When International Day of Democracy was first celebrated 15 years ago, the United Nations had just adopted a resolution recognizing the importance of democracy for maintaining peace and stability, protecting human rights, and promoting the reality that democracy delivers not just for the many, but for all.
But the resolution coincided with the start of a 16-year decline of global freedom – one that continues to this day. Currently, the majority of the world’s population lives under autocratic governments. It’s the culmination of years of crackdowns on human rights, expansions of power by authoritarian leaders, and the rise of transnational corruption. And Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine is just the latest demonstration of the extremes to which many authoritarians will go to maintain and expand their power – and how urgent remains the goal of global democratic renewal.
The U.S. Government is already taking steps to achieve that goal. In President Biden’s first-ever Summit for Democracy this past December, the United States called upon the free world to commit to concrete actions to tackle the greatest threats facing democracies today. For our part, the United States is surging support to countries on the cusp of democracy, providing funding and resources to protect journalists and independent media, and working to promote democratic practices and protect consumer rights in technology. Over 100 world leaders announced their own individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives – resulting in more than 750 total commitments to counter authoritarianism, combat corruption, and promote respect for human rights. Next year’s Summit will showcase progress made on these commitments. And today’s launch of a new youth Democracy Cohort led by the European Commission, partner governments, and civil society organizations will bring together young activists with representatives from governments, civil society, and multilateral organizations to develop and implement Summit commitments, particularly those that support young people.
At USAID, the urgent need for democratic renewal drives much of our work. In Tunisia, USAID reached out to 34,000 Tunisian women, encouraging them to participate in elections and make their voices heard – and in the recent municipal elections, 70 percent of those women headed to the polls, a number that is twice the national average. In Eastern Europe and Eurasia, USAID is helping to finance and equip journalists with a range of tools – including digital, physical, and legal security training, as well as liability coverage against lawsuits – to prevent and counter intimidation and violence. In Uzbekistan, USAID, in partnership with national and international partners and in cooperation with the government, civil society, and private organizations are raising awareness about human trafficking and how to fight it. And given the devastating impacts of corruption on democracy, USAID has developed a range of programs to elevate our anti-corruption work – including the newly released Dekleptification Guide, a handbook for uprooting entrenched corruption and seizing windows of opportunity to dismantle kleptocracy.
Today, as we celebrate International Day of Democracy, we underscore our commitment to demonstrating the value of democracy and how it can deliver for everyone. Free and democratic societies produce healthier and more prosperous citizens, reduce violent conflict, and uphold human dignity – and through our democracy assistance, we will continue to do our part to achieve a more inclusive, equitable, and peaceful world.