Democracy Summit: Seize the opportunity at this critical moment

On December 9-10, leaders from around the world will gather alongside civil society organizations and private sector participants for a global Summit for Democracy, an initiative of US President Joe Biden aimed at renewing and revitalizing support for democracy worldwide.

It could not come at a more critical moment. The advent of COVID-19, the increasing pressures of climate change, and a breakdown in trust between governments and their citizens should be forcing every country to re-examine their own democracies and double down on their commitments.

Moving beyond despondency

When we look at the democratic landscape today, it is easy to feel despondent. Whether it is the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the gradual erosion of an independent judiciary in some eastern European counties, or the threat to free speech in Central America, there is little good news.

The annual report by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance found that for a fifth consecutive year, more countries were moving towards authoritarian government.

But despondency will achieve nothing. We need to forge a positive path towards a better future, and leaders must seize the opportunity at this summit to come up with concrete solutions and measurable commitments to protect and advance democracy worldwide.

At NIMD, we are honored to put our name to a statement issued on behalf of 14 global pro-democracy organizations with five specific recommendations laying out how states can show global leadership and solidarity in democracy support.

Committing to genuine solutions

Because solutions exist, and we urge world leaders to listen to the civil society organizations working on the ground both in established and young democracies, and those organizations struggling under authoritarian rule.

We need to ensure we invest in a sustained effort to support the development of genuine democratic actors around the world. We need to strengthen the pillars of society and government that implement checks and balances. This means the independent media and institutions like parliaments, local elected bodies, courts of auditors, and judicial systems.

We must support young politicians and aspiring politicians, as they are the world’s future leaders. Rather than systems of nepotism and elitism that leave the same faces to power, the priority must be supporting the political ambitions of underrepresented groups, so that everyone in the country feels represented by their government, building the legitimacy of the democratic system.

Innovate and Connect

This is why at NIMD, we run targeted democracy education for women, people from rural areas, indigenous groups, ethnic minorities, and people from the LGBTQI+ community. Our democracy school in one of the most volatile regions of Colombia, for example, helps build the skills of young activists so they in turn can pass on that knowledge.

We also find innovative ways to support diverse groups in their political ambitions, recently launching a platform to amplify the campaigns of under-represented groups in the Honduras elections.

Because we must act now to restore people’s faith in democracy, and only through dialogue and consensus respecting the interests of all sectors of society are we going to address the most pressing issues of today. So let us seize this moment, re-commit to the values of inclusivity and democracy, and be bold and brave in defending and promoting the only system that will help guide us all to a better future.