UNDER SECRETARY ZEYA: Hello, I’m Uzra Zeya, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. I would like to thank Keseb and the Johns Hopkins SNF Agora Institute for inviting me to address the first Global Democracy Champions Summit. The work Keseb and the SNF Agora Institute are doing to engage activists, academics, journalists, and policymakers, encouraging them to share stories, ideas, and insights is truly important. Together, you are working to forge a global network of leaders committed to building inclusive democracy, and I commend you for that.
Today, I’d like to share my vision for the Summit for Democracy Year of Action and discuss how civil society organizations can engage and support it. President Biden conceived of the Summit for Democracy to bring together governments, civil society, and the private sector to address threats faced by democracies — large and small, emerging and established — through collective action.
Our three Summit pillars are: Defending against authoritarianism, addressing and fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights. At the first Summit, held in December 2021, participants made a variety of commitments to advance and promote democracy, from judicial reforms to increased foreign assistance. Those commitments will take place throughout the Year of Action. Participants also pledged to attend a second Summit, where we will collectively review our progress in these core areas.
Throughout this Year of Action, the United States is rallying Summit participants and leaders around the world to fulfill their commitments, craft an inclusive Summit Two agenda, and institutionalize Summit themes into existing and new platforms so our efforts will continue well beyond the second gathering.
Several participating governments have already made concrete achievements on their Summit commitments.
For example, Kosovo fulfilled its pledge to create a Democracy and Human Rights Council, Estonia hosted the Global Conference on Media Freedom, and Norway, along with Ghana, convened the Global Disability Forum.
As the United States government pursues its own commitments, we are using the 2022 Year of Action to engage civil society through Democracy Cohorts – multistakeholder groups organized around topics, like workers’ rights and financial transparency. Democracy cohorts serve as a platform for governments, civil society, and the private sector to share insights and recommendations on Summit commitments.
This multistakeholder approach will help guide fulfillment of our pledges and ensure an inclusive approach to Summit lines of action. We’re also holding civil society consultations on Summit themes to further engage non-government actors, feeding their input into the Year of Action and Summit Two planning.
What you all are doing at the Democracy Champions Summit is what the Year of Action is all about.
As civil society leaders come together with governments, the private sector, NGOs, and other groups to discuss actionable solutions to disinformation and other threats to democracies – or exchange ideas on entrepreneurship as a vehicle for building inclusive democracies – you’re ensuring multigroup collaboration, the very cornerstone of strong democracies. Concerned global citizens are taking these issues on around the world, and you’re leading the charge.
I encourage you to continue building forums to exchange ideas on these topics – and to engage your governments. They cannot, and should not, do this work on their own.
As you continue to bring thought leaders together to exchange ideas, lend expertise, and put out your own call to action on what we can do to pursue democratic renewal, I want to thank you for your efforts. Thank you for the work you’re doing to improve civic engagement and strengthen democracies around the world. The Global Democracy Champions Summit is not just central to the Year of Action, but to democracy itself. The United States and governments around the world couldn’t take on these efforts without you.