The 2023 Forum on Business and Democracy
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As part of the 2023 Summit for Democracy, CSIS will host a half-day Forum spotlighting the critical impact of the private sector on democracy around the world and spotlighting commitments that companies are making to advance democracy. This official Summit side event will feature senior government officials, corporate executives, and civil society leaders, who will speak to the influence companies can have on democratic resilience through their business practices, corporate leadership, and engagement with workers, communities, and other stakeholders. Building on the Summit’s themes of countering authoritarianism, combating corruption, and promoting human rights, and in alignment with the State Department’s February 3 Call to the Private Sector to Advance Democracy, the Forum will focus on concrete strategies that forward-thinking private sector leaders are making to strengthen democracy around the world, including:
- Countering the misuse of technology
- Fighting corruption
- Protecting civic space, and
- Advancing labor rights
This is an official event of the Summit for Democracy. In-person participation in the Forum is by invitation only. Companies currently undertaking or planning work on the topics listed above who wish to participate should contact Marti Flacks, Director of the Human Rights Initiative, at email@example.com. Segments of the Forum will be livestreamed for public viewing.
8:45 AM: Introductory session
- Marti Flacks, Khosravi Chair in Principled Internationalism and Director, Human Rights Initiative
- John Hamre, CEO, Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Don Graves, Deputy Secretary of Commerce
- Brad Smith, President, Microsoft (Prerecorded)
9:15 AM: Panel 1: Responding to attacks on democracy and human rights
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to unprecedented attention on the role of the private sector in situations of conflict and democratic backsliding. This and other emergencies – from Iran to Tunisia to Cambodia – have required companies to assess if and how to leverage their presence for good. This panel will explore how companies are supporting democratic governance and civil society organizations under attack, and where new opportunities lie to deploy private sector tools to address human rights and democracy at risk.
- Paige Alexander, CEO, The Carter Center (moderator)
- Karan Bhatia, Global Head of Government Affairs & Public Policy, Google
- Alissa Starzak, Vice President, Global Head of Public Policy, Cloudflare
- Neil Potts, Vice President, Trust & Security, Meta
10:00 AM: Panel 2: Advancing labor rights to build stronger democracy
Around the world, economic inequality is fueling mistrust in governments that fail to deliver concrete results for their citizens, The 2021 Democracy Perceptions Index found that economic inequality is viewed as the single biggest threat to democracy around the world. This panel will discuss how companies can help address inequality and support sustainable democracy by respecting the rights of workers in their own operations and throughout their supply chains.
- Thea Lee, Deputy Undersecretary for International Labor Affairs, Department of Labor (framing remarks)
- Kevin Cassidy, Director and Representative to the Bretton Woods and Multilateral Organizations, International Labour Organization (Moderator)
- Nate Herman, Senior Vice President, Policy, American Apparel and Footwear Association
- Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director, Solidarity Center
10:45 AM: Break
11:00 AM: Panel 3: Strengthening democratic institutions by combatting corruption
The private sector by necessity must play a central role in efforts to combat the scourge of corruption, which diminishes faith in institutions and denies governments the resources needed to deliver services to their citizens. This panel will discuss steps companies can take – beyond mere legal compliance – to prevent and deter corruption through stronger rule of law, increased transparency, and citizen engagement.
- Richard Nephew, Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, U.S. Department of State (moderator)
- Kathy Sheehan, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Business Conduct & Ethics, Amazon
- Michele Crymes, Program Director, Anti-Corruption & Governance Center, Center for International Private Enterprise
- Megan Bridges, Manager, Americas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
11:45 AM - 12:15 PM: Concluding remarks
- Johnny Walsh, White House Summit Coordinator, National Security Council
The event is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.
- Lauren Burke
- Program Manager and Research Associate, Human Rights Initiative