Not yet the ‘end of history’

Populism, the re-emergence of the nation state, the financial crisis and social inequality, disenchantment with politics in general – Western democracies are currently facing huge challenges. In response, at the beginning of September in Brussels, GIZ and the think tank Friends of Europe posed the question: Is the democratic West still a role model for developing and emerging countries? Or are these states increasingly looking to governance models that promise stability, security and economic growth, but no comprehensive democratic values or rights?

180 guests joined the discussion

At the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and Arts, the 180 invited guests from EU institutions and the EU milieu endeavoured to find answers to these questions along with the panel speakers. First of all, Tanja Gönner, Chair of the GIZ Management Board, gave an introduction and made it plain that we still have a long way to go before the end of history, which according to political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 prophecy, would be brought about by the worldwide spread of democracies. She stressed the fact that although the Western model may have become less attractive, recent events such as the Arab spring, migration movements and GIZ’s own experience demonstrate that there is still demand around the world for democratic principles. She pointed out that these democratic rights and duties, in particular, play a crucially important role in sustainable development, and that in some cases it takes time to introduce and implement them.

She thus paved the way for the discussion that followed with MEP Heidi Hautala, Niccolò A. Figà-Talamanca from the organisation No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), Hafsat Abiola-Costello, government advisor and democracy activist from Nigeria, Shada Islam from Friends of Europe and the invited audience. They all agreed that there is still a lot to be done inside the EU itself to maintain (or restore) its own democratic values and standards and uphold its reputation. Participants also discussed the challenges posed by corruption, population growth and digitalisation, as well as the potential offered by women and the importance for democratic developments of ensuring that all sections of the population are able to participate.

Welcome to the new director of the GIZ Representation Brussels 

The key word development was also on topic with the last item on the agenda for the evening. Tanja Gönner thanked Professor Horst Fischer, who is leaving the GIZ Representation in Brussels, after heading it for nine years, and welcomed his successor Siegfried Leffler to the Belgian capital.

GIZ at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. All pictures: GIZ/Thomas Blariau
Introduction by Tanja Gönner, Chair of the GIZ Management Board
Siegfried Leffler, new Director of the GIZ Representation Brussels, welcomed the participants.
The plenary discussion on `The Democratic West - Still a role model for developing and emerging countries?`
Moderator Shada Islam, Friends of Europe
Niccolò A. Figà-Talamanca from No Peace Without Justice
Hafsat Abiola-Costello (left) and Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament
The guest joined the plenary discussion...
...and exchanged afterwards.
Farewell drinks in honour of Horst Fischer, former Director of the GIZ Representation Brussels.
Horst Fischer’s goodbye to colleagues, partners and friends.

Tanja Gönner, Chair of the GIZ Management Board

‘Europe would have never achieved lasting peace and prosperity without standing by those principles. And they are the principles we need to uphold. To do that, ownership by all stakeholders – including civil society, the private sector and disadvantaged groups – is vital.’

Shada Islam, Friends of Europe

‘I do believe in Western democracies and the EU, but democratic values are being challenged – in Europe and outside Europe. But important is, that Europe also needs to practice what it preaches to others on values.’

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, government advisor and democracy activist, Nigeria

‘I am committed to democracy, but the models offered by the East and West are not appropriate for us. We need to be practical and pragmatic in seeking our own solution in Nigeria.’

Horst Fischer, former director GIZ Brussels Representation

‘Having experienced success and frustration, I still have a great belief in Europe and its ability to work towards solutions.’

Siegfried Leffler, Director GIZ Brussels Representation

‘Only democracy allows for an environment in which equal opportunities for everyone can be guaranteed.’

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