Statement on the Need to Strengthen the Alliance of Democracies

November 17, 2021

The International Coalition for Democratic Renewal (ICDR) was organized to help coordinate democratic opposition to the rising illiberal and authoritarian forces that have put liberal democracy on the defensive during the past 15 years. We believe that the struggle against these forces can be won—but only if the world’s democracies stand united. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Atlantic Charter, we resolve to work together to strengthen the transatlantic alliance of democracies and to build stronger democratic solidarity among democracies worldwide. Greater democratic unity is urgently needed to secure the future of democracy.

There are mounting signs that the transatlantic alliance is falling into disarray. Tensions have reached an unprecedented level between the United States and its transatlantic allies, a relationship that has weakened significantly under four successive American presidencies. Within NATO, longstanding conflicts over burden-sharing and emerging European complaints about American unilateralism in the Middle East and elsewhere have made it more difficult for this venerable but still vital security alliance to give due diligence and attention to fighting autocracy. Disagreements between the US and the EU over trade and regulatory issues have made things worse, as have American perceptions that France and Germany are working to create relationships with Russia and China that downplay the conflict between liberal democracies and its enemies.

As we seek to halt and reverse the decline of liberal democracy, revitalizing the transatlantic alliance is essential - and the time to begin is now. In addition, given the growing threats to democracy globally and the cooperation that is taking place today among autocrats to undermine democratic norms and institutions, democratic cooperation must be broadened to include democracies in all regions. Towards that end, democratic governments from all world regions must develop a common democratic agenda to deal with the challenges posed by China and Russia and to address common causes of democratic backsliding at home. They should also closely collaborate with and involve civil society actors and democratic parliamentarians around the world.

The Summit for Democracy, which will convene in December, provides an appropriate forum to launch this task. The ICDR therefore provide following recommendations:

1) Summit’s participants should seize this opportunity to build cooperation on challenges such as defending democracy and human rights at a time when democracy is backsliding more than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

2) The Summit must look for new ways to counter China’s increasingly aggressive Sharp Power interference in countries around the world.

3) It must also seek to prevent kleptocrats in Russia and elsewhere from exploiting the global financial system to enrich themselves and weaken democracy. It is important for Western societies to keep their own governments to account and to make sure they do not act as accomplices to foreign kleptocratic authoritarian regimes.

4) Priority should also be given to countering the growing problem of autocratic influence within democratic societies.

5) Civil organizations network as a second layer to the Summit for Democracy should be built.

6) The debate at the summit should also include the issue of technology and what the new regulatory framework of big tech should be to ensure that social platforms operate in line with democratic values.

7) The debate about setting up a special envoy/rapporteur for democracy within the UN system in order to make it more difficult for the authoritarians to take advantage of the international settings should be included in the agenda.

While the Summit for Democracy can jump-start the revitalization of democratic cooperation, existing institutions also have a vital role to play. With respect to transatlantic relations:   

1) We call on NATO to confront the debilitating disputes that have broken out in the wake of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mechanisms of consultation should be updated, and all member-states must rededicate themselves to the proposition that existing unilateral decision-making is inconsistent with an effective and enduring alliance of democracies.

2) We call on the United States and the EU to view lingering trade and regulatory disputes as threats to the fight against autocracy and to address these disputes with urgency. Free trade underpins the historic success and resilience of democracy and fostering free trade among democratic allies, in the Atlantic as well as in the Indo-Pacific, should be a long-term goal of democratic governments.

3) We call on democracies on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world to put their own house in order and counter their internal anti-democratic forces with renewed vigor. While policy disputes are the lifeblood of healthy democracies, there should be no debate about the importance of institutions such as a free press, independent judiciaries, and honest elections. Collective pressure should be exerted on democratic governments that weaken these institutions. Rebuilding credibility of democracy is crucial as well as projecting more confidence in our democratic processes.

4) We call on all democracies to understand that there is no “Third Way” in the struggle between democracy’s friends and its foes—and that they should resist the temptation of short-term self-interest to break the common democratic front against the world’s leading state sponsors of autocracy.  

5) We also call on democratic governments to connect key policy objectives and democracy agenda to the development assistance and provide more support for societies that are fighting against authoritarian regimes.

6) And we urge all Summit for Democracy participants not to let the attention be diverted by matters such as the invitation list and miss this chance to discuss the things that really matter.

With respect to global democratic cooperation, we urge European, North American, and Asian democracies to develop a common democratic agenda that will include the defense of democracy in Taiwan, which is facing growing threats from Beijing. We also call on transatlantic and Indo-Pacific democracies to reach out to democracies and democrats in civil society in other regions, in particular Africa and Latin America, to strengthen democratic cooperation globally.