Conference on Good Governance Asks, “Can Democracy Be Exported?”

Posted: April 18, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Beau Cribbs

On Friday, April 20, the first of what organizers hope to be an annual Conference on Good Governance will be held at Mason.

The daylong conference will feature leading academics and professionals in the field of U.S. foreign policy discussing the promotion of democratic governance throughout the world today.

The free conference, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Edwin Meese Conference Room in Mason Hall on the Fairfax Campus, is completely student-organized.

Sophomore Farisa Dastvar, a pre-law student who is serving as media assistant for the event, describes the experience as “extremely hard but rewarding to bring professionals and academics from various institutions and organizations for this conference.”

She adds, “We want this conference to allow students to get deeper, more personal and more effective exposure to our policy makers and the individuals that play major roles in the government and politics of this country.”

The conference consists of three panel discussions and a lunchtime keynote speaker. The first session at 9 a.m., titled “Media, Public Opinion and Democracy, ” will examine the media’s role in democracy and democracy promotion, as well as public opinion on both democracy and U.S. foreign policy.

Panelists are

  • Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center
  • Clay Risen, managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
  • Rick Rockwell, journalism professor at Northwestern University

At 10:30 a.m., the second panel will address the pros and cons of democracy promotion, as well as how democracy fits into U.S. foreign policy.

Speakers are

  • Steven Clemons, senior fellow and director, New America Foundation
  • Elizabeth Cohn, professor, School of International Service, American University
  • David Schenker, senior fellow, Arab politics, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Eric G. John, deputy assistant secretary of state, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will be the keynote speaker during a noon luncheon.

At 1:45 p.m., a third panel will address the various ways democracy is promoted abroad.

Speakers are

  • David Lowe, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Georges Fauriol, senior vice president, International Republican Institute
  • Maria Stephan, director, educational initiatives, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
  • Eric Bjornlund, co-founder and president, Democracy International

The conference will conclude with a student discussion from 3:15 to 4 p.m.

Campus organizer Jared Lieberher, a senior government and international politics major, says logistical coordination has been very exciting and challenging since the interest in the event is “overwhelming.”

“We are pleased that so many students are interested in the possibilities, difficulties and practicality of promoting democracy in foreign countries,” he says.

Dastvar adds, “We are really just trying to get other students involved, as they are the future policy makers and decision makers of this country, and ultimately will impact the world.”

Student advisor and international affairs professor Eric Shiraev commends the students for raising money and recruiting speakers for the conference. He says, “This conference will give students a chance to see how they can make a difference – to break the barrier.”

The conference is sponsored by Mason’s Democracy Project, Center for Global Studies, Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society and Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society.

For a complete conference agenda and to RSVP, visit

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