The city of Koblenz, organizer of the “Koblenz Weeks of Democracy” (Koblenzer Wochen der Demokratie), was particularly keen to let the event take place this year between September 1 and October 3 – despite or maybe even because of Corona. The reason was that the motto "75 years later - learning from the past for the future" is not only of special topicality due to the end of the Second World War 75 years ago. The worldwide pandemic and the restrictions it has posed on citizens have revived the debate about the free democratic order of states. Extremist forces are trying to take advantage of the corona crisis and interpret its meaning. Societies in Germany and other countries are becoming increasingly polarized. This year, Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf, Dean of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, spoke at the event about "The Influence of Corona on Democracy". His audience had the choice to listen to his presentation either on campus in Vallendar or online.
Using charts from different sources, Markus Rudolf illustrated how different countries have dealt with the Corona pandemic and what effects the various measures taken have on the development of new infections and mortality. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he had analyzed global developments and simulated trends for a number of countries. He pointed out that freedom in the world is being threatened by an increasing number of authoritarian regimes, be it in Hong Kong, Belarus, or even in the EU, for example, in Hungary. Such developments, he explained, are often reinforced by illegitimate means guised as corona prevention measurements. Thriving conspiracy theories are another threat from within the society which may be gnawing away the basic pillars of democracy.
The statistics expert also showed how much has been achieved globally through international cooperation in recent decades: For example, extreme poverty and infant mortality have been reduced significantly. At the same time, access to basic education, the literacy rate, and the number of vaccinations have risen sharply around the globe. These successes can also be attributed to the number of democratically constituted states, which rose until the year 2000. In his presentation, the Dean of WHU also pointed out that the richest societies mostly followed a democratic model and that democracy and prosperity were mutually dependent. Although examples such as China, for instance, showed that autocratic regimes could also generate prosperity for large parts of their populations, Rudolf assumes that only democracies will be able to maintain wealth in the long run.
The vivid discussion among the audience after the end of the speech showed how highly topical and controversial this topic is. It became evident that many people feel insecure in times of internationally spreading uncertainties. The lecture and the subsequent discussion provided them with the opportunity to gain new valuable insights and to better classify the current events. “It’s most important that we remain vigilant,” Rudolf warned his audience.
In 2018, the Koblenz Weeks of Democracy were held for the first time, marking the 70th anniversary of the Rittersturz Conference. At this conference in 1948, decisive deliberations on the adoption of the German constitution (Grundgesetz) took place at the historic site in Koblenz. Since then, the city has been an important part of the history of the development of democracy in Germany. Every year, many institutions, initiatives, and associations take part in the Koblenz Weeks of Democracy and compile a variety of online and offline events discussing the values of democracy.