2022 Summit

Confronting Democracy's Dilemmas

February 10 - 11

DDS 2022

The Denver Democracy Summit is a nonpartisan gathering of citizens, leaders, media and thinkers in government, nonprofit, business and academia, dedicated to protecting and promoting democratic ideals.

The 2022 Summit explored Democratic Dilemmas: the tensions inherent to democratic institutions and ideals that have led to some of the most vexing challenges we face today, including the impacts of misinformation and polarization on open exchange; the capacity of democratic institutions to tackle the problems posed by climate change; and the ongoing debate of how to best guarantee free and fair elections.

The 2022 Summit was held in partnership with the Alliance of Democracies Foundation and as a complement to the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, a high-level strategic forum organized by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation each summer.


Explore the expandable menu below to learn about each of the Summit's sessions and view the recordings.

February 10, 2022

  • On Democratic Dilemmas

    Speaker: Maria Ressa, Co-founder and CEO of Rappler and Nobel Laureate

    Moderator: Ryan Heath

    The very characteristics that define a democracy can also embody vulnerabilities with the potential to erode democratic governance. These “democratic dilemmas” have contributed to some of the most troubling challenges we face today. Open dialogue and unfettered media leave space for the spread of misinformation. Even as voter participation increases around the world, attacks on voting have some public support and efforts to limit the right to vote come via ostensibly legal means. Democracies have historically been effective at resolving collective action problems, but the global scope, long time horizon, and profound impacts of climate change present an enormous challenge to democratic institutions. How do democracies address the challenges in facing these dilemmas while adhering to foundational democratic principles?

  • The Changing Media Landscape and Politicization

    Speakers: Anna Nicolaou, U.S. Media Correspondent, Financial Times Vivian Schiller, Executive Director, Aspen Digital Zaid A. Zaid, Head of U.S. Public Policy, Cloudflare

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    Market forces and technological change have transformed the global information environment. We have witnessed the proliferation of media sources alongside the diminishment of investigative journalism, particularly at the local level. What are the implications of these changes for informing publics in the service of well-functioning democracies? This panel will explore the changed, and still changing, media landscape and its effects on the quality of democracy. Current debates revolve around the relative merits of private versus public funding of media, the extent to which social media companies exacerbate polarization, and how best to build an information environment conducive to democratic practices.

  • Vote Manipulation Across the World

    Speakers: Zack Beauchamp, Senior Correspondent, Vox Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Gulalai Ismail, Human Rights Activist and Korbel Graduate Student

    Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico

    Vote manipulation occurs in a multitude of ways across the world, with would-be autocrats learning tactics from each other. What does the twenty-first century authoritarian handbook illustrate in terms of how vote manipulation strategies are used in a range of global contexts for different anti-democratic purposes? And what have we learned about combating such methods of democratic erosion?

  • Dilemmas of Media Regulation

    Speakers: Nancy Ancrum, Editorial Page Editor, Miami Herald Alan Chen, Professor, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver David Kaye, Clinical Professor of Law, UC Irvine and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, 2014 – 2020

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    Changes in the media landscape have an increasing impact on democratic practices around the world. Extremist content, disinformation, and manipulation of information have led many to call for increased regulation. There are debates over what kind of regulation can best address these issues and the risks of different regulatory options. While much of the debate has focused on social media, questions around appropriate regulation for print and broadcast media are also relevant. Panelists in this session will discuss the prospects for regulating in a way that is supportive of democratic practices and engendering the kind of information environment in which democracy can thrive.

  • Democratic Resistance: A Global Perspective

    Speakers: Damon Wilson, President and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of democratic Belarus

    Moderator: Rachel Epstein, Professor & Senior Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

    Although democratic erosion in Brazil, India, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the U.S., among other places, has commanded headlines in recent years, there are also ongoing processes of democratization in many countries. This discussion will explore the ebb and flow of democratization, acknowledging that the world today is very close to its democratic peak in terms of the proportion of the world’s population that is living under some variety of democratic regime. A special focus on Belarus also reveals the extent to which publics are prepared to take risks in support of democratic reform. Panelists will also reflect on how external actors can support democratic governance, as well as the conditions under which external actions are likely to exacerbate democratic struggles.

  • Democracies and Climate Change

    Speakers: Stephanie Epner, Senior Advisor on Climate Change and Foreign Policy at U.S. Dept. of State Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University David Orr, Professor of Practice, Arizona State University; Oberlin College Distinguished Professor Emeritus

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    The societal impacts of climate change seem likely to put severe stress on democracies as they seek to cope with increased food insecurity, drought, severe weather, flooding, and climate migration. Moreover, the policies needed to address these impacts, as well as those to mitigate the extent of climate change, are highly contentious. Some have questioned whether democracies are up to the challenge and suggested that less democratic regimes are better situated to cope with the challenges posed by climate change. How can democratic institutions be strengthened to better respond to the climate crisis?


  • Meeting the Climate Challenge in a Democracy - All Hands on Deck

    Speakers: Donnel Baird, Founder and CEO of BlocPower Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO, World Resources Institute Sophia Kianni, Founder and Executive Director, Climate Cardinals; US Representative to United Nations Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change Bill McKibben, Third Act Founder

    Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico

    Already, businesses, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and others are taking voluntary actions to reduce their carbon footprint. There is something of a global social movement now working both to encourage such actions and to bring pressure to bear on governments and businesses. As with all forms of private governance, there is an open question as to how effective such extra-governmental actions can be, and whether it is possible to sustain truly democratic, inclusive, and effective collective action in civil society.


February 11, 2022

  • Can America Still Lead?

    Speakers: Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator, Colorado Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chairman, Alliance of Democracies Foundation, Former Prime Minister of Denmark, and Former Secretary General of NATO

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    After assuming the presidency in 2021, Joe Biden and his administration began to seek ways to unite the world’s democracies against the rising tide of authoritarianism. From rejoining multilateral institutions like the World Health Organization and international agreements like the Paris climate agreement to the Biden Democracy Summit, the vision is of the U.S. once again leading a liberal international order. But will the world still accept American leadership? And, in its current polarized state, can America still lead?

  • Promoting Democracy Around the World

    Speakers: Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Executive Vice President, Freedom House Birgitta Ohlsson, Director of Political Parties, National Democratic Institute Tawanda Mutasah, Vice President of Global Partnerships and Impact, Oxfam America

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    This panel brings together experts to discuss trends and challenges in democratic governance and democratic erosion across global regions. Are international autocratization efforts more or less powerful than efforts to promote democratization? Is the US still viewed as a force for democratization around the world? Potential pathways to reinvigorating the pursuit of more equitable, responsive, and stable democracies will be examined.

  • Can Colorado be a Model?

    Speakers: Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State Joe Neguse, U.S. Congressional Representative, Colorado Stewart Vanderwilt, President and CEO, Colorado Public Radio

    Moderator: Fritz Mayer, Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies

    With its history of high voter turnout, easy mail-in balloting, and low incidence of fraud, Colorado has generally stood out among other states as the “gold standard” of election systems. Yet the state still faces electoral challenges–including threats to elected officials–as well as other societal challenges that call into question the state’s independent and innovative identity. From securing voting rights to informing citizens and dealing effectively with environmental issues, how well is Colorado doing? Could Colorado be a model for free and fair elections, high-quality political information, and effectiveness in addressing huge challenges such as climate change?

  • Media Enfranchisement and Polarization

    Speakers: Ravi Agrawal, Editor-in-Chief at Foreign Policy Magazine Mary B. McCord, Visiting Professor of Law; Executive Director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown Law Jenn White, Host of NPR's 1A

    Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico

    A paradox of the current media environment is that information is more available around the world at lower cost than ever before, and yet polarization is at acute levels in some countries. Recent trends in the media’s evolution appear to be both enfranchising and alienating for the public. Panelists will discuss how the media may empower voters, as well as the conditions under which the media contributes to social polarization. With the rise of violent extremism, a critical debate concerns whether changes in the information environment can reduce the likelihood of political violence.

  • Vote Suppression in the United States

    Speakers: Jonah Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief, The Dispatch Adam Jentleson, Columnist, GQ Erica Teasley Linnick, Acting Director, Democracy Program, Open Society-US

    Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico

    Vote suppression in the United States through legislative means has intensified since the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by making it possible for states to change their election laws without prior federal approval. How can we best understand voter suppression efforts in the United States in historical context? Which legislative tactics have proven most effective over the past decade in restricting voter access to the polls? What have we learned about how to protect voting rights?

  • Protecting Voting Rights - The Role of Civil Society

    Speakers: Lori Augino, Executive Director, National Vote at Home Institute LaTosha Brown, Co-founder, Black Voters Matter Greisa Martínez Rosas, Executive Director, United We Dream

    Moderator: Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Host of SpyTalk Podcast, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity

    Political party radicalization and voter suppression would appear to interact in a vicious circle, in both the U.S. and abroad. At the same time, meticulous and sustained grassroots campaigns have had extraordinary successes in voter turnout — for example in Georgia in both November 2020 and January 2021. How might civil society groups and social movements take a stand against voter suppression and manipulation?


  • Restoring American Democracy

    Featuring: Liz Cheney, U.S. Congressional Representative, Wyoming Jason Crow, U.S. Congressional Representative, Colorado

    Moderator: Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico

    The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and all we have subsequently learned about attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, have revealed just how fragile American democracy is. Two US Representatives who were in session on that historic day and who are leaders on opposite sides of the aisle, will discuss their efforts to bring the truth to light and their perspectives on how we restore trust in American democracy.


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Explore the full agenda from the 2022 summit

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