The issues in the newer democracies, insofar as a clear distinction of this kind could be drawn, and in countries hoping to transition to democracy, were often starker and arguably more serious. The positive side of greater voter enthusiasm was often more than matched by the habit of many politicians, once elected, to trample on the rights of citizens, and manipulate the decision-making processes and institutions for their own ends. Corruption was often a deep-seated malaise which was ultimately incompatible with real democracy. Some newer democracies also lacked a community of values or even a sufficient sense of national identity. There was also a phenomenon of “authoritarian learning”, where undemocratic regimes picked up lessons from each other on how to repress and stay in power, including how to use the new media to do so.
The internet had on the whole been a boon to those trying to promote democracy where it had not existed before. People could see how people lived in other countries, and realise that their aspirations were not just impossible dreams. They could communicate with other like-minded individuals. Popular protest and the phenomenon of ‘squares’, where people did not just go to demonstrate, but also to live and demand change over periods of weeks or months, were changing the dynamics of politics in many countries. However the social media could be a double-edged sword, as authoritarian regimes learned how to use it to stifle dissent and track down dissenters.
A fundamental problem in some countries trying to transition to democracy was the lack of a well-established and confident civil society, which was one of the most important checks and balances on the power of the executive. This could not be created or re-created quickly. It had after all taken England/Britain almost 800 years to move from Magna Carta to full democracy. This problem was most glaring in countries where dictators had systemically destroyed national institutions, traditional sources of power and influence, and civil society in general, and were then toppled. Subsequent elections could be successfully held, with enthusiastic participation by the newly-free population. But the necessary underpinnings to sustain and consolidate democracy were simply not there. The Arab Spring had dramatically exemplified this in several countries, resulting in either chaos or counter-revolution/military rule (though some argued that the Arab Spring story was far from over and that the desire for freedom and democracy would inevitably reassert itself again).
In this context we discussed again whether fundamentalist Islam and democracy could co-exist. We were reluctant to conclude that this was necessarily the case, but we did note that some were trying to use a purist form of Islam around the world to suppress certain basic rights. Their attitudes certainly did not seem to fit traditional ideas of ‘liberal’ democracy. Could there be such a thing as an ‘illiberal’ democracy? We doubted it.
We saw no easy solution to this issue of civil society absence. Time and encouragement were bound to be needed to develop what was needed. In any event it was vital to recognise the fundamental value of and need for accountable institutions, vibrant civil society organisations and democratic habits and attitudes (such as acceptance of election losses, and the idea of a loyal opposition). That was exactly why elections did not equal democracy.
On the positive side, newer democracies often had less hang-ups about change and innovation, and use of the digital tools, than mature ones, some of which seemed reluctant to tamper with their own ‘sacred’ institutions and traditions, even when these were manifestly not working. This did not prevent some of these mature democracies from continuing to lecture the newer ones — but too often it was a case of “Physician – heal thyself”, which undermined the message.
We were agreed that it was not enough to hope that democratic values and institutions would speak for themselves, or emerge without help. They needed to be actively promoted and defended. At national level, civic education, particularly in schools, was the most important way of doing this, but it was far too often neglected or done half-heartedly. The media clearly had a vital role to play but their impact was often double-edged. They were vital to exposing abuses of democracy such as corruption, and were an essential part of democratic accountability. At the same time the penchant in some countries for the media to denigrate all politicians and indeed all politics inevitably contributed to public disillusion, and even threatened to undermine democracy itself, by helping lay the foundations for dangerous populism. This was just a fact of life where we saw little chance of change - the cure would always risk being worse than the disease if freedom of expression were curtailed. But journalists did need to recognise how much power they wielded in this area, positive and negative.
An ever trickier question was whether the international community, or at least the democratic parts of it, should intervene if democracy were threatened in a particular country or overturned. The general view around the table seemed to be that in principle it should. Diplomatic and other peaceful means of pressure could and should be deployed. But there was the usual difficult discussion about exactly when more coercive outside interventions, particularly of a military kind, could be justified: who could authorise them, on the basis of what criteria, and who should carry them out? The Responsibility to Protect doctrine encouraged intervention to save populations from major abuses but did not really answer these kinds of questions. At the same time, it was noted that not intervening could itself be seen as a form of intervention. The role of the outside world in the success and failure of the Arab Spring in several countries should not be underestimated.
There was acceptance that democracy could not be successfully imposed from outside, except in special and unusual circumstances (Germany and Japan after WWII), still less particular models of democracy. The impetus and the will had to come from within if democracy were to be sustainable. Nevertheless outsiders did have a role. One participant compared this to helping prepare the ground, for democracy, and even planting the seeds, without being able to take responsibility for whether they grew successfully.
It was in any case vital that those campaigning for democracy and human rights inside countries where this was difficult felt they had international support, even where there was no prospect of any outside intervention e.g. in China. International standards to which countries could be held were important, and international organisations such as the UN and the Commonwealth could play an important role in not only spreading democratic ideals, but also holding countries to account. The recently agreed Commonwealth Charter was held up as an excellent modern document in this area.
We also looked in this context at the link between democracy and economic success. The temptation to think that this link had been broken was tempting, in the wake of the 2007/2008 financial crisis, and the economic success of countries like China. But many participants argued that this was a false, short-term view. In the long run only democracies could foster the innovation, creativity and rule of law necessary for successful and sustainable economic growth, and provide the necessary underpinning for genuine efforts to root out corruption. Democracies could make plenty of mistakes. They could for example harbour large and increasing inequalities, as was currently the case in several western democracies. But this was not the fault of democracy itself. Indeed this point could be argued the other way: the link between poverty and lack of opportunity in authoritarian societies where most people had no voice was also strong.
International aspects of democracy
We did not explore this interesting area in detail, but some useful points were registered. Democratic deficits could exist not only within states but between states and across global institutions and problems. Examples included the current unrepresentative make-up of the Security Council, obvious problems of democratic legitimacy within the EU and the Eurozone, and questions such as how people’s democratic views could be taken into account over a globally threatening issue like climate change. We had no new answers to offer in these areas.
One issue which did detain us was the relationship between democracy and the nation state. This was complex. On the one hand the sovereign nation state was making a comeback, as could be seen from the aggressive nationalism of Russia and, in a different way, China. On the other, the relevance of the nation state was being challenged by global problems and global digital groups, to neither of which national borders mattered, and by movements such as ISIL. How far should this worry us and could it ultimately destroy democracy? The nation state had been a key building block of democracy. It was difficult to see how democracy could be exercised effectively without defined boundaries within which people could share identities, values and processes. At the same time, national boundaries often seemed to matter less and less to many people, particularly those active in the digital space.
A related issue was how democracies should deal with nationalism. What criteria could and should be used to determine which regions of a country, if any, should be given the right to determine their own future, and secede from their state if they so chose? There was absolutely no consistency of policy or practice around the globe about this. One fear was that democratic countries ready to allow restless regions to secede would finish up not only weakening themselves but also discrediting democracy in the eyes of governments around the world fearful of national break-up.
No neat list could be agreed from such a wide-ranging discussion, but the following key points could be distilled from the discussion:
- Democracy should not lose confidence in itself – other systems’ weaknesses would always show through in the end.
- All democracies urgently need to look for innovative ways of engaging voters: participation, participation, participation.
- Young voters have to be a particular target — the “grey vote” is not enough to sustain a vibrant democracy.
- New ways of using social media and online communities to engage voters are particularly urgently needed. Best practice round the world should be studied and copied.
- Compulsory attendance at voting places should be seriously considered.
- Introducing the vote at 16 is similarly well worth considering.
- Online consultative groups selected at random could be a useful device.
- Online monitoring and watchdogging are other ways of helping communities and voters engage with the democratic process.
- Appointing some local decision-makers by lottery may be worth trying.
- Politicians should work harder to put the real issues on the table, and engage the imaginations of their citizens.
- Civic education about democracy, particularly in schools, needs to be given more time and emphasis.
- The traditional media should be more aware of the risk of undermining democracy itself by their enthusiasm for criticism of democratic politicians and institutions.
- The reality that elections do not create democracy by themselves should be more widely recognised.
- Building a strong civil society should always be a fundamental aim of those trying to foster democracy.
- Democracies and democrats around the world should support each other and be ready to exert pressure on non-democratic countries and leaders.
- Outside intervention to bring about or restore democracy in a particular country should not be ruled out in principle, but military action could only be contemplated in extreme circumstances and on the basis of careful and informed judgment.
The discussion sounds gloomy, but we were reminded more than once that there were also plenty of reasons to be cheerful about the state of the world: the lifting of hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, the empowering potential of the internet for most people, and the sense of common humanity which is now more widespread than ever. Whatever its problems, democracy continues to have a huge amount to offer and is a mark of civilized advance aimed at allowing people to fulfil and express themselves, resolve problems through dialogue, not violence, and lead dignified lives. Younger generations in mature democracies are at severe risk of undervaluing such a precious gift, and of accidentally losing it. All those committed to democracy should do all in their power to prevent this from happening.
This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.
CHAIR: The Rt Hon. the Lord Judge
Treasurer, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple; Distinguished Associate, Darwin College, University of Cambridge; Distinguished Visitor and Visiting Professor, Dickson Poon School of Law, King's London. Formerly: Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (2008-13); President of the Queen's Bench Division (2005-08); Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales (1998-2003).
Dr Roland Rich
Formerly: Executive Head, United Nations Democracy Fund, New York (2007-14); Ambassador of Australia to Laos (1994-97).
Mr Mahfuz Anam
Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star (1993-); Formerly: Chairman, Asia News Network (2007-8).
Ms Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba
Founder, The Masire-Mwamba Office for Diplomacy, Governance and Leadership Development, Gaborone; Botswana Candidate for Commonwealth Secretary General (2015). Hon. Bencher, Middle Temple Inn.
Professor André Blais
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Montreal; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada. Formerly: Chair, Planning Committee, Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (2009-14).
Mr Eric Termuende
Director and Co-Founder, Gen Y Inc. Formerly: VP Operations and Finance, University of Calgary Students' Union.
The Hon. Mrs Anson Chan GBM, GCMG, CBE, JP
Convenor, Hong Kong 2020. Formerly: Chief Secretary for Administration, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1997-2001); Chief Secretary of Hong Kong (1993-97).
Ms Rajni Bakshi
Senior Gandhi Peace Fellow, Gateway House - Indian Council on Global Relations; Board Member: Child Rights and You (CRY) and Citizens for Peace; Executive Committee Member, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti (autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture); Associate, Centre of Education and Documentation, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Dr I Ketut Putra Erawan
Executive Director, Institute for Peace and Democracy, Formerly: Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (2008-09); Ministry of Interior Affairs expert in developing Package Law of Politics (2006-08) and for reviewing Electoral Commission Law (2006-07).
Ms Mariam Memarsadeghi
Co-Founder and Co-Director, Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society, Washington, DC; Judge, annual "We The People" nationwide high school competition on the US Constitution. Formerly: Director, Middle East and North Africa programs, and Founder, Iran Program, Freedom House.
Ms Rend Al-Rahim
Co-founder and President (formerly Executive Director), Iraq Foundation. Formerly: Ambassador of Iraq to the USA.
Mrs Antonella Valmorbida
Secretary General, ALDA - The European Association for Local Democracy, Strasbourg. Formerly Chair, Committee on Democracy and Civil Society, Conference of International Non-Governmental Organisations, Council of Europe (2008-11).
Dr Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari
Senior Research Fellow, South African Foreign Policy and African Drivers Programme, South African Institute of International Affairs, University of the Witwatersrand. Formerly: Chef de Cabinet and Senior Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia (2002-03).
Mr Àlvaro Vasconcelos
Visiting Professor, Institute for International Relations, University of São Paulo (2014-); Director of Projects and Associate Senior Researcher, Arab Reform Initiative, Paris. Formerly: Director, European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris (2007-12); Co-Founder (1981) and Director (1981-2007), Instituto de Estudos Estratégicos e Internacionais, Lisbon.
REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
Ms Sonja Licht
Founder and President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (2003-); Founder, Belgrade Security Forum (2011-). Chair, Foreign Affairs Council, Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009-12); Executive Director then President, Fund for an Open Society (Soros Foundation) Yugoslavia (later Serbia) (1991-2003).
Mrs Özge Genç
Programme Director, Democratization programme, Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, Istanbul (2006-).
Professor Fuat Keyman
Director, Istanbul Policy Center; Professor of International Relations, Sabanci University. Formerly: Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Koç University (2002-10); Member, Council of Wise People (as part of Kurdish Peace Process).
The Lord Aldington
Vice President, National Churches Trust (2008-); Trustee, Royal Academy Trust (2003-); Chairman, 2019 Committee, New College, Oxford. Formerly: Chairman, Deutsche Bank London (2002-09). A Governor and Member of the Council of Management and Business Committee and Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of The Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Paul Arkwright
Director, Multilateral Policy, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) (2013-). Formerly: Ambassador to the Netherlands (2009-13).
Dr Andrew Blick
Lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History, King's London; Formerly: Adviser to democratic reform groups in Ukraine and Turkey.
Professor Vernon Bogdanor CBE FBA
Research Professor, Institute of Contemporary History, King's London; Fellow, British Academy. Formerly: Professor of Government, University of Oxford; Vice-Principal, Brasenose College.
The Rt Hon. Dominic Grieve QC, MP
Member of Parliament (Conservative) for Beaconsfield (1997-). Formerly: Attorney General (2010-14). A Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.
Professor Robert Hazell CBE
Founder (1995) and Director of The Constitution Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London. Formerly: Director, Nuffield Foundation (1989-95).
Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield FBA
Crossbench Peer, House of Lords; Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary College, University of London (1992-); Fellow of the British Academy. Formerly: Chairman, Kennedy Memorial Trust (1995-2000). A Governor, a Member of the Council of Management and of the Programme Committee, The Ditchley Foundation.
The Rt Hon. the Lord Howell
Life Peer, House of Lords (1997-). Formerly: Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2010-12); Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords (2005-10).
Lady Judge CBE
Chairman, UK Pension Protection Fund (2010-). Formerly: Chairman, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority; Director. News International; Commissioner, US Securities and Exchange Commission. A Governor and a Member of the Programme Committee and Business Committee, The Ditchley Foundation.
Mr Scott Burns
Managing Partner, Brown Rudnick, London.
Sir Robert Worcester KBE DL
Honorary Professor of Politics (2002-), University of Kent; Founder, Market & Opinion Research International (MORI); Chair, Magna Carta 2015 800th Anniversary Committee. Formerly: Chancellor, University of Kent (2006-13). A Governor, The Ditchley Foundation.
Dr Shadi Hamid
Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution; Vice Chair (formerly Director of Research), Project on Middle East Democracy, Washington. Formerly: Director of Research, Brookings Doha Center).
Professor Daniel Magraw
Professorial Lecturer, School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University; Chair, Task Force on Magna Carta, Section on International Law, American Bar Association. Formerly: President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for International Environmental Law, Washington, DC (2002-10).
Mr Matthew Smith
Fulbright Student/Master's Candidate in Public Policy, University of Warwick. Formerly: Director of Wolf PAC Indiana.
Professor Mark Warren
Harold and Dorrie Merilees Chair in the Study of Democracy, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia. Formerly: Co-Founder, Center for Democracy and the Third Sector, Department of Government, Georgetown University.
Mr Kenneth Wollack
National Democratic Institute (1986-): President (1993-); Executive Vice President (1986-93). Formerly: Chairman, US Committee, United Nations Development Programme.
Mr Stephen Zack
Attorney and Partner, Boies Schiller and Flexner, LLP. Formerly: President, American Bar Association (2010-12).