Uzra Zeya

Uzra Zeya

The Biden administration is getting ready to convene a long-announced Summit for Democracy, a first-of-its kind bringing together government partners, civil society, and the private sector to "work in common cause to support democratic renewal around the world," as the administration officials put it.

"Through this process we aim to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront challenges to democracy, and address threats to our common values at home and abroad," Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, told reporters on Wednesday, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.

As a first step, Biden will welcome world leaders and other stakeholders to a virtual summit on December 9 and 10. This forum will allow leaders to discuss current challenges to democracy, identify opportunities for democratic renewal, and announce meaningful commitments, reforms, and initiatives. Following the summit there will be a period of consultation, coordination, action, and delivery of results. 

"After this Year of Action, the President will welcome world leaders, civil society, and other stakeholders to an in-person summit in approximately one year’s time, public health conditions permitting," - Zeya said.

Washington is inviting summit participants to make and fulfill concrete commitments that align with each of the summit’s 3 pillars:

1. defending against authoritarianism;

2. fighting corruption;

3. advancing respect for human rights domestically and internationally.

"No democracy is perfect, including our own in the United States. The U.S. Government views the summit as an opportunity to listen, learn, speak, and act together about the challenges facing democracy at home and abroad." - Zeya said.

"What sets us apart from authoritarian nations is that we deal with our struggles transparently. We don’t ignore our shortcomings or try to sweep them under the rug.

The United States seeks to lead with our values and by the power of our example," she added.

Some rights advocates are questioning whether the virtual event can push the invitees to take meaningful action.

Per Uzra Zeya, over the course of the 2022 Year of Action, participants, including the U.S. "are expected to implement the commitments that they make."

"We’ll seek opportunities to take stock of our progress over the course of 2022, including for civil society monitoring. Activists, advocates, and other members of civil society are essential to transparent, equitable, and responsive governance. Partnering with civil society is critical to achieve summit goals as we turn to local leaders and experts to help ensure that government pledges positively impact citizens," she said.

"Whether it’s the investigative journalist or the anti-corruption activist, civil society plays a key watchdog and advocacy role in our democracies. It’s essential to promoting government accountability, including when it comes to implementing summit commitments. By tapping into the strength of the private sector, countries can also partner on innovative and impactful initiatives to advance the core themes of the summit," she explained.

A tentative invite list reported by the U.S. media shows that the event will bring together not only mature democracies, but also countries where activists say democracy is under threat.

When asked if the invitees list has been finalized, or if there is still time for countries such as Azerbaijan to get into the list, Zeya told TURAN's Washington correspondent that the U.S. is inviting "a regionally diverse set of well-established and emerging democracies, large and small, whose progress and commitments we think will add to our overall and I believe our shared aspiration for democratic renewal around the world, further anchoring a more just and peaceful world."

When it comes to engaging governments, she said, "our democracy and human rights agenda is not limited simply to this very large undertaking of the Summit for Democracy."

"We are committed to advancing these values in established fora such as the OSCE, certainly in other regional contexts, the Organization for American States, the Human Rights Council, of course, which we look forward to rejoining, and we’re very heartened by the overwhelming international support for our candidacy.  So I think there are many opportunities for us across the multilateral sphere for us to partner with governments across the world in a diverse range of regions to advance this agenda forward in a meaningful way."

Alex Raufoglu

Washington D.C.


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