A Tactical Move
US President Joe Biden wrapped the two day a virtual 'Summit for Democracy' that convened leaders from over 100 countries spanning the world's regions including PM Modi, journalists and activists to discuss the decline of global democracy - and announced commitments for renewing democracy domestically and internationally. But each participant faces its own democratic challenges, including as Biden notes, the US. Pakistan skipped the Summit and China has not been invited to attend the Summit.
The Summit covered topics like country countering corruption, protecting human rights and strengthening democracy. The covid-19 pandemic and recovery process were also discussed. The Summit focuses on challenges and opportunities facing democracy and will provide a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad. The purpose of the gathering was not to assert that any of the participant countries were perfect democracies,Mr. Biden said, but "to lock arms and reaffirm our shared commitment to make our democracy better" and to share ideas and make "concrete commitments" on combating authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting human rights - the three theme of the Summit.
Modi emphasized the need for democratic countries to deliver on values enshrined in their constitutions. He also outlined sensitivity, accountability, participation and reform orientation as four pillars of Indian democratic governance. He stressed that principles of democracy should also guide global governance; and that given technology's ability to impact democracy privately or negatively, technology companies should contribute to preserving open and democratic societies.
The emphasis on democracy is also a way to directly put pressure on traditional foe Russia and China, the US's latest rival. The Biden administration's move to invite Taiwan and Nathan Law, an activist from Hong Kong, didn't go well with China. China accused the US of "weaponizing" democracy and attacked the Biden administration's initiative of the alliance for the Future of the internet, saying it is aimed at maintaining America's cyber hegemony.
The summit could have been a way for the US to reclaim trust of their allies after the debacle in Afghanistan. However, the US has often allied with repressive regimes around the world to further their own interests. US should have invited China to his democracy Summit for some tips on how to run a country that serve its people. Instead, Biden is trying to blame China and other countries that weren't invited while ignoring the root causes of America's spectacular dysfunction. Bide spoke about farming commities that would reconvene in a year and throwing money at initive to help other countries to strengthen their democracies.
In these challenging times, it remains to be seen if the US will stick to its commitment for human rights and democracy. More broadly, in the coming year, the Biden administration will need to shift from a focus on the tactics of summit planning to a strategy of global democracy reinforcement. Holding a Summit is not an end goal in itself - but supporters of democracy everywhere hope that it succeeds in jump-starting progress toward broader democratic renewal.