A man pushing his mother, who is holding ballot, in wheelchair at polling station during elections (© Nabil al-Jurani/AP Images)
Free elections are hallmarks of democracies. Above, a son helps his mother as she votes during parliamentary elections in Basra, Iraq, on October 10. (© Nabil al-Jurani/AP Images)

A strong, vibrant democracy affords citizens the freedom to vote, the ability to express opinions without fear of reprisal and the power to build a better future.

From December 9 to December 10, President Biden will host the Summit for Democracy. At this virtual event, like-minded governments, civil society groups and the private sector will discuss bold, practical ways to strengthen democracy.

The summit aims to open a conversation with multiple stakeholders to strengthen democratic norms and beliefs as authoritarian leaders target critics, close independent media outlets and expand surveillance of citizens. Biden said these simultaneous, pressing challenges present a defining question for free nations.

“Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?” Biden asked. “I believe the answer is yes.”

Three broad themes

These are the summit’s three broad themes:

  1. Defending against authoritarianism.
  2. Fighting and addressing corruption.
  3. Advancing respect for human rights.

“It is incumbent on democracies to prove that we are able to deliver for the needs of our people as we strive toward a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable world.”

— President Biden

The United States continues to emphasize how societies that respect human rights and the rule of law can effectively work together to solve the world’s most pressing issues such as COVID-19, the climate crisis and rising inequality.

President Biden putting left hand on right shoulder of person sitting in wheelchair outside White House (White House/Adam Schultz)
Democracies strive to provide equal opportunity and protection for all regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or ability. Here, President Biden is with activist Tyree Brown on the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, at the White House. (White House/Adam Schultz)

Looking ahead

At the summit, Biden will announce initiatives to support free media and defend free elections.

The U.S. also plans to engage participating nations on measures to reduce corruption, including illicit finance, and hold corrupt individuals legally accountable.

The virtual summit launches a “year of action” during which government, civil society institutions and private sector allies will collaborate to strengthen democracy. A second summit is planned in about a year and in person if public health conditions permit.

The president described America’s most cherished democratic values as defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity. Those values, he said are “our inexhaustible source of strength.”