Shaping the Future at the Athens Democracy Forum 2016

The American College of Greece was honored to participate for the second time as an education partner in the Athens Democracy Forum, organized annually by the International New York Times (INYT) in cooperation with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the City of Athens, and Kathimerini.

Held on September 14-18, the Forum was “anchored” on September 15, the International Day of Democracy, and took place in various locations of historic and cultural importance including the Academy of Athens, the University of Athens, the National Library of Greece, Zappeion, the Acropolis Museum, Stoa of Attalos, the Roman Agora, and Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall.

With the theme “Religion, Migration, Power & Money,” the 5th annual forum tackled crucial current issues such as the rise in popularity of authoritarian leaders, the volatile discussion of ethnic identity and inclusiveness with regard to open borders, and religion’s questionable compatibility with the values of true liberal democracy.

An agora-styled discussion between politicians, scholars, diplomats, journalists, and thought leaders, has the potential to build the strong foundations necessary for lasting social change, especially when such a dialogue takes place in the heart of the ancient city which birthed the very ideals of democracy.

The Forum was attended by prominent figures from politics, business, and more, boasting an impressive array of speakers and panelists, including economist and former Italian PM Mario Monti, H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos, and the VP of the Academy of Athens and former Greek PM Lucas Papademos.

They were also joined by Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former Australian PM; Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO; and Edward J. Snowden, former US Intelligence Officer, Whistleblower, and Director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, who joined via teleconference.

Awarded columnists and senior journalists of the NYT and delegates of the UN also participated, including the famous NYT op-ed columnist Paul Krugman, and UNDEF executive head, Annika Savill. Greek representatives also included Yorgos Kaminis, Mayor of Athens, Loukas Tsoukalis, economist, professor, and president of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), and Alexis Papahelas, executive editor of Kathimerini.

Among the many powerful speeches and panel discussions, the words of NYT columnist Roger Cohen, from the keynote speech Democracy under Challenge, stand out:

“A substantial number of people in our little democracies feel they are being tossed hither and thither by forces beyond their control, nowhere more so than in Greece, where national elections in recent years –and there have been a lot of them– have revealed an almost complete disconnect between the vote itself, and any tangible effect. What then is democracy? A mere game?”

As UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon expressed in his introductory video-message to the Forum, “In too many places, democracy is under assault,” and events of global importance such at the Athens Democracy Forum are crucial in order to stimulate a dialogue, and “discuss how to turn the democratic tide.”

UN Goal 4: Quality Education
Roundtable Hosted by ACG

One of the focal points of the Forum was the Lunch Roundtables, with each table holding an in-depth roundtable discussion for one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) or Global Goals, that were conducted as a working lunch on the International Day of Democracy, at the iconic Academy of Athens.

Roundtables copy

As an education partner, ACG hosted the roundtable for Quality Education, the fourth of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted globally after the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2015.

The complete list of attendees at ACG’s roundtable included the following guests:

Nikiforos Diamandouros (moderator)
European Ombudsman 2003-2013 and member, Academy of Athens

Nikos Alivizatos
Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Athens

Thimios Zaharopoulos
Provost, The American College of Greece

Claudia Carydis (project leader)
VP Public Affairs, The American College of Greece

Niki Boutari (project leader)
VP Marketing and Communication, The American College of Greece

Aristos Doxiadis
Partner, OpenFund

Niki Kerameus: Member of the Hellenic Parliament,
Parliamentary spokesperson of the New Democracy Party, lawyer

Diomidis Spinellis
Professor, Athens University of Economics & Business

Cecile Inglessis Margelos
Translator, scholar, literary critic

Haris Vlavianos
History professor at Deree – The American College of Greece, writer

As the outcome of the ACG-hosted roundtable discussion on the goal to “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” three recommendations were submitted on the spot for consideration to the United Nations:

  1. Enhance both state and private initiative at all levels of education, in order to promote freedom, pluralism and diversity.
  2. Invest in means and technologies for active learning beyond the formal school system, using latest developments of technology, e.g. gamification.
  3. Actively encourage training of teachers in the use of new technologies, new methods and innovative curricula, in facilitating effective learning.

The American College of Greece is both honored and proud to play an active part in shaping the future of education on a global scale, and by doing so, standing true to our mission and vision “to add distinctive and sustainable value to our students as well as Greece, American education, Hellenic heritage, and the global community through transformative teaching, scholarship, and service.”

For more information, please see: the Athens Democracy Forum 2016, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Photo credits: The New York Times