During last Athen’s Democracy Forum, on September 27, 2023, I had both the privilege and honor to announce the recipients of the inaugural “Democratic Innovators of the 21st Century” Politician’s Hall of Fame. Representing the Apolitical Foundation, we associated with the Democracy and Culture Foundation to award the inaugural prestigious prize and celebrate remarkable women and men who have dedicated their lives to advancing democracy in the world.
I believe that reviving and renewing democracy requires new, different, and better prepared political leaders. As such, I see part of my work as to both encourage and train new and different people to become politicians, and to equip existing politicians to lead in the face of the challenges of our time. Ethical and reformist politicians have an essential role to fulfill in protecting democracy and it is essential to recognize the work of those leading change in tense and sometimes very toxic political environments.
This Hall of Fame is important as it sheds light on ten extraordinary individuals who come from diverse backgrounds, regions, and perspectives yet they share a common dedication to giving citizens meaningful power in shaping societies in ways that go beyond the existing basics of voting in elections/referenda and responding to consultations.
They have tirelessly worked to ensure that the ideals of liberty, equality, and justice are upheld. They have not only embraced change but have also led the way in redefining how we engage with democracy.
In an era marked by change, uncertainty, complexity, challenges, and threats to democracy these visionary leaders have shown that democracy is not a static concept but a dynamic force that can be adapted and revitalized. They have breathed new life into existing democratic mechanisms and pioneered innovative initiatives that offer people a space to voice their concerns, agree on priorities, find solutions to intricate issues, working together, and take part in shaping decisions that affect their lives.
These are women and men who have reimagined political systems, who have introduced technology to amplify voices, who have fostered inclusivity in traditionally exclusive spaces, and who have tirelessly advocated for transparency and accountability. They used their position of power to ask the right questions to their constituents instead of providing the answer, they facilitated uneasy conversations instead of imposing their political views, they opened up the space to listen and were ready to hear challenging opinions and uncomfortable truths while it is far more easy to stay away from open conversations with citizens.
Their collective work has brought us closer to the ideal of a democracy that truly serves its people and puts them at the heart of developing better policies for citizens and the planet —a democracy that is not just a promise but a daily reality and an inclusive mechanism. Their accomplishments remind us that the power to shape the future lies not only with leaders but with each and every citizen.