Biden to convene ‘summit for democracy’ with world leaders in December

Following his ‘America is back’ mantra, president’s vision of global event aims to combat autocracies and promote human rights

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 11 August 2021 18:22 BST
Biden lambasts Trump’s ‘big lie’ in impassioned defence of voting rights

Joe Biden will bring together a group of world leaders for a virtual summit to discuss ways to combat authoritarianism and corruption while lifting up human rights, a conference that follows the president’s repeated campaign pledge to promote American democracy and repair relationships with partners and allies undermined by his predecessor.

The “Summit for Democracy” will convene heads of state and representatives from “civil society, philanthropy, and the private sector” for a two-day virtual event in December to be followed by an in-person conference in 2022, according to the White House.

Both events serve “as an opportunity for world leaders to listen to one another and to their citizens, share successes, drive international collaboration, and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy so as to collectively strengthen the foundation for democratic renewal”, the White House said in a statement on 11 August.

The president envisioned a similar event throughout his campaign, well before Donald Trump’s chaotic response to the Covid-19 crisis and ongoing attempts to reject millions of Americans’ votes, culminating in a violent assault on the US Capitol on 6 January.

He first proposed such an event to mark his administration’s first year in office, highlighting his argument that American democracy and democracies abroad provide better protections than autocratic regimes.

In his most significant remarks yet on the state of threats to voting rights, the president repeatedly stressed that democracies and world leaders abroad have paid close attention to his administration’s response to Republican threats to the right to vote, and how lawmakers and federal law enforcement would hold accountable those responsible for the failed insurrection and persistent lies that propelled the riot.

“The world is wondering,” he said in remarks from Philadelphia last month. “What is America gonna do?”

In his first overseas trip since taking office, the president – while echoing his “America is back” catchphrase – rallied NATO leaders to confront China, mentioned at least 10 times in the group’s closing communique, and cast the US in an existential battle to defend democracy and human rights from the world’s autocracies.

The US Department of State’s description of the summit warns that governments’ failures to advance sustainable economic and political progress has fueled corruption and polarisation, exploited by “hostile actors” in cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

“Across the globe, weak state capacity, tenuous rule of law, high inequality, and corruption continue to erode democracy,” according to the State Department. “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.”

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,” according to the State Department.

Invitations are expected to be sent out in the coming weeks, though a guest list has not been made public.

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