After his predecessor Donald Trump’s erosion of democratic standards and the attack on the Capitol, President Joe Biden assumed office promising to support democracy. In his first year in office, he delivered on that promise with the inaugural summit, which aimed to reestablish US leadership.
Biden has chosen co-hosts from each continent this time around, including the presidents of Zambia, Costa Rica, and South Korea as well as the prime minister of The Netherlands, in response to criticism that the first edition focused too much on US introspection.
He has invited 121 leaders in all, eight more than in 2021, for the three-day summit that will take place primarily online.
Threats to democracy are changing from being viewed as an important issue, albeit a somewhat slow-moving threat, to one that is both important and urgent, according to Marti Flacks, director of the human rights initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. This is why the summit is taking place at this time.
Civil society representatives will participate in the meetings to examine a variety of issues that threaten democracy, such as surveillance technologies, which the United States views as an increasing threat as China makes significant technological advancements.
It is crucial that the administration engages bilaterally with other nations and businesses on voluntary activities that can be implemented in the interim, according to Flacks, in the absence of any impending congressional action in that area.
Shunning Thailand, Hungary
President Volodymyr Zelensky will participate in a virtual discussion for peace in Ukraine on Tuesday to kick off the summit.
The message and the venue will differ significantly from the first summit, when Zelensky, a wartime leader dressed in military fatigues, was clean-shaven and donning a dapper black suit.
While keeping his campaign promise to attend the democracy summit, Biden has angered some human rights advocates by softening his past commitments to avoid dictatorial rulers.
In the past year, Biden has traveled to Egypt, which is hosting a climate meeting and is a US partner in regional security, as well as Saudi Arabia, where he acknowledged the role of the monarchy in the oil markets. He has also collaborated more on Ukraine with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
None of those three nations received an invitation to the summit, which is a sly dig at Erdogan in particular since he is up for reelection on May 14 and has been criticized for edging closer to authoritarianism during that time.
Biden is not inviting Hungary, the only country in the European Union where the prime minister, Viktor Orban, has been accused of straying from liberal ideals by repressing the press, demonizing non-European refugees, and praising Moscow. Orban won a fourth term as prime minister last year.
Singapore, whose elections are usually regarded as democratic, but which restricts free assembly and controls media, and Bangladesh, where hundreds have been detained under the Digital Security Act, were among the American allies avoided for the conference.
The State Department declined to talk about the qualifications for admission.
A spokesperson for the State Department stated, “But, we reaffirm that for the summit we strive to be inclusive and representational of a regionally and socioeconomically varied slate of countries.”
“We are not attempting to categorize which nations are democratic and which are not,”
Days after opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was ejected from the legislature—the most recent action taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that has disturbed rights organizations—India, a growing American partner and the greatest democracy in the world, is on the attendance list.
The list also includes Pakistan, India’s neighbor, and archrival, where Imran Khan was deposed as prime minister last year and later charged.
Invite Additional Africans
Five of the nations that were invited after being rejected in 2021 are in Africa. These nations are The Gambia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania, where President Samia Suluhu Hassan has pledged to bring back competitive politics, and the Ivory Coast, where tensions have decreased since the peaceful completion of the 2021 elections.
For the first visit in South America, Biden is inviting Honduras, which received acclaim for its superior handling of the 2021 elections despite ongoing conflict and its recent severing of ties with Taiwan in favor of China.