Summit for Democracy: Aftermath

The Summit for Democracy convened virtually this past week by US President Joe Biden is over. It probably generated more discussion immediately before than it will likely do immediately after.

That may not be a bad thing. The Summit was meant to kick-off a year of action, to “jumpstart democratic renewal,” as Samantha Power, Administrator of the US Agency for Development, said to close out her appearance during Day Two of the Summit. So to the degree that people talk less about democracy and act more, and more concretely than has been the case, all is well.

Our blog partners at the Dukakis Center for Public Service have big plans for the coming semester at ACT, the American College of Thessaloniki, including a mini-summit for democracy in late January 2022 and and action plan for democratic engagement among young people throughout Greece.

Before we close our book on the Summit, however, it would be well to try to put the pre-Summit consensus under the microscope. Here is what Ravi Agrawal, Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy, had to say, rhetorically, in his newsletter this morning.

“‘Democracy needs champions,’ U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday as he welcomed leaders from more than 100 countries to his two-day virtual Summit for Democracy. But who should the champions be? By organizing the event, Washington was of course declaring itself as the primary force pitting democracies against autocracies…

[W]hile bringing world leaders together is inherently messy, Biden is correct when he says that securing democracy is a ‘defining challenge of our time’—around the world but also in the United States. The question is how to address that challenge and how to do so in a way that also addresses other challenges confronting the world, such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

All well and good, what comes next, particularly in the United States? Agrawal recommends we read an essay by Hélène Landemore, in which she points out that democracy as we know it, and as defined by the Founding Fathers of the United States, ‘favored the idea of people’s consent to power over that of people’s exercise of power.’ That, Landemore says, is the problem. She argues that true people power can only come about through democratic experiments such as citizens’ assemblies, now common in many parts of Europe.

Will the baton pass to Europe, then? You can see for yourself what Professor Landemore thinks on the subject in this recent interview with the Bertelsmann Foundation.


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