FES Democracy of the Future

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) can look back on decades of experience when it comes to fostering democracy and civic education. Here in Vienna, the FES has now opened an office that addresses issues surrounding a democracy that is understood from a social perspective, and which is focused on the entire OSCE region. There are two main reasons underlying this.

First, the trust and confidence of the populace in democracy is fading in many countries. The scope for civil society actors and democratic action is contracting, while autocratic and illiberal tendencies are on the rise, and a populist style of politics is gaining ground, often at the expense of democratic rules of the game. We want to analyse these trends and provide an impetus on how democracy can be protected and also reinvigorated so that it can better live up to its own claim.

Second, the FES works on issues relating to democracy in 46 of the 57 OSCE countries, for many years in a number of cases, but mainly with a national focus. We consider this to be best way to do justice to country-specific issues. The FES Democracy of the Future Office, with its topical focus and regional scope, can now analyse specific cross-country developments and benefit from the knowledge, experience and contacts of the national offices. Many right-wing and illiberal groups have been networking for some time – so we want to link up democrats and human rights activists in the region.

The work of the FES Democracy of the Future office is currently based on two topical pillars: Democracy & Society and Democracy & Economy. In collaboration with different researchers, we try to explore and find answers to the following key questions:

  • How dangerous is social and political polarisation for democracy?
  • What political instruments are available to take the edge off political division?
  • What role could citizens’ assemblies  play?
  • How exactly do economic inequalities affect the democratic system?
  • What effective strategies are there to work against autocratic models?
  • What can a democracy of the future that meets the demands of the people look like?

We work closely with national FES offices in the OSCE area as well as their partner organisations on the ground, together discussing and adapting analyses and strategies for country-specific contexts while implementing concrete projects in democratic practice. The FES Democracy of the Future office sees itself as an interface pooling the knowledge of FES country offices and as a source of impetus for FES efforts to encourage and promote democracy in the OSCE region. We work very closely with our colleagues for democracy in Germany and at the EU level.

For more on our ongoing research projects visit our topic overview.

Why Vienna?

Vienna is the seat of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE understands the notion of security in a comprehensive manner having three dimensions: In addition to the politico-military and the economic and environmental dimensions, the so-called “human dimension of security” encompasses democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Over time, the OSCE has made a name for itself in the field of election-monitoring in particular. The field of civil and human rights has gained in importance in recent years due to numerous problematic developments in Europe and Eurasia. In order to respond to these developments, the FES has expanded the "Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe" in Vienna and now addresses not only challenges in the field of peace and security, but also issues of democracy and the rule of law.

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