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Human Development &
Capability Association

Multi-Disciplinary and People-Centred

HDCA WEBINAR: The State of the Union: Reflections on Democracy and Division in and beyond the United States of America

Hosted by the HDCA North American Regional Network
February 19, 2021 at 11:00AM EST

Registration required:

Democracy is in crisis. The United States—once viewed as the world’s most stable democracy—is witnessing a surge of right-wing extremism, nationalism, and authoritarian populism fueled, in part, by conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity. These forces converged in a literal attack on democracy during an insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. More globally, a recent “democratic recession” seems to have halted if not reversed the third wave of democratization (Diamond 2015), and everywhere there are signs of the deterioration of political rights and civil liberties (Abramowitz 2018), the erosion of citizens’ trust in government (Pew Research Center 2017), and growing disaffection with democratic norms and institutions (Foa and Mounk 2017).

This moment and the challenges it presents—including challenges to the cause of human development and justice—demand scholarly attention. To help facilitate such attention, the North American Regional Network of the Human Development and Capabilities Association, is hosting a webinar with a distinguished group of panelists to discuss the state of democracy—both recent events and broader trends—on February 19th at 11:00AM EST. Our hope is this panel will help to start a discussion within the human development paradigm about threats and challenges to democracy around the globe.


David A. Crocker is a Research Professor Emeritus at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, USA. He specializes in socio-political philosophy, international development ethics, transitional justice, democracy and democratization, and corruption. After three degrees from Yale University (MDiv, MA, and PhD), David taught philosophy for 25 years at Colorado State University, where he established one of the world's first courses in ethics and international development. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Munich, was twice a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Costa Rica, held the UNESCO Chair in Development at the University of Valencia (Spain), and taught at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, the University of Chile, and the University of the Andes (Colombia). He has been a consultant with the Inter-American Development Bank, USAID, the World Bank, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. David was the founder and former president of the International Development Ethics Association (IDEA). Among his numerous publications are "Toward Development Ethics," The Ethics of Global Development: Agency, Capability, and Deliberative Democracy, “Reckoning with Past Wrongs: A Normative Framework,” “Ending the US Civil War Well: Reconciliation and Transitional Justice," and "Confronting Inequality and Corruption." Three of his most recent papers are responses to essays collected in the volume in his honor edited by Lori Keleher and Stacy J. Kosko: Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics.

Chloe Schwenke is the president and founder of the Center for Values in International Development. She is an international public policy advisor, development ethicist and practitioner, human rights scholar and activist, researcher, and educator. Her career has focused on LGBTQ+ issues, inclusive development, gender equality/equity, democracy strengthening, and on human rights. Chloe’s career covers project experience in over 40 countries, including more than 15 years living and working in the Global South. Chloe has held senior positions at the International Center for Research on Women, and at Freedom House. She was also – under the Obama administration – the first openly transgender person ever selected as a political appointee in the federal foreign affairs agencies, serving as Senior Advisor on Democracy, Rights, and Governance for Africa, at USAID. Chloe received her Ph.D. in public policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she was Alumna of the Year for 2013. She earned her MA degree at Georgetown. She is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, and has previously taught as an adjunct at the McCourt School at Georgetown, at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, and at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She has written two books, as well as chapters in nine edited volumes.

Eddy M. Souffrant is a faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He teaches Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy, and Ethics and International Affairs. He has research and teaching expertise in the areas of African American, Francophone and Caribbean Philosophy. His recent publications examine the issues Collective responsibility, International ethics, Development Ethics and Conceptions of Political Identities. He is currently working on a manuscript that explores the intersection of Africana Philosophy, Immigration and Digital Technology.

Frances Stewart is emeritus professor of Development Economics. She was Director of the Oxford Department of International Development (1993-2003) and the  Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (2003-2010).  She has been an adviser to the UNDP’s Human Development Report since its inception in 1990 and was Chair of the United Nation’s Committee for Development Policy (2010-2012). She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Sussex and received the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought, from Tufts in 2013.  She is a trustee of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex and a Member of the Advisory Board of ZEF (Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung), Bonn. Her prime recent research interests are horizontal inequalities, conflict and human development. Among many publications, she is leading author of Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multiethnic Societies (2008) and Advancing Human Development: Theory and Practice (2018).


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