The worldwide struggle for democracy

Nyaunghswe, Myanmar - 17 Feb 2021: Myanmar people took to the streets to protest against the military coup

Myanmar, February 2021: Protests against a military coup

Democracy Dialogues

The worldwide struggle for democracy

Friday, April 14, 2023
1:00PM - 2:15PM (EDT)
Event Details

What is it like to fight for democracy in a country that has been plagued by political violence? Representing multiple continents, the activists speaking on this “Democracy Dialogues” panel describe their on-the-ground fight for political freedom in Bolivia, Serbia, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar (Burma). Each offers a unique international perspective on the American democratic experiment.

These speakers are participants in the Karsh Institute of Democracy’s Democratic Futures Project, which is dedicated to providing refuge and training to global democracy activists while fostering research partnerships and student engagement. 

The “Democracy Dialogues” series is produced by UVA's Karsh Institute of Democracy, co-sponsored by the Miller Center, and made possible thanks to the generous support of the UVA Office of the President, the George and Judy Marcus Democracy Praxis Fund, Ingrid and David Hang, and James B. Murray Jr. The goal of “Democracy Dialogues” is to strengthen democracy through civil debate.

Friday, April 14, 2023
1:00PM - 2:15PM (EDT)
UVA's Rotunda
Ian Baucom headshot

Ian B. Baucom

Ian B. Baucom is the executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia. Before becoming provost in 2022, Baucom served for eight years as the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University. Baucom came to UVA after serving 17 years in Duke University’s department of English as a professor and as the director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. He spent his early childhood in South Africa during the country’s apartheid era, where his parents ran adult literacy programs for mine workers. Baucom earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Wake Forest University and holds a master’s degree in African studies and a doctorate in English, both from Yale University.

Evan Mawarire headshot

Evan Mawarire

Evan Mawarire is a civil rights activist, pastor, and leader of the #ThisFlag movement in Zimbabwe. Mawarire first gained attention in the 2016–17 challenge of Robert Mugabe's rule. He encourages peaceful protest and urges people to refuse to pay bribes and stand up for their rights. In July 2016, the #ThisFlag campaign resulted in a mass movement of Zimbabweans shutting down the capital in a series of protests against corruption, poverty, and abuse of office by the Mugabe regime. Mawarire was charged with inciting public violence and "attempting to overthrow the government." The court later threw out the charges and released him.

Srdja Popovic

Srdja Popovic

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protestors took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly. In 2003, Popovic and others started the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor!

Myo Yan Naung Thein headshot

Myo Yan Naung Thein

Myo Yan Naung Thein started his political career in Myanmar (Burma) at 21 while studying at the Rangoon Institute of Technology. In 1996, he led student demonstrations, demanding justice for police brutalities and unfair dismissal of students from the university. He was sentenced to prison for seven years in 1997. During the 2007 Saffron Revolution he was arrested again and imprisoned, and then again in 2016 after posting a status on his Facebook page that criticized a senior official. In the aftermath of the February 2021 Myanmar coup d'état, Thein and six other high-profile individuals were charged and issued arrest warrants for inciting unrest against the state and threatening "public tranquility" through their social media posts. Later that year, he came to the University of Virginia as a member of the Democracy Initiative’s Democratic Futures Working Group.

Jhanisse Vaca-Daza headshot

Jhanisse Vaca-Daza

Jhanisse Vaca-Daza is the activism outreach specialist at the Human Rights Foundation, as well as manager of the Freedom Fellowship Program. She is co-founder of the Bolivian nonviolent citizen movement Rios de Pie (Spanish for "Standing Rivers"). Vaca-Daza received her BA degree from Kent State University, where she studied international relations and graduated with honors. She subsequently completed the Leading Nonviolent Movements for Social Progress program at Harvard's Kennedy School. The focus of her work is human rights and nonviolent action. She received the 2018 Distinguished Honors Alumna Award from Kent State for her work fostering democracy and teaching nonviolent action as a way of protest in Bolivia. She previously worked as a paralegal in immigration defense and as an independent consultant teaching nonviolence for IDEA International.

Steve Mull headshot

Stephen D. Mull (moderator)

Stephen D. Mull, a Miller Center practitioner senior fellow, is vice provost for global affairs at the University of Virginia. Ambassador Mull has served in a broad range of U.S. national security positions, most recently as Acting Under Secretary for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, working as the day-to-day manager of overall regional and bilateral policy issues, and overseeing the bureaus for Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, the Near East, South and Central Asia, the Western Hemisphere, and International Organizations. He was lead coordinator for Iran Nuclear Implementation from August 2015 until August 2017 and was the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Lithuania.