The shocking images of the summer of 2021 with Afghans falling from Western planes taking off from the Kabul airport signal the end of an era. Does this imply, as President Biden suggested, that the time of state-building abroad is over for America? And what about Europe, as France also, more discreetly but not less importantly, had to pull out from Mali this summer? What will happen with the promotion of human rights and democracy, are people in countless countries who believed in the universality of such values to be thrown off the planes as well?
Supporting democrats increasingly means fighting autocrats. “Autocratization Turns Viral”, an influential V-Dem report proclaimed in 2021. This marks the end of a widespread illusion after 1989, that the fourth wave of democratization will continue until it will embrace the entire world. Not only have China and North Korea managed to survive, but Turkey and Russia, which had once seemed poised to consolidate their democracies, slipped back to autocratic regimes. Since 2015 we witnessed the first period since 1974 in which more countries transitioned from democracy than turned to it. However, in many countries of the world economic recession first and the pandemics after did not manage to destroy democracy, even if many of its aspects – political communication and representation- are undergoing the most important changes for generations.
We shall debate these questions with the world’s leading experts and democracy activists in Berlin this year, looking for solutions and answers to this grave democratic recession that we face. What can be sustainably done to continue to support people or groups who fight for democracy in difficult circumstances? What can our generation propose compared to the scheme of Friedman like economists who bankrupted the USSR and their satellites last century, opening the door to freedom for many nations? What intellectual resources can the academic community summon to win the case once again for democracy and support policymakers advance the cause of freedom for endangered communities?

The series is moderated by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor for Democracy Studies at the Hertie School and Director of the European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building (ERCAS).

Upcoming events

Third event of the series
Are US and EU parting ways on democracy promotion?
Wednesday, 17 November 2021 | 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm CET | Online via Zoom.

While the US seem increasingly uninterested in promoting democracy abroad, the Von der Leyen Commission endeavours to strengthen democracy in the European neighbourhood and beyond.

Join us in the third debate of ERCAS’ Democracy Promotion after Afghanistan series on the future of EU-US democracy promotion efforts, with Thomas Carothers, Interim President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Richard Youngs, Professor of international relations at the University of Warwick and Senior Fellow in Carnegie Europe’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. Moderated by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Professor of Democracy Studies at the Hertie School.

Register here to join the discussion online.


Thomas Carothers is Interim President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He has worked on democracy assistance projects for many organizations and carried out extensive field research on aid efforts around the world. Carothers is the author or editor of ten critically acclaimed books and many articles in prominent journals and newspapers, including most recently, Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization. Prior to joining the Endowment, Carothers practiced international and financial law at Arnold & Porter and served as an attorney adviser in the office of the legal adviser of the U.S. Department of State

Richard Youngs is Professor of International Relations at the University of Warwick and a Senior Fellow in Carnegie Europe’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. He works on EU foreign policy and on issues of international democracy. Prior to joining Carnegie in July 2013, he was the director of the European think tank FRIDE. He has held positions in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and as an EU Marie Curie fellow. He was a senior fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC, from 2012 to 2013. Youngs recently published European Democracy: Resistance and Renewal in an Illiberal Age, The European Union and Global Politics, and Civic Activism Unleashed: New Hope or False Dawn for Democracy?

Past events

Are autocrats beating democrats at their own game? | 27 October 2021

Western liberal order is increasingly under stress from a new generation of “spin dictators” and Democrats find it difficult to respond. A discussion with Larry Diamond (Stanford University) and Sergei Guriev (Sciences Po) on how to address this emerging challenge.

Couldn't make it? Listen to the audio recording here.

Launch event of the series

Was Afghanistan’s corruption made in America? | 22.09.2021

Sarah Chayes' remarkable trajectory has led her from reporting from Paris for National Public Radio and covering the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan to running a soap factory in downtown Kandahar in the midst of a reigniting insurgency. She went on to advise the topmost levels of the US military, serving as special adviser to two commanders of the international forces in Kabul and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen.  She left the Pentagon for a five-year stint at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she extracted the broadly relevant core from those experiences. Sarah authored the prize-winning Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, she has just finished On Corruption In America -- And What Is at Stake

Muska Dastageer is a political scientist specializing in peace and political theory. She is a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, Afghanistan. Muska is an Expert Advisor on the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Dialogues on Afghanistan. She also worked as a special anti-corruption advisor with the Joint Taskforce for Anti & Counter Corruption. Prior to this, she advised the USAID-funded Afghanistan's Measure for Accountability and Transparency (AMANAT) program and the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, delivering several damning institutional assessments of half a dozen ministries in Kabul in the years 2017 to 2019. She holds two MSc degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen.

Watch the recording on YouTube.