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Trust in Political Leadership and Democracy in Times of Crisis

In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, state leaders from Scandinavia to the Balkans and beyond have imposed significant and unprecedented restrictions on citizens’ rights and freedoms.

While the virus does not discriminate, the pandemic affects people differently depending on their existing living and health conditions, access to health care, information and network. Vulnerable groups are made more vulnerable, as an ever increasing number of people are finding themselves unemployed or at risk of losing their income. Many politicians are taking this opportunity to mobilise support by placing blame on foreign powers or supranational institutions, attacking minorities and vulnerable groups, and positioning themselves as “war-time leaders” in order to generate sympathy and respect.

For some political leaders, this approach seems to be paying off, but what implications might it have for democracy and its legitimacy? What can policy makers do to actively address issues of concern to their citizens in an integral, responsive and truthful way? How can politicians gain trust and respect among citizens, without pointing fingers and shifting blame? What is the role of civil society, academia and media in counter-acting the negative tendency of scapegoating and avoiding responsibility? And how can we as active citizens work together to foster trust, solutions and resilience in our communities?

These are some of the questions that will be raised through facilitated discussion between a small group of experts and practitioners across Europe. The main aim of the webinar is to initiate a thought- provoking conversation, and contribute with rational, respectful and informative public debate in a time marked by fake-news, conspiracy theories, scapegoating and weakened democratic institutions.

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