Kofi Annan notes people’s loss of trust in institutions at NYT Athens Democracy Forum

There is a deficit of trust in people towards the institutions and the political system, the former secretary general of the United Nations and founder and chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan, said in his speech at the Athens Democracy Forum on Thursday.

“Democratic freedoms have been in decline for 11 consecutive years,” he said, adding that election turnout is low, which shows that people’s trust in political parties and institutions is diminishing. “We must cherish and protect democracy or it’ll be lost for future generations,” he added, noting the need to be vigilant.

Annan cited Aristotle in his speech who said that when wealth is in the hands on the few there might be disorder, while a large middle class is the backbone of democracy. “The governments seem weak towards global markets. Some people were saving banks while people were losing their homes,” he said with a reference to the 2008 economic crisis in the U.S.

Annan said democracy is the only political system that brings sustainable development and peace, noting that elections are an integral part of democracy, in which citizens must be more involved and not be removed.

Bringing his attention to current issues, he said the economic and refugee crisis helped populism to gain ground. Some of the main reasons people are having difficulty regaining their trust in democratic values are the loss of income and important rights from the imposition of austerity, the increase in inequality and the fact that markets continue to gain money.

The forum is organized by the New York Times and assembles leading policy makers, business leaders, scholars and other experts to define, assess and tackle the critical questions about the world at this moment. It will be held from September 13 to 17 in Athens.