A Global Movement: IRI’s Participation in the WMD Global Assembly

  • Michael Albanese, Vedrana Vujović, Juan Manuel Pérez Cuéllar

In October of last year, the International Republican Institute (IRI) participated in the World Movement for Democracy’s (WMD) Eleventh Global Assembly in Taipei, Taiwan. Comprised of several roundtables and workshops designed to generate strategies that democracy activists can use to build solidarity and deliver on the practice of democracy, IRI drew upon on its worldwide network of partners to select a delegation to participate in this Global Assembly. The event brought together more than 300 participants from 70 different countries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, and many others on the frontlines of defending global democratic norms.  

In addition to IRI President Daniel Twining and members of IRI’s Center for Global Impact and Asia-Pacific Division, IRI’s delegation included five youth activists from around the world, each of whom is actively empowering young leaders to develop collective strategies to mobilize political action to achieve their democratic ambitions. The young leaders who joined the Assembly as part of IRI’s delegation were from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Taiwan.  

At the Global Assembly, IRI implemented a workshop – “Youth Outsmarting Xi: Innovation for Countering Digital Authoritarianism” – focused on ways young people are using technology to counter authoritarian influence, as well as maintaining civic space in closed and closing environments. IRI delegates Juan Manuel Pérez Cuéllar, Ojooluwa Ibiloye, and Lulu Keng each participated in a panel discussion to share their experiences in countering digital authoritarianism, which was followed by a workshop facilitated by IRI Senior Program Manager for Youth and Inclusion Meryl Miner.  

During his participation in the panel discussion, Juan Manuel Pérez Cuéllar presented his “Red Flags” project, which was supported by IRI. The project aimed to promulgate skills and tools for young web developers interested in protecting their biometric data and countering the hoarding of information from malign actors, with a particular focus on the People’s Republic of China. This online class is available for free in Spanish. The panel also included Ojooluwa Ibiloye, a Research and Policy Analyst at Cerebral Hub in Nigeria and former IRI McCain Freedom Fellow, as well as Lulu Keng, the Deputy Executive Chief Officer at the Open Culture Foundation in Taiwan.  

IRI also participated in a Democracy Clinic to share its programmatic efforts in facilitating two separate Democracy in Action Labs earlier that year, one in Malawi and another in Bosnia and Herzegovina—each of which highlighted practical experiences and approaches in making democracy deliver in democratic transitions, as well as generated a menu of replicable recommendations relevant to local political and civil society activists. Generation Democracy representative Vedrana Vujović also presented on her experience as a participant at both Action Labs, the latter of which she attended as a keynote panelist.  

Through the IRI delegation’s and others’ participation, the Global Assembly was able to spotlight everyday struggles and successes in building democratic resilience and offered insights from dozens of activists—each of whom has repeatedly made personal sacrifices in hopes of a securing a more democratic future. With this in mind, Taiwan was the perfect choice to host the Eleventh Global Assembly. As a thriving and vigorous democracy, the Taiwanese government has shown the world that economic and democratic prosperity is achievable even in the face of immense authoritarian challenges.  

“The people of Taiwan fought for decades to build their democracy,” said President Tsai Ing-wen at the Global Assembly. “Taiwan’s democratic resilience in the face of China’s authoritarian aggression offers lessons for the world.” 

Indeed, it does.

President Tsai Ing-wen addresses the WMD Global Assembly on October 26, 2022.
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