Populism, political mistrust and misinformation in the digital era, main topics of the NGD America Round Table in San Francisco

The Next Generation Democracy (NGD) project roundtable was structured in four different panels each of them analyzing a different angle of the current state of Democracy in North America.  On top of that, another aim of the NGD America meeting was to break the silos between political leaders and academic experts and the world of technology entrepreneurs and to start a direct and sincere dialogue among these spheres. “The tech world is very good at listening to itself but now we want to listen to others,” said, John BattelleNewco’s CEO.

Precisely Mr Battelle and the President of the CdM, Vaira Vike-Freiberga welcomed the participants while Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, framed the discussion with a keynote speech focused on the challenges and also opportunities on how to advance democracy in the region. Vike-Freiberga reminded that “the betterment of humanity is what Democracy is about” while also stressing the need of a new paradigm.

John Battelle highlighted the need for these debates in the light the new worrisome situation of democracies in the region: “Two years ago we were not worried, now we are. There are a lot of elections this year and also a lot of intention to disrupt them” said the CEO.

In his keynote speech, Almagro stressed the need of addressing the damages inequality, weak institutions and lack of opportunities are causing to democracies, even the more established ones. He also had words for Venezuela, warning about the devastating effects that international silence can have in democratic systems and institutions.

You can watch Freiberga, Battelle and Almagro’s words here

Social inclusion and #SharedSocieties were key elements of the NGD America discussion. The example of Canada and its migration and integration policies were brought to the table by Canadian Prime Ministers Kim Campbell and Jean Chrétien. Both of them highlighted the Canadians citizens trust in their institutions a key element that has allowed a better management of the migration flow.

However, the raising of the extreme right, populism and radical nationalism in all America and Europe is putting a huge extra pressure in democracies. Larry Diamond, one the top international experts contributing to the roundtable, warned that we are witnessing the “the highest threats to democracy since World War II”

Day two at the roundtable tried to find answers to key questions like are information & communication technologies threatening democracy? How corporations and tech industry can add democracy ethics into their business model? How can techs and govs work together to strengthen democracy?

Watch here our advisor Jerry Jones framing the debate on how new technologies are impacting democracy

One of the most vivid debates was centred on whether social media should be regulated or not in order to stop hate speech, misinformation and attempts to disrupt democratic and electoral processes.

While some experts of the NGD America round table were favourable to some kind of governmental control as we already have regulations in almost every other activity. However, some other participants expressed their preference for self-regulation and some others like former President of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, warned that autocratic regimes, like Maduro’s in Venezuela, would benefit from that kind of move.

Other hot topics for discussion were: the role of business leaders and in particular the tech companies for democratic development, migration and whether the United States is abdicating in its traditional role of promoting liberal values. The exchanges also included contributions on the need of responses from the institutions to the demands of an increasingly unsatisfied population

Several calls to action were made during these two days of debates, like this one from Maxwell Cameron, Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Stanford University, urging for a new “alliance” of political and leaders in order to restore trust in our democracies. For Cameron, social mobility is also a key element to recover the ground lost during the crisis.


This was not the first time that NGD brings its methodology to the Americas as roundtable discussion was held on March 2017 in Guanajuato, México and on August 2015 in Bogotá, Colombia.

Members Aho, Quiroga and Vike-Freiberga presented the main conclusions of the Roundtable to the 200 Shift Forum participants in a panel moderated by NBC journalist John Heilemann which generated a very positive response from the public and in social media.

Relive here the Newco Shift Forum panel “Is Democracy in Peril”?

The participation of the CdM in this San Francisco Forum was possible thanks to the support of the Alan B. Slifka Foundation and Omidyar Network

The NewCo Shift Forum

The collision of technology, business and culture, with a spotlight on the shifting compact between business and society, takes centre stage at NewCo Shift Forum. More than 400 top business, policy, education and non-profit leaders – including former world leaders, state governors and the head of Facebook NewsFeed – attend the forum, gathering the diverse, cross-disciplinary POVs required to drive change.

The NGD Project

Next Generation Democracy (NGD) is a program led by Club de Madrid aimed at triggering a debate on how democracies can better meet the expectations and needs of their citizens and preserve their rights and dignity while securing a sustainable future for generations to come.

NGD outcomes facilitate a discussion on the state and future of democracy and the formulation of policy proposals aimed at reversing disquieting trends in democratic development and advance democracy worldwide.

NGD is developed by Club de Madrid in close cooperation with key global and regional partners including International IDEA Foundation and the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation.