Dear friends and supporters of democracy around the world!
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” More than a century ago, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin made this statement. In these last weeks we all experienced this feeling in our everyday lives.
Everything is up in the air—or more precisely, brought down to earth. And we’ve seen how meeting a global challenge requires legitimate and transparent government systems, in which each and every person has a responsible role to play.
We’ve also seen how the pandemic challenges our democracies to do many different and difficult things at the same time—to inspire civic belonging even at a time of isolation, to develop state-of-the-art digital tools quickly, to reconcile local autonomy with efficiency, and to cooperate transnationally. These challenges of the pandemic may seem new, but they mirror the challenges facing democracy, challenges we have examined repeatedly in our Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy network: how to make democracy more local, participatory, digital and transnational, all at the same time.
As the Global Forum network remains deeply engaged in this work, we have re-examined our own plans in response to COVID-19.
So we have an announcement. We are postponing our upcoming Global Forum in Bern, Switzerland, originally scheduled for September 2020, until the week of 26 April, 2021.
The 2021 Global Forum in Bern will include a two-day pre-program on 26 and 27 April 2021. That pre-program will be followed by the main forum, 28 April - 1 May 2021. Also on 1 May, the forum will host the Bern Democracy City Summit. And on 2 May 2021, the day after the forum, you will have an opportunity to witness one of the oldest forms of direct democracy in the world, the Landsgemeinde, or cantonal assembly, in the state of Glarus.
Of course, the Global Forum will discuss the pandemic’s impact on democracy and participation, but that will not be our only subject. The thematic tracks will include  The Swiss DD practice in a global context,  Youth power in the times of climate change,  Citizens’ Assemblies to support democracy,  E-Voting and  Global direct democracy via tools for transnational citizens participation.
While we are still in the midst of a global state of emergency, we invite you at this stage to
(a) save the dates for the 2021 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy: 28 April - 1 May,
(b) register for the Forum at www.2021globalforum.com
(c) let us know how you want to participate in the Global Forum. During the forum, we will have multiple slots for workshops, presentations and other kind of contributions—so please send us your ideas and proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if you want to contribute a scholarly paper or presentation or need an academic invitation, please contact us at email@example.com. Finally, if your city is interested in joining the new International League of Democracy Cities and/or being represented at the “Bern Democracy City Summit” on May 1, 2021, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This may not seem like the right moment to make arrangements for an event next year. But do not forget, that our understanding of time varies over time. With just one year to go until the next Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, we want to hear from you and cooperate with you—more than ever before.
Joe Mathews and Bruno Kaufmann
Co-Presidents of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy