2021 International Democracy Days

One hundred years ago, universal suffrage had its first major breakthrough in many countries, including Sweden.

Today, people power remains very much contested, and at risk, from the rise of populists and the enduring power of elitists. What practical steps will help us guard against threats to democracy?

What is the true state of democracy today, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally? What innovations are emerging that might democratize, and defend, our democracies?

At the 2021 International Democracy Days – hosted and co-organized by Umeå University, the City of Skellefteå, the Swiss Embassy in Sweden and the European Democracy Foundation – we will assess the Global State of Democracy and how local communities and cities can become engines of democratization worldwide.

The North of Sweden, where this onsite conference takes place, is one of the most dynamic regions in Europe, with green energy and industrial developments that protect the climate and attract people from all over the world.

We look forward to discuss big dreams, and specific implementations, in the two cities and multiple venues hosting these International Democracy Days.



DAY 1: November 11

Venue: Ljusgården, Lärarutbildningshuset, Universitetstorget 4 Umeå Universitet, Umeå

How Do We Meet The Global Challenges To Democracy?


The Global State of Democracy A new worlwide assessment introduced and presented by Kevin Casas-Zamora, Secretary General at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

12.00–13.00 Hearing hosted by Umeå Associatio of International Affairs and Nordpol. Panelists include Kevin Casas-Zamora (International IDEA), Giada Gianola (University of Bern) and Kelly Morrison (Varieties of Democracy) and Nils Seye-Larsen (Umeå Kommun). Moderator: Oliver Björkman, Utrikespolitiska föreningen i Umeå.

13.00–14.15 Lunch

21th Century Democracy Prospects: Assessments and Opportunities

14.00 Opening remarks by Umeå University Vice Chancellor Hans Adolfsson. Keynote by Karlstad University Professor Malin Rönnblom “Can democracy survive neoliberal forms of governing?”

14.30–15.30 Part One: The Exciting World of Modern Democracy. Inputs by and conversation with political scientists Anders Lidström (on the “Swedish Experiences”) of Umeå University, and Giada Gianola (on the “Swiss Experiences”) of Bern University.

15.30 Democracy Fitness with Zakia Elvang


Living Democracy in Umeå,Västerbotten, Sapmi and Sweden

Panel discussion with Camilla Sandström, professor, Political Science Department at Umeå University, Jessika Wide, Associate professor at Umeå University and Erik-Oscar Oscarsson, Chairman for the Commission on Culture at the Sami Parliament.


introduced and offered by Francois Voeffray-Peyro, Swiss Ambassador to Sweden, featuring a brief description of the exhibition “Den Moderna Direkta Demokratin – schweiziska impulser,


DAY 2: November 12

Venue: Sara Kulturhus, Torggatan 9, Skellefteå

Morning: Transfer by Bus from Umeå to Skellefteå. Departure at 07.30 from Clarion Uman Hotel (07.20 from University).

Developing the Democracy City of the Future


How Do We Develop the Democracy City?

Welcome remarks by Umeå University Deputy Vice Chancellor Dieter Müller. Democracy promotion in the sports movement and other similar non-profit sectors. Jonny Hjelm, Professor of History at Umeå University.


Sara Lidman – Sparkling and Exasperating.

A Remembrance. Ellenor Lindgren, cultural worker and performing artist in Skellefteå with extensive knowledge of Sara Lidman who was one of Västerbotten’s foremost writers and activists. Ellenor shares the speeches and knowledge of this important and creative thinker, whose name was given to the new cultural centre in which we are gathering.


Jörn – A Creative Place in the Middle of the World!

What happens when people get to tell their stories? What happens when people use art as a means of expression? What happens when there is someone listening? Ann-Sofi Burström is a proud resident of the Jörn village (50 km NW of Skellefteå) who is committed to the community and passionate about keeping it alive. Rose-Marie Lindfors is a cultural worker with a strong commitment to people’s opportunities to express themselves and be heard.


Global Cities as Engines for Democratization Across the world.

Cities have become engines of democratic participatory innovation and resilience. In this session, we assess global and national developments on local democratizations and share practical experiences from Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Bern. 

Inputs and conversation with Stefanie Schüpbach (Director of Bern Democracy Center), Zakia Elvang (Director of the Copenhagen Demokratigarage), Kelly Morrison (Varieties of Democracy at Gothenburg University) and Anders Nordh (Swedish Association on Municipalities and Regions).


Urban Planning at its Most Exciting and Democratic.

Enar Nordvik, head of building permits in Skellefteå, talks about democracy in the planning and building permit process, with examples from the establishment of the battery factory, the cultural centre, and the new bridge. Including a guided tour of the art exhibit Ditch. Dance by Sara-Vide Ericson. Guide: Johanna Ahnqvist.

Afternoon: Transfer by Bus from Skellefteå to Umeå . Departure at 15.30 from Sara Kulturhus

Practical information

The 2021 International Democracy Days in Umeå and Skellefteå are an open and free on-site (no webstreaming) to everybody.

However: pre-registration is essential due to limited capacity.


For Day 1 and/or Day 2 with Bus transfer to Skellefteå:


For Day 2 only without bus transfer:


The Democracy Days are mainly held in English but it is possible to comment in Swedish, German, French and Italian.

For any other information on content please contact Bruno Kaufmann at: