Democracy is more than the preferred political system of humanists. "Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance" are the very first words of Humanist International's Minimum Statement. 

Democracy is one of the core values of humanism. 

When the international humanist movement last came together for a world congress, in Oxford in 2014, there were dark clouds on the horizon of democracy. 

Since then, a perfect storm of threats has come upon us: Populism, fake news, identitarian nationalism and authoritarian, even extremist, religious and political movements – and governments. 

Even at the best of times, democracy is a project that needs work and maintenance. If the years since 2014 has taught us anything, it is that we must fight for democracy to preserve it. 

And it isn't just a question of elections. 

Democracy is the checks and balances that safeguard the system itself. 

And it's the rights and interests of minorities. 

It is a well-functioning civil society, where everyone's interests are visible through representative organizations. 

Democracy is a will to negotiate and compromise, and an ability to separate between person and opinion. 

It is the ability to coexist, even when we disagree with each other, in a fellowship of disagreement. 

But it is also the ability to recognize that some things are beyond debate. That some values are so fundamental that the very essence of democracy is at stake. 

Democracy is, as a humanist value, part of a system of values, like rationality, equality, accountability, and rule of law. And democracy is at its best when these values co-exist and strengthen each other. 

The theme of this congress is "Building Better Democracies Through Humanist Values". We will look at what constitutes a well-functioning democracy, and what threatens it. 

But first and foremost, we will focus on how humanist values can contribute to the building of strong and well-functioning democracies.