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The Summit for Democracy 

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Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.
We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
February 2021

Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made clear that revitalizing democracy in the United States and around the world is essential to delivering for the American people and meeting the unprecedented challenges of our time. As President Biden has said, defending America’s democratic values is inseparable from advancing our national interest.

On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy, which will bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.

Woman in a pink headscarf holding up her index finger with ink on it.Zainab shows her inked finger after voting for the first time in May 2018 at the Harsham camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Erbil, Iraq.
(Photo by: Jim Huylebroek for Creative Associates International, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Challenge to Democracies

Democracy and human rights are under threat around the world. Democracies — whether in transition or established for decades — are confronting serious challenges from within and outside of their borders. Public distrust and the failure of governments to deliver equitable and sustainable economic and political progress has fueled political polarization and the rise of leaders who are undermining democratic norms and institutions. Across the globe, weak state capacity, tenuous rule of law, high inequality, and corruption continue to erode democracy. At the same time, authoritarian leaders are reaching across borders to undermine democracies – from targeting journalists and human rights defenders to meddling in elections all while claiming their model is better at delivering for people. Hostile actors exacerbate these trends by increasingly manipulating digital information and spreading disinformation to weaken democratic cohesion.

As President Biden has said, we have to prove democracy still works and can improve people’s lives in tangible ways. To do that, democracies have to come together — to rejuvenate and improve our open, rights-respecting societies from within; to stand together in defending against threats from autocracies; and to show we can address the most pressing crises of our time. The Summit will provide an opportunity to reflect, listen, and learn, as well as to plan and act, so that we can build a shared foundation for global democratic renewal.

Students taking a selfie as they sit in a large room with rows of seats.Ukrainian school students participate in a June 2019 opening ceremony of a USAID-supported Parliamentary Education Center.
(Photo by: Press Service of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Andrii Nesterenko, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The December 2021 Summit

On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden will host a virtual summit for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector. The summit will focus on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and will provide a platform for leaders to make both individual and collective commitments to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.

For the United States, the summit will offer an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of actors whose support and commitment is critical for global democratic renewal. It will also showcase one of democracy’s unique strengths: the ability to acknowledge its weaknesses and imperfections and confront them openly and transparently, so that we may, as the United States Constitution puts it, “form a more perfect union.”

In advance of the first summit, we are consulting with experts from government, multilateral organizations, philanthropies, civil society, and the private sector to solicit bold, practicable ideas around three key themes:

  1. Defending against authoritarianism
  2. Addressing and fighting corruption
  3. Advancing respect for human rights

As the program for the Summit takes shape, additional information will be made available on this page.

Four people including two children speaking into microphones around a table.Young people in San Vicente de Caguán, Colombia speak to a local radio program about how youth are preserving historical memory through arts and communications. (Photo by: Katherine Ko, ACDI/VOCA, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

After the December Summit: Next Steps

The December 2021 Summit will kick off a year of action by participants to make democracies more responsive and resilient, and to build a broader community of partners committed to global democratic renewal.

By delivering on the commitments made at the Summit, we aim to show how democracies can deliver on the issues that matter most to people: strengthening accountable governance, expanding economic opportunities, protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and enabling lives of dignity. We also will show how open, rights-respecting societies can work together to effectively tackle the great challenges of our time, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and growing inequality.

Approximately one year after the December 2021 Summit, President Biden will host a second summit to take stock of the progress made and forge a common path ahead. If public health conditions permit, this meeting will be convened in-person.

Woman in wheelchair speaking into a microphone, with various other people sitting in room looking onSofi Gedi, head of Wajir Human Rights Watch in Kenya, launches a county action plan on countering violent extremism.
(Photo by: Hank Nelson, USAID, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

U.S. Department of State

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