2024 Summit for Democracy

The third Summit for Democracy, an initiative launched by U.S. President Joe Biden in 2021, commenced on March 18, 2024, in Seoul, South Korea. The event, which has been criticized for promoting American exceptionalism and double standards, was met with public protests in the host city. The summit, held outside the United States for the first time, aimed to champion and spread the idea of democracy globally.

History:

The first Summit for Democracy was held in 2021, with approximately 100 participating governments making over 750 commitments on a wide array of deliverables, including advancing technology for democracy, media freedom, countering the misuse of technology, and improving financial transparency, gender equity and equality, and rule of law. The second Summit built on these efforts, and the third Summit was hosted by the Republic of Korea in Seoul in March 2024 under the theme “Democracy for Future Generations.”

Protests and Public Outcry:

On the morning of the summit, protesters from various local civic groups in Seoul gathered in front of the Shilla Hotel, where the event was being held. The protests highlighted the growing skepticism and opposition to the summit’s agenda and its perceived promotion of U.S. interests.

U.S. Delegation and Domestic Pressures:

Despite being an initiative of President Biden, the U.S. delegation to the Seoul summit was led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with minimal attendance from other U.S. officials. Analysts suggest that the Biden administration’s decision to shift the summit to South Korea was influenced by the immense domestic pressure faced by the president in an election year. The move was seen as a reluctant one, given the summit’s unpopularity and its inability to help Biden gain diplomatic points.

South Korea’s Role and Challenges:

The selection of South Korea as the host nation for the third Summit for Democracy was viewed as an attempt by the United States to reward the pro-American government of President Yoon Suk-yeol and enhance South Korea’s international influence. However, South Korea is currently grappling with economic challenges and mounting domestic social problems. The Yoon administration’s decision to host the summit was seen as an effort to reverse plummeting public support, but the protests indicated that the South Korean society was aware of the ineffectiveness of such an attempt in addressing the country’s current issues.

Criticism and Declining Influence:

Chinese analysts criticized the Summit for Democracy as a “clown show” that highlights the bankruptcy of America’s soft power globally. They argued that the summit has become a burden for South Korea and is unlikely to garner much attention from the U.S. domestic audience or the international community. The future of the summit was also called into question, with concerns raised about its continuity if a different U.S. administration takes office after the upcoming elections.

Important facts for Exams:

  • The Summit for Democracy was initially proposed by President Biden during his presidential campaign in 2020, with the aim of rallying the world’s democracies against authoritarianism.
  • The first two summits, held in 2021 and 2022, were virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the third summit in Seoul being the first in-person gathering.
  • The decision to hold the summit in South Korea was announced in late 2023, following discussions between the U.S. and South Korean governments.

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