Opinion: Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy creates an opportunity to rethink our current political path

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Sanjay Ruparelia holds the Jarislowski Democracy Chair at Ryerson University,

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During his bid for the presidency of the United States, Joe Biden proposed an assembly of democracies To counter the growing autocratic threats. That initiative has taken place, and their Virtual Summit for Democracy will now take place next week (9th and 10th December). Three major themes orient the agenda: countering authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights. What are its chances of success?

The organizers of the summit were right diagnosis of Lack of many democracies. Rising inequality and political corruption have fueled public mistrust and social polarization. Democratically elected populists, who concentrate executive power in the name of a people defined in ethnic-majority terms, undermine civil liberties, political rights and the rule of law. The authoritarian state – targeting scholars, journalists and activists at home and weaponizing digital technology to sow propaganda abroad – exacerbates these fault lines.


But skeptics have reasons to hold their breath. The guest list includes more than 100 political leaders whose regimes range from social democracy to competitive autocracy. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have not been invited. Neither are Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Viktor Orban, who rule Turkey and Hungary with an autocratic hold, respectively. Yet the rise of the executive in India under the leadership of Narendra Modi, whose Hindu Nationalist Party jailed social worker, censored media outlet And many draw comparisons with Mr. Erdogan, inciting increasing violence against religious minorities. The systematic attacks on judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland closely resemble developments in Hungary. Many other attendees, from Brazil and Israel to the Philippines, have seen a serious backlash over the past decade. Geo-strategic imperatives override democratic credentials.

Yet inherent in this political agreement is a necessary acceptance. As Mr Biden said last year“No democracy is perfect and no democracy is ever final. Every profit made, every obstacle broken, it is the result of determination, tireless work.” The United States, which survived a partisan rebellion to reverse a presidential election, is Exhibit A. The Republican Party continues to suppress voting rights, court white supremacists and electoral rules. Indeed, there was a degree of retreat between the US and its allies. double the rate of other regimes in the last decade, Strict admission requirements are hard to enforce if you can’t pass them yourself.

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The second concern is the action plan for the summit. Heads of State to “listen to each other and their citizens, share successes, drive international cooperation, and” Speak honestly about the challenges facing democracyTo enhance commitments, each leader must announce steps to be taken domestically and internationally to advance these goals. A follow-up summit, scheduled for December 2022, will take stock. Mutual Accountability Key Mechanisms Is.

The incentive for leaders to make grand statements but offer the low-hanging fruit will be strong. Civil society organizations, increasingly targeted in many regimes, are key actors in organizing citizens and holding governments accountable. Yet they are marginalized from the main proceedings, Public inquiry will be important after the summit.

Nonetheless, the focus is on mutual learning. We need to explore democratic innovations about citizen participation, political representation and government accountability and supporting critical independent media. principle of “Inside-Out Diplomacy” Asking countries to chair working groups where they enjoy a global reputation for best practice is good to follow in an unstable multipolar world. The traditional notion of promoting democracy in the past, teaching the emerging democracies to govern themselves, was always arrogant. Western support for autocratic leaders and military coups during the Cold War rejected such claims. The Bush Administration’s “Independence Agenda” After 9/11 – which Mr. Biden endorsed – there was war, destruction and state collapse in the Middle East. It is impossible to maintain such arrogance today.

Finally, promoting respect for human rights and combating authoritarian corruption are important imperatives. Coordinating targeted sanctions against authoritarian regimes that undermine electoral integrity, steal public money and infringe on rights are important steps. But we must remove our complicity. Shell companies, financial secrecy practices and investment opportunities in many Western democracies enable such activities, And protecting human rights requires a more comprehensive concept. Economic austerity and rising inequality fueled social polarization and populist backlash over the past decade.

Our democracies need to reinvest in health, education and job training, and expand social security and labor rights. Progressive taxation and corporate governance reforms can reduce wealth inequalities and enhance productive competition. And we must address the structural inequalities of the global political economy. Severe inequalities in access to income support measures and vaccines during the pandemic reflect deep inequalities that stifle growth prospects in the South, which has seen a Huge increase in absolute poverty And public debt, Democracies struggle to maintain their legitimacy when they cannot ensure human dignity for their citizens.

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