Biden’s Democracy Summit: Much Ado About Nothing

Biden's Democracy Summit: Much Ado About Nothing

It is well known that democracy goes through bad times on a planetary scale. Not only because of its own shortcomings, but also because of the attacks it receives both from within by those who bet on illiberal models, and by the counterexamples offered by autocratic powers such as Russia and China. These are presented as increasingly attractive alternatives to some.

So the idea of ​​a democracy summit like the one Joe Biden has organized on December 9-10 might seem very convenient. The downside is that nothing seems to indicate that the meeting will change current trends.


Regarding the steps taken to reach the list of the 110 countries invited to this first virtual meeting (plus some representatives of civil society and the private sector), the first thing that is shocking is to see the United States as host. It is true that there is no perfect democracy and that there is no international body that can claim to represent the world’s democracies, but the situation in the United States does not seem the most appropriate to present itself as the model to imitate.

It is enough to remember the painful spectacle of last January 6, with the assault on Congress, to conclude that American democracy is not at its best. So much so that in his latest report on the situation of democracy in the world, The Economist does not include it as one of the 23 full democracies (among which, by the way, Spain appears), but as one of the 52 “defective democracies”, accompanying countries such as Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

In addition, the initiatives being taken by the largest representatives of the trumpism undemocratic in some federal states to make voting even more difficult, while substantial reforms are pending to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for Afro-American and Hispanic minorities and to curb the powerful influx of money into politics, do not augur better times for short term.

It is also questionable, as much as its organizers have tried at the last minute to adopt a falsely modest position, the power that Washington has granted itself to issue certificates of democracy, discriminating between those who were going to participate in the event and those who were inevitably singled out. as undesirable. Above all, because among those finally elected there are cases as notoriously unsustainable as Angola, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Serbia or Zambia.

It could be more appropriate to bet on incorporating the countries with the best democratic pedigree into the process in order to reinforce the model that, with a notable difference over any other, can provide more well-being and security, without undermining the framework of rights and freedoms that define everyone. open society.

But that would have left out others whom, for geostrategic and geoeconomic reasons, the US is courting in an attempt to slow down the passage to Moscow and Beijing. The selection is, in any case, so inconsistent that this has not prevented other allies such as Egypt or Turkey from being excluded, along with habitual outlaws such as Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The exclusion of Hungary is equally striking, not because its antidemocratic tendency is not well visible, but because, being the only country in the European Union not invited, it has offered Budapest the opportunity to annul the Union itself in said forum, thus diminishing the role of the ally with whom it shares the most values ​​and interests.

Nor could anyone be surprised by the criticism that Moscow and Beijing have jointly raised for what they have interpreted as an act typical of the Cold War. These are, after all, two actors who do not hide their intention to question the alleged US leadership, openly presenting themselves as functional alternatives to the model proposed by Washington. Even China went further on the 5th with the publication by the State Council of the document ‘China: democracy that works’, a very visible sign of its lack of complexes and its ambition.

Regarding the results obtained, the balance pales in any of the three proposed objectives: defense against authoritarianism, promotion of human rights and fight against corruption. Beyond the string of well-intentioned speeches of rigor there is nothing minimally relevant that fuels optimism.

Meanwhile, rather than a strengthening of democratic systems, what we are witnessing is a strengthening of illiberal drifts. If in other times rebellion and alternative proposals sought to deepen democracy, today it seems that authoritarian positions are the ones that achieve greater receptivity on the part of societies that rebel against an unequal globalization that deepens their malaise and insecurity.



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