Solutions for a Changing World

Achilles Tsaltas, Vice President International Conferences, The New York Times, talks to GTF about leadership, trust and the upcoming Athens Democracy Forum, to take place on September 13-17, 2017.

Q: What is the story behind the Athens Democracy Forum (ADF)?

A: The Forum aspires to become a modern-day version of the public squares in Ancient Greece, where members of society would gather and debate important civil matters of the day. The New York Times brings together an impressive array of experts to identify and respond to the important questions surrounding liberal democratic rule, its evolution and new models as well as the opportunities presented by the transformational forces of globalization and technology.

We convene this Forum in cooperation with the United Nations as their premier global event commemorating the International Day of Democracy (September 15) and we will be sending to the UN recommendations from our speakers and delegates on two of the Global Goals (SDGs) Inequality and Climate Action. 

Q: What are the biggest challenges in our democracies that ADF is looking to tackle?

A: Hosted by NYT columnist Roger Cohen, and under the auspices of the United Nations and H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, the fifth annual Athens Democracy Forum (Sept. 13-17) will explore the pressing challenges facing democracies specifically focusing on political discourse in the post-truth era; the relevance and need to reform multilateral institutions; economic growth as a driver for democratic development; the future of polling and elections; as well as the role of youth in the democratic process and civic engagement, among other topics.

Q: It seems that trust and confidence are waning in our societies and its thought leaders. What is your view?

A: After all the events over the past year, the question to ask is whether we, both the demos and kratos, need to be looking for a new model of democracy in the effort to restore that lost trust and confidence.

We need to be questioning the universality of democracy and whether the Western template of democracy has run its course, given the challenges of globalization and opportunities technology poses.One of the things we will be looking into is the concept of deliberative democracy and how technology, inspired by the Ancient Agora, can bridge the gap between the demos and the kratos. This is why we will be adopting the concept of deliberation at our Global Goals Interactive Lunch during the Athens Democracy Forum.

Q: What is the focus of this year’s ADF? What should attendees expect?

A: Our theme is ‘’Solutions for a Changing World’’ so our international delegates can expect some interactive sessions and action based debates. We will convene a ‘’Talk with The Times’’ session whereby we will have a lineup of all our journalists on stage and delegates will have the opportunity to ask questions (in a ‘’press conference’’ style format on topics chosen by the delegates.

We are also collaborating with the Global Liberal Arts Alliance who are sending 25 students from around the world tasked to record conversations of speakers and delegates and determine actions presented in a white paper/action plan that will be produced shortly after the conference to all delegates and other institutions. These are just some of the highlights in addition to the panels and plenary programme.  

Q: What are the most important learnings in leadership as demonstrated through ADF during the latest years?

A: Three main challenges leaders face in today’s globalized and digital world are:

1. the growing inequality in our world (both income and social);

2. technology and the fact that its pace of change is much faster than what our institutions can cope with;

3. the polarization of society manifested by the rise of political parties of the extreme left and right on the one hand and extremist interpretations of various ideologies. 

These are the type of issues that we deal with in the Athens Democracy Forum. 

Q: Anything else you may wish to add?

A: At a time when the world and Democracy are confronted with numerous crises and challenges, we need to turn to a North Star. Athens and its Ancient Agora provide the perfect historical background and setting in a way that it can act as this North Star whereby we can reorient ourselves when Democracy appears in peril. Greece is not only the cradle of democracy but also a nation that in recent years has learned a lot about navigating through the perils of economic and social crises.  The world can also learn from this experience and this is why the International New York Times chose Athens to convene its Democracy Forum.


Coinciding with the U.N International Day of Democracy on September 13-17, Athens Democracy Forum will include pivotal debates and discussions with influential global leaders who will share insights, outlooks, and solutions for the next chapters of our history. As a part of the Global Thinkers Forum’s partnership with the ADF, we offer you an exclusive rate of US$995, saving over 40% on the standard rate.

To register for this exclusive rate click here. Please note, that the places are limited, so we encourage you to reserve your place as soon as possible. Should you have any questions, please call +44 207 061 3543 or email registration@athensdemocracyforum.com.

Achilles Tsaltas

Vice President International Conferences, The New York Times

With more than 26 years of experience in the media, Achilles Tsaltas is currently the Vice President of The New York Times' successful International Conferences division based in London.

Constantly on a plane visiting potential partners, clients, and sponsors, Achilles oversees all conferences outside the Americas and primarily focuses on conference sponsorship and business development, harnessing the full power of the newspaper's global operations and platforms.

Achilles is a proven and established industry leader, responsible for creating and managing strategic partnerships with some of the world's most important media and corporations.

Born in Australia of Greek origin, Achilles started his media career in 1989 when he joined News Corporation at the advertising department of The Australian newspaper.

During his tenure, he launched the business magazine, Business Asia, and relaunched the newspaper's highly respected The Australian Magazine, managing the advertising and commercial side of the operation.

In 1999, Achilles moved to Hong Kong to join the International Herald Tribune as its executive director (business development) in Asia. A year later he was promoted to the role of deputy managing director, successfully launching print sites and four publishing partnerships for the IHT.

In 2004, he moved to Paris as the worldwide circulation director, becoming a member of the IHT's senior management team. Two years later he was appointed vice president, circulation and development, and a member of the paper's executive committee. In 2012 he was again promoted to the role of senior vice president in charge of conferences, innovation, development, and partnerships.

He has a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Sydney and a Master of Arts (Sociology) degree from the University of New South Wales.

Published: 21/08/2017