During the “Year of Action” following the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021, the United States and over 100 partner governments around the world have taken meaningful steps to build more resilient democracies, combat corruption, and defend human rights. Summit participants have undertaken important pro-democracy reforms at home, contributed to impactful multilateral initiatives, and worked together to resist authoritarian aggression, including Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.
President Biden is pleased to announce that on March 29-30, 2023, he will co-host the second Summit for Democracy with the leaders of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia. This diverse group of co-hosts underscores the universal desire for accountable, transparent, and rights-respecting governance.
At this second Summit, world leaders will showcase progress made on their commitments to build more resilient democracies; announce new commitments and initiatives to build on that momentum; reaffirm the central role of democratic institutions in delivering prosperity and safeguarding liberty; and underscore the effectiveness of collective action in tackling the most pressing challenges of our time.
At the first Summit for Democracy, participating governments announced nearly 750 commitments aimed at strengthening and safeguarding democracy at home and abroad. During the Year of Action, Summit participants have supported one another in fulfilling these goals, including through government-to-government consultations and participation in multi-stakeholder Democracy Cohorts focused on topics including technology, media freedom, countering disinformation, youth engagement, financial transparency and integrity, and gender equality and women’s political participation, among others.
At home, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to demonstrate that democracy can still deliver, and helps improve people’s lives and address the greatest challenges before us. Working together with Congress, President Biden has signed into law transformative legislation that will grow the American economy and create more well-paying jobs for American workers, invest in infrastructure, reduce gun violence, improve access to health care, and protect our climate.
Select achievements during the Year of Action aligned to the five pillars of the Summit for Democracy’s Presidential Initiative for Democracy Renewal include:
Supporting Free and Independent Media
Together with partners, the U.S. Government’s investments in press freedom and independent media are intended to maintain journalists’ ability to inform the public and to improve citizens’ capacity to hold their governments accountable. Our efforts in the Year of Action have supported the development, sustainability, and independence of public interest media, and helped protect journalists physically, digitally, and legally. For example:
- Bolstering Independent Media. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Government has invested $20 million in the International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM), a multi-donor fund to support independent media in low- and middle-income countries. Our investment, combined with support from a growing list of governments, private companies, and foundations, has helped launch the first round of awards, which garnered applications from more than 200 media organizations from 17 countries around the world. Additionally, through USAID’s Media Viability Accelerator, we are supporting the creation of a data platform that will: 1) enable media outlets to better understand the markets, audiences, and strategies that will maximize their odds of profitability; and 2) provide donors with market data and financial strategies to ensure their support to media is sustainable. In September, the United States joined the International Partnership for Information and Democracy, which promotes democratic principles in the global information and communications space.
- Protecting Journalists Physically, Digitally, and Legally. As part of the Summit for Democracy’s Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, USAID will soon launch Reporters Mutual, an innovative insurance vehicle that will cover the cost of defending journalists, civil society activists, and their organizations from defamation, libel, and other lawsuits meant to silence their reporting. Additionally, together with other members of the 52-country Media Freedom Coalition, the United States worked to strengthen media freedom and the safety of journalists by issuing joint public statements highlighting deteriorating conditions and working collaboratively to streamline support for media development globally.
Actions undertaken in the Year of Action concurrent with the U.S. Government’s implementation of its first-ever Strategy on Countering Corruption reflect the scale of the threat corruption poses to transparent and accountable governance. Targeted efforts served to close loopholes and shut down safe havens; enhance partners’ capacity to prevent corruption and hold corrupt actors accountable; empower civil society, media, and the private sector; leverage innovation; and respond quickly and decisively to opportunities and threats. For example:
- Supporting Anti-corruption Change Agents. On July 5, the Department of State appointed a first-ever Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption, who works with civil society, industry, and international partners to strengthen coordination on anti-corruption issues, advance U.S. anti-corruption priorities, and ensure countries are meeting their commitments and international obligations. On November 2, USAID launched the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability through Investigative Reporting (STAIR) program, a five-year, $20 million program that will support collaborative investigative journalism networks, foster investigative outlets’ organizational and financial viability, and advance proactive, holistic approaches to safety and security.
- Innovating and Partnering to Combat Corruption. The Departments of State and the Treasury, along with the Alliance for Innovative Regulation and Accountability Lab, launched the Anti-Corruption Solutions through Emerging Technologies (ASET) program to identify and develop technological responses that prevent and address corruption challenges. In June, ASET convened hundreds of participants for a Global Anti-corruption “TechSprint,” where three winning teams developed solutions for increasing transparency in foreign assistance, reducing corruption in disaster relief projects, and assessing corruption risks related to maritime shipping. USAID awarded the Countering Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge for Development. The inaugural activity under the Grand Challenge, took place in November 2022, will focus on promoting transparency and accountability in the supply chains of minerals critical for the transition to a green economy.
- Curbing Corruption through Strategic and Regulatory Action. In accordance with the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a final rule in September to require certain companies formed or operating in the United States to report beneficial ownership information. These reports will be a vital tool for U.S. national security agencies, law enforcement, and federal regulators, as well as foreign partners and financial institutions, to prevent illicit actors from hiding the proceeds of corruption behind anonymous shell companies in the United States. FinCEN is continuing to build the infrastructure to further implement the CTA and is also working to develop regulations to limit the ability of illicit actors to anonymize their real estate purchases. Additionally, in March 2022, the Treasury Department launched the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program, which pays rewards to qualified individuals who provide information leading to the restraint or seizure, forfeiture, or repatriation of assets linked to foreign government corruption worldwide. Finally, the Departments of the Treasury and State continue to utilize accountability tools, such as financial sanctions and visa restrictions, in line with the recommendations of the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption and including those authorized by through the Global Magnitsky Sanctions Program, to designate foreign persons engaged in acts of corruption.
- Strategic Multilateral Engagement to Combat Corruption: The Departments of State, Justice, and the Treasury, along with other agencies, have also continued to strengthen multilateral anti-corruption efforts to raise international standards for combatting corruption. For example, in December the U.S. Government will co-host the 2022 International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), the world’s premier opportunity for civil society and government officials to collaborate on anti-corruption matters. The U.S. Government has also advanced anti-corruption standards and measures through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), G7, and G20, as well as through the United Nations Global Operational Network of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Authorities (GlobE Network).
- Strengthening Anti-Corruption Ecosystems. The United States, through both USAID and the Department of State, continues to provide robust country-level assistance to counter and mitigate corruption around the world, collectively supporting over $258 million in anti-corruption foreign assistance programming in FY 2020. Additionally, on September, 6 USAID rolled out a cutting-edge guide on dekleptification to support frontline actors engaged in uprooting entrenched kleptocratic structures.
- Holding Russia Accountable. In response to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine, the United States, in coordination with allies and partners, launched in March the multilateral Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force to hold accountable those responsible for and benefitting from Russia’s war machine. As of June, members of the REPO Task Force have frozen more than $30 billion worth of assets belonging to sanctioned Russians, including their high-value real estate and luxury yachts. In March, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the launch of Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force dedicated to enforcing the sweeping sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed, along with allies and partners, in response to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine. Since its creation, KleptoCapture has worked with international partners to seize a sanctioned Russian oligarch’s $90 million luxury yacht in Spain, to seize and transport a nearly half-billion-dollar yacht belonging to a sanctioned oligarch from Fiji to San Diego, and to seize millions of dollars associated with sanctioned parties held at multiple U.S. financial institutions.
Bolstering Democratic Reformers
The United States and our partners are committed to bolstering the work of activists and other reformers working on the front lines of democratic renewal. In the Year of Action, we have increased support to these reformers, giving them additional tools to advance governments and societies that reflect democratic principles, reject corruption, and respect human rights. For example:
- Empowering Historically Marginalized Groups and Ensuring All Have a Say in Democracy. Domestically, under the Biden-Harris Administration, all U.S. Government Departments and Agencies have developed and released plans to advance racial justice and equity. In June, the State Department announced its first Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice, who leads efforts to protect and advance the human rights of people around the world who belong to marginalized racial and ethnic communities, and to combat systemic racism, discrimination, and xenophobia.
- Supporting Activists, Workers, and Reform-Minded Leaders. In September, USAID launched at the UN General Assembly the Democracy Delivers Initiative, which brought together leaders from eight countries experiencing renewed democratic openings with top executives and leaders of major foundations and philanthropies to generate investment and other forms of support. USAID is pairing the Democracy Delivers Initiative with a new Partnerships for Democratic Development program, which will support countries experiencing democratic openings by facilitating locally-led efforts to address key development challenges that can forestall or reverse democratic consolidation.
- Defending Democracy in Europe and Eurasia. On March 24, in response to Russia’s brutal and unjustified further invasion of Ukraine, President Biden announced the European Democratic Resilience Initiative (EDRI) to bolster democratic resilience, enhance anti-corruption defenses, and defend human rights in Ukraine and the region. Working with Congress, the U.S. Government will harness EDRI to provide at least $320 million in new funding to address immediate and medium-term needs in Europe and Eurasia. Additionally, the United States has provided $8.5 billion in direct budgetary support to the Government of Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February. These funds, provided by the United States through the World Bank, allow the Ukrainian government to keep gas and electricity flowing to hospitals, schools, and other critical infrastructure; provide humanitarian supplies to citizens, and continue to pay the salaries of civil servants, healthcare workers and teachers – and ensure that democracy continues to deliver for its people.
Advancing Technology for Democracy
Together with like-minded partners and allies, the U.S. Government is investing in efforts to stem the tide of digital authoritarianism, promote a positive vision for the Internet and emerging technologies, and connect billions around the world to values-driven, rights-respecting digital technologies and infrastructure. For example:
- Advancing an Open, Interoperable, Reliable, and Secure Internet. In April, the United States and 60 partner countries joined in the Declaration for the Future of the Internet, a commitment to advance a positive vision for the Internet and digital technologies. In June, the Department of State announced that the United States will chair the Freedom Online Coalition in 2023. The United States and partners also launched the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, where the founding partner governments of Australia, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom agreed upon a roadmap to better prioritize, understand, prevent, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence. Since its March launch, the governments of Kenya, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile have joined the Global Partnership.
- Expanding Digital Democracy Programming. Under the new Advancing Digital Democracy Initiative, USAID has stood up pilot activities in Zambia and Serbia that will work to ensure technology is used to advance — and not undermine — democracy. In Zambia, USAID is seizing new opportunities made possible by the country’s democratic opening to build resilience to the misuse of technology across legal and regulatory frameworks. In Serbia, the Initiative is supporting a network of activists, local technology stakeholders, universities, and public officials to advocate for data protection and privacy laws and regulations that protect Serbians’ rights.
- Advancing Democracy-Affirming Technologies. In July, the United States and United Kingdom initiated Privacy Enhancing Technology Prize Challenges as part of a series of International Grand Challenges on Democracy-Affirming Technologies, which were launched by the United States at the first Summit for Democracy. The challenges will spur innovation in privacy technologies that can transform financial crime prevention and boost pandemic response capabilities, all while safeguarding sensitive data. Additionally, in June, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern kicked off the first venture day of the Tech4Democracy Global Entrepreneurship Challenge, which was launched by IE University in Madrid in partnership with the Department of State. This challenge focuses on identifying entrepreneurs that build and advance democracy-affirming technologies in a series of venture days around the world. Finally, the United States continues to build out the Multilateral Surge and Sustain Fund for Anti-Censorship Technology in light of surging global demand for technology that can protect users and circumvent authoritarian governments’ online censorship efforts.
- Defending Rights in a Digital Age. In October, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights. The Blueprint is a set of five principles and associated practices to help guide the design, use, and deployment of automated systems to protect the rights of the American public in the age of artificial intelligence, and includes concrete steps which governments, companies, communities, and others can take in order to build these key protections into policy, practice, or technological design to ensure automated systems are aligned with democratic values and protect civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. The United States is also taking steps to counter digital transnational repression and risks posed by foreign commercial spyware.
- Improving Tech Platform Accountability. In September, the White House announced its Principles for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability, which outline U.S. Government priorities concerning promoting competition in the technology sector, providing robust protections for Americans’ privacy, reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and increasing transparency about technology platforms’ algorithms and content moderation decisions, among others.
Defending Free and Fair Elections and Inclusive Political Processes
Around the world, exercising the right to vote in free and fair elections faces growing challenges, including electoral manipulation and violence, cyber-attacks, disinformation, and barriers to political participation by systematically marginalized populations. During the Year of Action, the U.S. Government has advanced new approaches to addressing critical long-standing and emerging threats to electoral integrity globally. For example:
- Strengthening Electoral Integrity. USAID has convened 25 international organizations, inter-governmental organizations, development agencies, and election networks to develop the Global Network for Securing Election Integrity, which will officially launch by the end of 2022. At home, President Biden’s FY 2023 Budget proposes the largest-ever investment in our Nation’s election infrastructure. This includes $10 billion to enable the state and local jurisdictions that administer elections to make long-term investments in election equipment, systems, and personnel. The Budget also proposes $5 billion to fund an expansion of Postal Service delivery capacity in underserved areas and support for vote-by-mail, including making ballots postage-free and reducing the cost of other election-related mail for jurisdictions and voters.
- Promoting Access to Voting. As the Biden-Harris administration continues to fight for essential federal voting rights legislation, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, federal agencies are implementing President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, leveraging the resources of the federal government to provide information about the election process and increased access to voter registration opportunities. In May, the Department of the Interior made history as the first National Voter Registration Act-designated federal agency when it accepted states’ request to help register Americans to vote when they sign up for other government services. Subsequently, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a similar partnership with three states.
- Countering Hate-Fueled Violence: In September, President Biden held the United We Stand Summit at the White House, where the federal government and other sectors of society committed to actions to counter the hate-fueled violence that threatens our public safety and democracy. Ongoing work under the United We Stand Summit includes long-term efforts to address toxic polarization and foster unity.