CIDC’s First Summer School Program: “Politics in a Democracy Under Stress”

July 06, 2023 Yenlik O'Neill
CIDC’s First Summer School Program: “Politics in a Democracy Under Stress”

The Politics in a Democracy Under Stress Summer School brought together 16 participants, both faculty members and students, from Georgetown University, Washington and Lee University, and Princeton University and representatives from academia, civil society, and both public and private sectors in Bulgaria.

About the Program

The program was organized by the Center for Information, Democracy, and Citizenship (CIDC) at the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) in cooperation with the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University from June 11 to 18 on the AUBG campus.

Throughout the week, the participants had lectures, workshops, and networking sessions that aimed to initiate a constructive conversation about the current obstacles faced by democratic governments, focusing on Bulgaria as a democracy that is experiencing significant challenges.

“The program was outstanding as it touched upon numerous aspects of Bulgarian history and politics,” Mark Rush, the Director of the Center for International Education at Washington and Lee University, said, admitting that prior to this visit, his knowledge of Bulgaria was “superficial”.

For more details, see the program schedule below:

The Long-Lasting Impact

When reflecting on the program, Tihomira Doncheva, the Director of CIDC, highlighted the long-term impact of educating the future decision-makers on how the rule of law, media outlets and independent journalists, and civil society sector function in Bulgaria, given the current political situation and contextual understanding.

Since one of the main goals of the week-long Summer School was to contextualize the issues that put democracy under threat, the participants had the chance to learn from “people who are aiming to defend democracy – from civil society to business leaders, all the way to government officials.”

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On the Current Changemakers

The AUBG alumnus and Director of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University Elton Skendaj (‘96) shared that, for him, the highlights of this experience were the “Bulgarian hospitality in the AUBG setting” and the guest speakers, who are distinguished professionals and changemakers within their respective fields.

“Bulgaria’s transition to democracy and free markets has encountered challenges of hyperinflation, corruption, and organized crime,” Skendaj said. “Yet, its progress is visible in the EU accession, modern political parties, thriving technology scene, and resilient civil society. We leave with stories of struggle and hope of success for the reformers. Thank you for such a tremendous experience.”

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First, Not Last

While sharing her personal satisfaction with this journey, Doncheva expressed her enthusiasm for organizing such short-term professional courses, tailored to specific needs and interests, in the future.

“This is not only an opportunity for the CIDC to deliver on its objective to be the go-to place for democracy issues in the Balkans, but also an opportunity for AUBG to expand its impact and reach beyond our students, and last but not least, an opportunity for Bulgaria and the region to step in the shoes of the narrator of their own story and help the international audience fully understand the challenges young democracies face from within.”

Interested in CIDC initiatives?

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