President Joe Biden announced new funding to support democratic regimes around the world at the Virtual Democracy Summit, though leaders from dozens of participating countries refrained from signing a statement outlining their commitment to democratic principles.
Amid criticism that the current administration has made little headway in promoting human rights and democracy in its foreign policy, Biden announced a planned budget of $690 million to help combat the corruption, supporting free and fair elections and developing technologies that support democratic governments.
“We have turned the tide. As we often say, we are at a turning point in history where the decisions we make today will surely shape the course of our world’s history for decades to come,” Joe Biden said at the second Summit. on democracy.
Although leaders from 120 countries were invited to the summit, the final declaration, which included support for fundamental principles of democracy such as free and fair elections and held Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine, did not was supported by only 73 countries.
Twelve participants dissented from parts of the statement, including India, Israel and the Philippines, which dropped a paragraph supporting accountability for human rights abusers and acknowledging the importance of the International Criminal Court. .
“To address the growing challenges to democracy around the world, we commit to strengthening democratic institutions and processes and to building resilience,” the statement read.
A senior administration official said the statement remains open and other countries can still join.
“As with any joint statement, negotiations can sometimes be tense. In this case, we were dealing with a very large number of governments,” the source said.
In 2021, at the previous summit, Biden announced more than $400 million in democracy promotion funding.
Human rights activists say there is no evidence that the countries that have joined the summit have made progress in improving their democracy, and that there is no formal mechanism that would compel participants to honor the modest commitments made at the previous meeting.
More recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government has attempted to weaken the power of the Israeli judiciary; Mexican authorities attempted to dismantle the election watchdog, and the Indian government disqualified a senior opposition politician. All of these developments have cast a shadow over Biden’s repeated claims that democracies have grown stronger.
Netanyahu, one of 85 world leaders who spoke at Wednesday’s summit, said he was confident a political compromise could be reached on judicial reforms, which he said can be reconciled with civil liberties , even though his opponents accuse him of seeking to limit judicial independence.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for more arms supplies to help defeat Russia. The invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has claimed tens of thousands of lives and reduced some cities to rubble.
“The enemies of democracy must lose,” Zelensky said.
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