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Crisis Management in Federal Democracies

8 May 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Global challenges continue to be massive and interconnected, and they impact on people’s lives. This was felt recently during the global financial crisis and the pandemic; and now the war in Ukraine is threatening stability, economic progress and peace in Europe. Other issues like natural disasters, climate change, terrorism, mass migration, and secessionist movements have or may become increasingly salient to national discussions posing challenges for governments at all levels, from the federal to Cantonal / subnational to local level.

The Forum of Federations (the Forum) and the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) are organizing a by-invitation roundtable for experts and decision makers to discuss what impact these crises have on democratic political systems, and how vice-versa democracies have reacted in terms of crisis management. Are democracies well equipped to deal with crises, what impact do these crises have on our democratic system? Moreover, is a federal system of governance conducive to crisis management or does it pose additional challenges to crisis management?

The workshop will consist of two sessions, one organized by the Forum on federalism, one by ZDA on democracy. The event is not meant as an academic session but as a forum to provide space for dialogue between practitioners and academics from various backgrounds and countries. The idea is to share lessons and experiences in order to inspire discussion about what works and what does not work in the area of crisis management.

Session 1: 15:00 Federalism and Crisis Management

The recent pandemic had offered scholars and policymakers yet another opportunity to explore how federal countries have reacted in times of crisis. The questions we would like to discuss centre around whether federal systems are well equipped to adapt and address these challenges? And, vice versa, how are –

or may – these challenges impact on federal countries and their governance systems? Is centralization and harmonization of polices the trend of the future, undermining federal structures?

– What are the biggest perceived challenges in your country?

– Are federal structures of your country fit for the challenge?

– What are the lessons we learnt from how your country reacted to the pandemic?

Discussion Moderator: Diana CHEBENOVA, Forum of Federations

Rupak CHATTOPADHYAY, Forum of Federations: “Federalism and the Response to COVID-19 – A Comparative Analysis”, presentations by the Forum of Federations – Reflections from:

– Carsten SIELING, former President of the Senate and Major of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany

Birtukan AYANODADI, Minister of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia

Murilo Vieira KOMNISKI, Special Advisr, Office of the Presideny, Brazil


Session 2: 16:45 Crisis and the Impact on Democracy

The pandemic laid open the difficulties of managing a crisis in a context of democratic governance. Not only did some of the measures decided to halt the spread of the Coronavirus lead to restrictions of fundamental and democratic rights. With rapid government action required to react to the threats of the pandemic, many countries saw a power shift towards the executive, reducing democratic control and accountability. A crisis is always a democratic stresstest. – How does democracy, how did democracies fare in the pandemic? – What was the impact of the pandemic on the quality of democracy? – What are the democratic safeguards to be built into crisis management?

This panel will feature presentation of the results of three studies led by the ZDA, embracing these questions, followed by a discussion.

Palmo BRUNNER, ZDA and University of Zurich, “Democracy in times of the pandemic: explaining the variation of COVID-19 policies across European democracies”

Daniel KÜBLER, ZDA and University of Zurich, “The Covid-19 pandemic: a stresstest for democracies”

Andreas GLASER, ZDA and University of Zürich, “The Swiss parliament’s fight for influence in the pandemic – what needs to be done”

– Reflections from: Julius Ihonvbere – Nigeria


8 May 2023
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm