The 58th Annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference
Guarding Liberty in a World of Democratic Undoing
April 10-12, 2018
When Woodrow Wilson led America onto the world stage, he did so saying, “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty." In the ensuing decades, graduates from our military academies and finest civilian institutions fought for that safety and established such foundations. But with those foundations beginning to crumble abroad , is the world safe for democracy today?
Freedom House, the authoritative independent watchdog organization on political rights and civil liberties, shows eleven straight years of decline in political liberties around the world, the longest period of decline in four decades. Autocrats enjoy newfound success crushing street protests, consolidating power through corrupt referendums, restricting internet freedom, murdering journalists, and jailing opposition leaders. Even if a dictator falls, a new dictator emerges, crushing any hopes for freedom. These modern autocrats are not like the strongmen of the past; many come into power through elections and slowly unravel the democratic norms of their society while maintaining a veneer of democratic legitimacy.
With autocracy on the rise, what are the world’s democratic nations, international organizations, civil society groups and individual citizens to do in response to this new challenge? Will democracy continue to flourish, or is it once again autocracy’s time?
Established in 1960, the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference brings together more than 150 undergraduate students from the United States and over a dozen foreign countries every year for three days of critical discussions, lectures, informal exchanges, and social events.