Former US President Barack Obama's foundation hosted an inaugural democracy forum that convened pro-democracy activists and leaders from around the world on one stage: New York City.
The Obama Foundation hopes that the forum will serve as a platform to share ideas that are vital to keep democracies alive.
"These democratic ideas are currently under assault around the world," Obama noted. "We see it in the backsliding that's taking place in what were well established democracies. We see it in the escalating polarization and disinformation that's so evident in recent elections, whether it's in Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, Sweden, right here in the United States."
The former president underscored that the foundational principles of democracy are under attack.
"The notion that all citizens have a right to freely participate in selecting who governs them, the notion that votes will be counted, and the party that gets more votes wins, that losers concede, that power is transferred peacefully, that the winners don't abuse the machinery of government to punish losers and entrench themselves and make it impossible for other parties to compete in future elections... Our political debate should at least aspire to be rooted in facts and logic rather than fabrication and propaganda."
Obama said that the forum brought together some of the remarkable leaders, top thinkers, and practitioners in the field to take a hard look at the trends that placed democratic pluralism on the defense, so that global leaders can start developing the tools that would rebuild a stronger democratic culture and a more durable set of democratic institutions for the future.
Among the leaders present was former Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo who was a panelist in discussion of disinformation and protecting democracy.
Robredo stressed that disinformation has already evolved.
"It is not just pushing fake news or propaganda but it has evolved to the point that a separate public sphere has already been created such that it seems like there are two different separate almost incompatible information ecosystems that already destroyed common baseline of facts, which is very essential for discourse, for discussions, for accountability in the democracy," she said.
The former presidential candidate admitted that although late in the game, bringing her campaign outside of social media made some breakthroughs in fighting disinformation.
"We called it Tao sa Tao, Puso sa Puso. It means person to person, heart to heart so it was encouraging our supporters to go out of social media, try to talk to as many people who do not share your values, do not share your beliefs, and try to discuss in a very calm manner," Robredo said.
"We have made a lot of breakthroughs but as I've said, time was too short and our campaign now is to continue those conversations."
Robredo added that to unmask the disinformation operations in the Philippines through groundbreaking research and learn from these lessons is just one way to protect and defend democracy and even move forward with a stronger one.