Budapest Forum

(16.09.2021 – 17.09.2021)

Building Sustainable Democracies



The past decade witnessed the emergence of several high-profile international events in the CEE region. The upcoming Budapest Forum is similar in aspiration to its regional counterparts, with its first edition focusing on the role of cities and local initiatives in building livable and sustainable democracies. Within this context, the Budapest Forum will also serve as a hub for the Pact of Free Cities city network, bringing together mayors and civic leaders from around Europe and beyond. Ideally, participants will leave the conference not only inspired and eager to create positive change in their respective fields, but also as parts of a new and vibrant network connecting prominent local stakeholders and experts across disciplines.

By convening not only political and public officials, mayors, activists and community organizers, but also business and industry leaders, the Forum will focus on inclusive governance and grassroots engagement regarding:

  • Democratic sustainability: Rebuilding and strengthening democracy in the age of populism and polarization from the bottom-up
  • Social and economic sustainability: Tackling inequalities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Environmental sustainability: Mainstreaming a bold green policy agenda
  • Technological sustainability: Developing policy responses to rapid technological change and large-scale challenges to public healthcare systems

Rather than projecting doomsday scenarios about democracy’s decline and tech-dystopia, the conference will consider solutions to some of today’s greatest challenges. This we intend to ensure by bringing together panelists and speakers from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, galvanizing debate and showcasing novel policy approaches.

The Forum will eschew the traditional, linear logic, and will instead have a flexible setting with a combination of plenary speeches, roundtables, public events, side-events, and an awards ceremony of the Budapest Prize for Sustainable Democracy.


The inaugural Budapest Forum – Building Sustainable Democracies will offer decision-makers and the broader public new perspectives on pressing challenges. While highlighting each year a general topic that also reflects on the location of the Forum, our intention is to explore a range of overlapping issues in current global policy discussions. Potential topics for future editions include green leadership and green revolution technology; innovation, digitalization and AI; media freedom in the post-truth era; and the future of urban centers in a changing world economy. In an effort to support the next generation of CEE changemakers, young intellectuals and university students from the region will be a key target group of our community-building.

The Pact of Free Cities is an open and progressive city alliance launched in December 2019 by the mayors of Budapest, Prague, Bratislava and Warsaw. Since its launch, the alliance has been a strong advocate for directly accessible EU-funding for local governments, and has reached out to other like-minded mayors to enhance a successful cooperation.