Summit for Democracy: Progress for the future

President Biden closed the two-day Summit for Democracy by highlighting countries’ renewed commitment to protect human rights, combat corruption and ensure fair elections.

“The U.S. is committed to strengthening democracy at home and to working with parties around the globe to prove that democracies can deliver for people on issues that matter to them,” Biden said December 10.

Leaders from government, civil society and the business community met virtually during the December 9–10 summit to discuss ways to protect and renew democracy. The result: several new initiatives that will help future generations live in a democratic society. Among them:

  • Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic agreed to form an alliance to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the region and cooperate on transparency, human rights and economic development.
  • Australia, Denmark and Norway signed a joint statement of intent to work with the United States toward establishing a voluntary written code of conduct through which like-minded states could pledge to use export control tools to prevent the proliferation of software and other technologies used to enable serious human rights abuses.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz listens to opening remarks from President Biden at the virtual Summit for Democracy, in Berlin, on December 9. (© Michele Tantussi/AP Images)

The U.S. plans to commit $424 million, subject to congressional approval, to support five democracy-bolstering initiatives. This Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal focuses on independent media, anti-corruption, democratic reform, open technology and fair elections.

As part of that effort, the U.S. Agency for International Development will launch the Partnership for Democracy to afford governments committed to democratic reform assistance in the health, energy and business sectors. Another agency program, Powered by the People, will assist mass movements, often led by women and young people, in building momentum for positive change.



USAID Administrator Samantha Power said the U.S. and allied democracies will draft a global charter for digital public goods, which encourages companies to develop open-source technology that respects human rights.

Ending the COVID-19 crisis remains the world’s most urgent challenge, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said democracies are uniquely suited to lead the fight. He hosted a discussion December 9 that addressed rebuilding efforts after COVID-19.

Secretary of State Blinken participates in the virtual Summit for Democracy on December 9. (© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“Democracies at their best are resilient, creative, capable of overcoming complex challenges and adapting quickly when it’s called for, and, most of all, deeply committed to responding to people’s needs, especially in times of crisis,” Blinken said.

He emphasized that the elements needed to combat COVID-19 are basic tools of democracy, citing transparency, sharing data, taking accountability, acknowledging mistakes, using public resources wisely and being honest with citizens.

Additionally, Blinken announced the appointment of a coordinator on global anti-corruption, who will work with allies to fight for increased transparency and accountability. A kleptocracy fund will also reward individuals who provide information about where corrupt foreign officials are hiding money in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington (© Patrick Semansky/AP Images)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said during the summit that her department is building a database to identify the owners of shell companies, which are often funded by corrupt actors.

The U.S. also plans real estate regulations to prevent individuals from hiding illicit funds in private property.

“Many corrupt actors can hide their money in Miami or Central Park skyscrapers the same way they do in shell companies,” Yellen said December 9. “Sometimes the only thing these luxury properties are home to are ill-gotten gains.”

A second Summit for Democracy will convene in approximately one year. Participants will discuss the progress made since the first summit.

“The future will belong to those who embrace human dignity, not those who trample on it,” Biden said.

“Today, hope and history lie in our hands. So let’s raise up our ambitions and rise up to meet the challenges together.”