Summit for Democracy Live Blog

On December 9-10 US President Joe Biden will host a virtual Summit for Democracy for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector.

In collaboration with the Dukakis Center for Public Service at ACT, the American College of Thessaloniki, a research and outreach hub committed to active citizenship, we will follow the summit and offer commentary on the key moments of the proceedings.

This page will be updated periodically throughout the summit — stay tuned!

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December 10, 2021 7:53 PM

The Youth Town Hall continues with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield interacting with youth leaders from around the world.

The current session, and indeed, the entire two-day summit, can be accessed on the YouTube channel set up for the Summit.

President Biden is scheduled to deliver closing remarks in a short while. We will be signing off now, however. Be reminded that we will post a separate blog entry dedicated to the panel on civic tech and digital democracy, which took place earlier today.

Thanks for watching!

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December 10, 2021 7:22 PM

60 different countries are represented by the participants of the Youth Town Hall. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is moderating the event, conceived to give young leaders a seat at the table.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is fielding questions from the virtual participants.

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December 10, 2021 7:13 PM

The Youth Town Hall is scheduled to begin momentarily. The link to watch the event live is here.

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December 10, 2021 6:16 PM

As we await the launch of the Youth Town Hall, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, has just delivered his prepared remarks.

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December 10, 2021 5:31 PM

Samantha Powers and Thomas Caruthers have just wrapped up the session dedicated to digital democracy, which we will review in a separate blog entry. A Youth Town Hall is scheduled to begin around 7:15 PM local time. Stay tuned!

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December 10, 2021 3:54 PM

We will take a short break from the proceedings and return later this evening.

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December 10, 2021 3:38 PM

The session on democratic institutions is underway, starting with statements by the heads of government of Estonia and Zambia.

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December 10, 2021 3:03 PM

The Belarusian activist Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is speaking. She refers to the Belarusian people’s “struggle for justice and dignity.” She alludes to her husband, who has also been arrested for protesting. She makes a strong case against appeasing dictators.

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December 10, 2021 2:50 PM

A video celebrating civic space and civil society is being aired prior to the next two sessions, which will focus on strengthening and protecting democratic institutions zagainst the encroachments of authoritarianism. The video was produced by the Ford Foundation.

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December 10, 2021 2:47 PM

Nathan Law has just made a pointed appeal against Chinese authoritarianism in Hong Kong.

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December 10, 2021 2:42 PM

“Supercharging democratic renewal” is the goal of the Summit, according to Samantha Powers in her closing statement.

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December 10, 2021 2:24 PM

The human rights session continues under the capable moderation of Damon Wilson. The speakers are not all politicians, and the panel is interactive and lends itself to some robust debate.

There is also a good mix of state-based actors and civil society activists from around the world.

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December 10, 2021 1:47 PM

The Washington Post has shared this image as their photograph of the year. Another reminder of the faltering status of American democracy.

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December 10, 2021 1:39 PM

Some troubling data on the global status of American democracy being reported by Axios, citing a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

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December 10, 2021 1:30 PM

Damon Wilson of the National Endowment for Democracy is now moderating an interesting panel discussion on “Expanding Civic Space”

Meanwhile, Minister Tang is speaking on the parallel channel.

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December 10, 2021 1:27 PM

“Until they knock on the door…”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, President and CEO, International Peace Institute, delivers a powerful and evocative refrain.

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December 10, 2021 1:23 PM

We will be watching for the intervention of Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Digital Minister, who had been scheduled to speak at the Dukakis Center in April 2020, before all live events were postponed owing to a nation-wide lockdown in Greece. Minister Tang’s intervention is scheduled to take place at 1:30 PM local time.

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December 10, 2021 1:10 PM

Secretary Guterres evokes the legacy of Ralph Bunche.

The first panel, hosted by Samantha Power, will focus on human rights.

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December 10, 2021 1:05 PM

Day Two is underway with opening remarks by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. António Guterres.

The parrallel interventions have begun also.

Meanwhile, here is the AP’s lead story today, with a preview of what to expect in today’s sessions.

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December 10, 2021 12:41 PM

A reminder that Twitter hashtags we have been watching include #democracysummit and #summitfordemocracy.

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December 10, 2021 12:06 PM

We are back for day two of the Summit for Democracy. The schedule for the day’s sessions can be found here.

Topics to be discussed by today’s participants will include human rights, civic spaces, free media, democratic institutions, and civic technology.

So-called parallel official interventions can be found here.

We will review some of the coverage of yesterday’s sessions while we wait for the event to recommence.

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December 9, 2021 8:38 PM

The final session, on democratic resilience, is nearly finished. We will see you again tomorrow morning.

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December 9, 2021 7:25 PM

The sessions on corruption are well underway now. Mo Ibrahim is speaking at the moment.

Let us take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work done in Greece by our friends in Transparency International Greece, and their recently departed board chair Anna Damaskou, with whom the Dukakis Center organized multiple events.

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December 9, 2021 6:45

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern has just opened her comments with a few words in Māori. She is now citing a number of indices which rank New Zealand’s democracy very highly, and mentions recent reforms to the political system in the country.

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December 9, 2021 6:36 PM

Our friend Claudia Chwalisz has just tweeted the following: “

The best hope for renewing democracy? @landemore explains why it lies in building new models of democratic decision-making & breaking with the dogma of electoral representation as the only form of representation in @ForeignPolicy ahead of #DemocracySummit. Ms Chwalisz spoke at the big “Practices of Democracy” conference hosted in Thessaloniki by the Dukakis Center in April 2016. She is a leading voice in the promotion of alternative democratic practices.

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December 9, 2021 6:33 PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has the floor now. “We cannot take democracy for granted.”

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December 9, 2021 5:38 PM

We have heard from the leaders of a few Balkan countries during the current session, including North Macedonia and Serbia. Most speakers are sounding the same point.

Polish President Andrzej Duda outlined his country’s stance toward Belarus in some detail.

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December 9, 2021 5:15 PM

Two highlights from the second Leader’s Plenary Session, as we wait for the First Panel Discussion.

First, Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Denmark, articulated this memorable slogan of sorts, “Democracy is not just a system of government, it is a way of life.”

Second, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, spoke in French, one of the relatively few speakers not to speak in English. He may have broken protocol when he addressed President Biden as “Cher Joe.”

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, among others, is scheduled to speak later this evening.

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December 9, 2021 4:15 PM

As select leaders continue make brief opening statements, we will sign off until 5:30. See you then.

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December 9, 2021 3:59 PM

Here is a second student definition of democracy, due to the pen of Ruth Benyo (edited for punctuation).

“Democracy is an ideal that can never truly happen. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary ‘a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting.’ While it’s true that in much of the western world we may feel like we have democracies that follow such a definition, in fact we do not. Although people vote we can never reach a point in which all people are heard equally. In which people truly vote based on their personal opinions and aren’t affected by media, by suppression of voices or by peers and pressure from around them. However, that doesn’t mean we should’t try. We should always strive for a more ‘perfect union,’ a better democracy and for more voices of the people to be heard.”

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December 9, 2021 3:52 PM

What is to be done? Bearing in mind that the Summit for Democracy is one of the cornerstones of the Biden Administration’s foreign policy, Matthew Burrows and Evan Cooper argue in the Atlantic Council that democracy promotion worldwide should be a priority over against other foreign policy objectives.

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December 9, 2021 3:49 PM

Israel’s Naftali Bennett is speaking currently.

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December 9, 2021 3:46 PM

Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis is speaking now.

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December 9, 2021 3:45 PM

The Dukakis Center convenes an annual civil society forum and is observes keenly the state of civil society worldwide. This article on civil society and democrcy promotion, in Project Syndicate, by three leading civil society activists, caught our eye. “Engaged citizenship can be transformative,” they conclude.

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December 9, 2021 3:32 PM

The Dukakis Center at ACT reached out to the student body at ACT to solicit contributions with individual definitions of democracy. We will share a few of the submissions received, unedited, as the Summit proceeds.

Here is what senior Dimitris Moulas thinks:

“Democracy is composed from different notions. Fundamentally, demonocracy originates from ancient Greece. The word has two meanings, demos and kratos which translates to municipality and the state. The notion that democracy was structured was to respect every individual’s equality, dignity and personality within a society. A democratic system should allow individuals to express with freedom their rights and beliefs. A society within a democratic system should allocate the acceptance of the majority’s opinion. Likewise, there must be frequent elections for the state, in order for the citizens to have the power to declare who will represent and govern their state. Thus, if a government can support those notions by esteeming their citizen’s values and rights, only then they can be define, a democratic system.”

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December 9, 2021 3:28 PM

The first Leaders’ Plenary Session has begun. The President of Bulgaria is speaking first.

The speakers will make short opening statements in alphabetical order.

The Summit is running some fifteen minutes late.

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December 9, 2021 3:25

Secretary Blinkin is speaking now. “We have seen a democratic recession in recent years.”

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December 9, 2021 3:23 PM

Politico’s Playbook has a good overview of the Summit today. What to watch out for, what else to read (including Stephen Walt’s piece, linked below).

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December 9, 2021 3:19 PM

It’s happening, after a long wait. As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has written today, “The most important thing about the summit is that it’s happening.”

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December 9, 2021 3:17 PM

“Democracy is not a state, it is an act… This summit is a kick-off to a year of action.”

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December 9, 2021 3:34

President Biden has begun speaking. He is accompanied by Secretary of State Blinkin.

“The data we are seeing is pointing in the wrong direction… This is the defining challenge of our time.”

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December 9, 2021 3:13 PM

What are the implications of the Summit for Democracy throughout Eastern Europe, including the Balkans. This question is of interest to all of us in Northern Greece, where we are watching the Summit. Fortunately, the German Marshall Fund has a very good item on the question, here.

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December 9, 2021 3:02 PM

While we are thinking about democracy in America, it might be worth one’s while to read this article in yesterday’s Al Jazeera, “US voting rights in spotlight ahead of Biden’s ‘Democracy Summit.’”

“[T]he summit comes amid a slew of state laws restricting voting rights and as the Biden administration struggles to manage a year of election-related tumult, including a deadly riot at the US Capitol spurred by unproven voter fraud claims that continue to stoke distrust in the nation’s democratic institutions.”

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December 9, 2021 2:59 PM

President Biden’s intervention will be aired here at 3 PM local time.

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December 9, 2021 2:55 PM

Another country left off the invitation list was Turkey. Like China, the Turkish government was not pleased.

Just Security have an interesting take on the possible ramifications from a broader Turkish perspective. “Turkey’s exclusion from the Summit for Democracy needs to be read as Erdoğan’s exclusion, and it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Turkey, as the shunning weakens Erdoğan’s hand internally, to the advantage of a recently strengthening opposition.”

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December 9, 2021 2:52 PM

We are back waiting for President Biden to open the proceedings of the Summit for Democracy. We will share a few random items while we wait.

The People’s Republic of China was famously not invited to attend the Summit. Chinese publicists have been vocal in their criticism of the event. Bloomberg have a good story out on the Chinese reaction.

Meanwhile, China Xinhua News have a pungent video out on democracy Made in China. “Over the past decades, China has never stopped in the pursuit of democracy,” they write. “China did not duplicate Western models of democracy, but created its own.” Duelling democracies.

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What to expect. As we approach zero-hour, here are two items just out in the American media. The live blog will return at 3 PM this afternoon.

The AP’s lead story this morning.

The FP’s morning brief.

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December 9, 2021 12:52

What the world is saying. A handy catch-me-up from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

USAID have a handy press update feature here.

December 9, 2021 12:38

As might be expected, the views of civil society are diverse with regard to today’s Summit for Democracy. Here is a brief early round up.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy on democracy in the Arab world.

The Center for European Policy Analysis defines success.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies on digital development and democratization.

Freedom House on democratic decline.

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December 9, 2021 11:55

Our good friends at Transparency International have issued this call for “meaningful civic participation” in the year of action that is meant to ensue.

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December 9, 2021 11:52

The last time there was a democracy summit it took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in May 2021. Here is what happened, per the official site of the summit. Next up: summit 2022.

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December 9, 2021 11:40 AM

Here is an early round up of some of the international English-language press.

The Diplomat on Taiwan.

The Armenian Weekly on divergent paths of Armenia and Turkey.

A view from down under in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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December 9, 2021 11:16 AM

Of interest to our friends at the Dukakis Center is youth engagement in the democratic political process. Here, from Day Zero, is a session with Young Democratic Leaders, hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinkin.

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December 9, 2021 10:41 AM

Some video on the official YouTube channel of the summit, from yesterday’s Day 0 sessions.

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December 9, 2021 10:33 AM

What we’re reading to begin the day.

Stephen Walt in last night’s Foreign Policy on the questionable merits of the summit.

An overview of the summit in this morning’s Financial Times.

Lots of critical noise on Twitter at the #democracysummit hashtag.

What’s on today, from the official site of the summit.


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