The United States closed its second democracy summit on March 30th. The Biden administration extended invitations to 120 global leaders for a two-day Summit for Democracy in Washington. The summit was co-hosted by the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia.
Promising US$690 million in funding to bolster democracy programs around the world, in his opening remarks President Joe Biden offered an optimistic outlook on the health of democracy worldwide, declaring that leaders are “turning the tide” in stemming a years-long backslide of democratic institutions. Biden pledged an “enduring commitment to boost democracy globally,” while he sought to assure participants that democratic institutions work. The summit marked an important moment in the ongoing struggle to defend and promote democracy, and its impact is likely to be felt for years to come. In his opening remarks, President Biden said, “Today, we can say, with pride, democracies of the world are getting stronger, not weaker,” Biden said. “Autocracies of the world are getting weaker, not stronger. That’s a direct result of all of us.”
Biden said the U.S. will spend $690 million bolstering democracy programs supporting everything from free and independent media to free and fair elections around the world. He also wanted to use the summit to foster discussion about the use of technology to “advance democratic governance” and ensure such technology is “not used to undermine it.”
The gathering was also notable for the release of the Summit for Democracy Declaration, a joint statement signed by participating countries pledging to defend and promote democracy,
Protect human rights, and fight corruption. The declaration emphasizes the importance of empowering civil society and protecting free and independent media.
The Declaration also outlines a number of specific actions that countries can take to promote democracy and protect human rights. These include supporting free and fair elections, protecting the rights of marginalized groups, and strengthening democratic institutions.
The Declaration has been widely praised by human rights advocates and democracy activists, who see it as a critical step towards promoting democracy and human rights around the world. Many have also applauded President Biden for his leadership on this issue, particularly given the challenges facing democracies today.
The U.S. also signed a joint statement with nine other countries to deepen international cooperation on countering the proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware. Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom signedon the agreement.
Bangladesh was not invited to the Summit for the second time, while its South Asian neighbors India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan — made it to the list this year. The exclusion of Bangladesh highlights the ongoing challenges facing democracies today, particularly in countries where human rights are under threat, voting rights are fragile and freedom of expression are controlled.
Pakistan decided to skip the three-day democracy summit after intense in-house deliberations due to concerns related to China. Islamabad skipped the first US democracy summit in December 2021.
Xu Xueyuan, the charge d’affaires of China’s embassy in Washington, called the summit “at odds with the spirit of democracy.”
“The U.S. draws an ideological line between countries, and through its narrative of ‘democracy versus authoritarianism,’ it has formed factions and caused divisions in the international community,” she said.
Overall, the second Democracy Summit served as an important reminder of the ongoing struggle to defend and promote democracy in a world where authoritarianism and oppression continue to threaten freedom and human rights. President Biden’s leadership on this issue is particularly important, given the challenges facing democracies today.
The second Democracy Summit has come to a close, but its impact is likely to be felt for years to come. The Summit for Democracy Declaration is an important step towards promoting democracy and protecting human rights, and President Biden’s leadership on this issue is crucial in the ongoing fight for freedom and democracy.