On June 28th and 29th, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) held a two-day inaugural conference of the Free Enterprise & Democracy Network (FEDN) – Towards Successful Transitions: Economic Recovery and Democratic Renewal – featuring over 30 speakers from around the world providing expert insights on current and developing threats to markets and democracies. The international audience of FEDN members, business organizations, think tanks, development and democracy organizations, and scholars confirmed the appreciation that economic recovery and democratic renewal are intertwined. The conference was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and served as a complement to the World Movement for Democracy.
The opening keynote speaker, outgoing National Endowment for Democracy (NED) President Carl Gershman, identified six strategic challenges facing democracy today:
- Liberalizing authoritarian systems
- Supporting democratic transitions
- Countering malign authoritarian influence in the world
- Strengthening unity among democracies
- Defending democratic values against illiberalism and intolerance
- Competing with authoritarians in the arena of technology and information
Gershman affirmed that these challenges require a concerted response from civil society, private sector, and governments, locally and internationally, and recognized CIPE’s work in fostering democratic pluralism by supporting open market economies and empowering independent voices of the business community. “Political democracy, with a strong free market system, is the best path forward for people everywhere,” he reminded listeners. “A free market is not a feature; it is a requirement for good governance.” The problem, as he sees it, is that the people who have tried to defend democracy too often fail to link it to the free market.
During the June 29th keynote address, Hon. Betty C. Maina detailed how close collaboration with the private sector has allowed the Kenyan government to implement an inclusive growth agenda, social protects and welfare to support the population. Cabinet Secretary Maina emphasized that win-win outcomes are possible between states and private enterprises globally, but only when they work together to support one another to advance prosperity for all rather than viewing each other as antagonists.