The world is going through unprecedented challenges to freedom, democracy and market economy. This development is taking place despite the fact that these principles and values have contributed to formidable global achievements during the past 30 years. The COVID-19 pandemic is enhancing the destructive development, spurring economic depression and social instability.
The fall of the Berlin wall, the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the emergence of democracy in countries all over the world gave us hope for a new and better world.
Market economies have prospered and delivered prosperity to billions. Extreme poverty has been eradicated in region after region. The percentage of people living under extremely poor conditions is smaller than ever. Life expectancy is higher, child mortality lower, more children than ever go to school and several severe diseases are being defeated.
These achievements have not been created out of haphazard. They are the result of the global spread of a system based on fundamental principles and values.
The ending of the Cold War came with the promise of a better world, and in many places, this promise was indeed delivered. It did not take long, however, for leaders and decision makers across the globe to take the new achievements for granted. Many seem to have forgotten that lasting freedom, wealth and democracy requires constant maintenance.
In Europe, we see authoritarian regimes strengthening their grip of power. The rule of law is gradually undermined, while the Corona crisis is being used as a pretext to undermine democracy as such.
Russia is proceeding to build up its armaments, the spread of disinformation and the use of corruption and criminality to undermine liberal democracies.
China is continuing to use its growing economic power to exert pressure on other countries. The Communist party is conducting a foreign policy based on the logics and language of a dictatorship. Across the world, the Chinese regime is posing a threat to sovereignty and democracy, be it in Africa, Asia, the Americas or in the Pacific.
In the Middle East barbaric regimes keep adding fuel to bloody and seemingly endless regional conflicts.
Meanwhile, the United States is currently more occupied by the logic of America first than on leading the free world.
The global economic depression that will likely follow the COVID-19 pandemic might add further to this worrying development. Poverty will increase and nationalism to rise, adding fuel to new and existing conflicts.
In this dangerous new world, global cooperation between likeminded and democratically oriented actors is more important than ever. This is the case for leaders of free countries and for international institutions, but also for experts and academics all across the world.
This is the underlying idea of Freeworld Connect, a series of online conversations with experts from all over the world. In this challenging time we need to keep talking to each other, to keep connecting.
Stockholm Free World Forum launched Freeworld Connect on the 15th of April. The first broadcast highlighted the topic of Chinese desinformation in the wake of the Corona crisis. The participants were experts Marcus Kolga (Canada), Lindsay Hughes (Australia), Patrik Oksanen (Sweden), chairman of Stockholm Free World Forum Gunnar Hökmark and director Katarina Tracz.
Watch the first episode here.
In the second episode the focus lied on the crash in oil prices, its effect on Russia and other oil producing countries and on the geopolitical development at large. Our participants were Syed Kamall (UK), research director Institute of Economic Affairs, Edward Lucas (UK), senior vice president Center for European Policy Analysis, Marcus Kolga (Canada), Senior Fellow på Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Anders Åslund, senior fellow Frivärld, our chairman Gunnar Hökmark and director Katarina Tracz.
Watch the second episode here.
In the third episode the focus lied on Hong Kong democracy in the shadow of covid-19 and how Beijing uses the situation to undermine it. The participants were Wong Yik Mo (HK), opposition leader and human rights advocate, Janet Pang (HK), former legislative aide in the Hong Kong Legislative Council and core member of Civil Rights Observer, Roland Freudenstein (Belgium), Policy director Martens Centre, our chairman Gunnar Hökmark and manager Katarina Tracz.
Watch the third episode here.
In the fourth episode the focus lied on Russian historical revisionism and how it is being used as a power instrument for national strategy. The participants were Gudrun Persson, research leader at FOI, Edward Lucas (UK), senior vice president at Center for European Policy Analysis, Patrik Oksanen, Senior Fellow Stockholm Free World Forum, chairman Gunnar Hökmark and manager Katarina Tracz.
Watch the fourth episode here.