Looking back on PDF Poland 2015

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Inna Borzylo, executive director of Centre UA, speaking at PDF PCEE in Warsaw, 2015. (Photo credit: John Wonderlich/Sunlight Foundation)

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Personal Democracy Forum Poland-Central Eastern Europe (PDF PCEE) conference hosted by ePaństwo Foundation in Warsaw. The event highlighted the reform work being done to support accountability in the region, which is both crucial and inspiring. PDF Poland is an extension of the broader Personal Democracy Forum movement, as created and championed by Andrew Rasiej, whose work on PDF has created an essential network for likeminded reformers around the globe.

Meeting with new and old friends provided a chance to reflect on how much impact the original PDF has had since its first incarnation in 2004, with events from Santiago to Barcelona, and the impact the gatherings often have on their attendees. The event also highlighted ePaństwo Foundation’s role as both a national and regional leader, showcasing innovations from throughout Central and Eastern Europe in fields ranging from legislative transparency (Zašto ne?, ePaństwo), investigative journalism (Fair-Play Alliance, Meydan TV) and privacy (Panoptykon Foundation).

The nature of democratic reform work in the region also underscores a key aspect of modern NGO advocacy: National-level NGOs are increasingly involved in struggles and issues that aren’t inherently national-level phenomena. Regional and international networks play an increasingly important role in connecting reform initiatives with best practices, comparative context and the support of like-minded peer organizations.

For this PDF gathering, international solidarity and coordination felt especially relevant in the context of the presenters — whose work is beset by malicious civil society laws aimed at stifling free association, or by the closeness of armed conflict, revolution, financial instability, or deeply systemic corruption. In the context of the current crises, it was especially inspiring to hear Russian and Ukrainian presenters building new systems for accountability and reform.

We’re inspired by the example of our friends throughout the region, and look forward to building our work together. Thanks again to the PDF PCEE organizers and to ePaństwo for another essential gathering.