The third Summit for Democracy

The third Summit for Democracy is scheduled to take place in March 2024 in Seoul, in the Republic of Korea. The theme will be “Democracy for Future Generations.” The three-day summit will feature a range of activities, including a Cohorts, Civil Society and Youth Engagement Day. What do ICDR members Donatienne Ruy and Niranjan Sahoo expect from this summit?

Donatienne Ruy (Director, Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), USA): As a Europeanist, I looked at the inception of the Summit for Democracy with both excitement and trepidation. The contrast between its lofty goals and the real state of democracy across the world (and in Europe in particular) had me wondering how much it could accomplish. We are currently looking at an election in Europe that is likely to bring many more far-right parties into the European Parliament, many of them fueled by young, disillusioned voters. Focusing on rising generations is a way to ensure a long-term base of support for democratic ideals. I hope the organizers of the summit will take this opportunity seriously: Too often, we make grand statements about the importance of youth participation and empowerment, but we discard their demands and concerns by scoffing at their naivete. There is no doubt pragmatism is important, and this third summit should keep moving toward more tangible propositions and ideas, both for its stated goals and for its own sustainability and credibility. But if the summit can harness the idealism and creativity of those younger generations, and truly focus on forward-thinking policies that take their top issues seriously, I believe the organizers will have achieved success.

Niranjan Sahoo (Senior Fellow with ORF’s Governance and Politics Initiative, India): As much as half of the world’s democracies have experienced decline in some manner or other. What is really worrisome is the fact that many established democracies are experiencing setbacks, which range from declines in social group equality in the United States, freedom of the press in Austria, and access to justice in the United Kingdom. In this context, the Biden administration’s significant initiative – Summit of Democracy – assumes critical relevance. The third edition of the summit must take into account the escalating geopolitical conflicts (from Ukraine to Gaza) strengthening the hands of anti-democratic forces and driving instability among many democracies. Besides dealing with authoritarian challenges, the summit must do everything to shore up democratic champions across the Asian region, especially preserving democratic spaces in Myanmar and Cambodia among others. It must explore viable options to support pro-democracy resistance forces which are currently gaining ground against the Burmese military junta. Overall, efforts must be made to find strong regional anchors (initiating multilateral and multistakeholders engagements) to promote democracy in the Asia-Pacific. In short, upgrading democracy aid, increasing the scale of democracy assistance, and deepening programmatic intervention in key areas of democratic strengthening should form the core agenda of the upcoming summit.