Fight for freedom. Future of the global order. Existential struggle.
It’s hard to find terms that describe the crisis in Ukraine without sounding like so much cable news hyperbole. And yet, Russia’s illegal invasion of a free and sovereign Ukraine is existential for the Ukrainian people: their sovereignty, freedoms and way of life are on the line.
On an international scale, as well, the stakes are high: a battle for peace and rule of law against warfare and dictatorship. If Ukraine maintains its sovereignty, it is not only a win for democracy in Ukraine. It is a much needed global win for democracy in a world that is increasingly repressive and nondemocratic with a majority of the population ruled by autocratic governments.
Against this backdrop, the Biden Administration’s Summit for Democracy takes on new urgency. The Summit’s call to revitalize the global democracy agenda is an opportunity for participating governments to tackle their domestic democratic deficits, and strengthen international resolve and cooperation to defend democracy from foreign illiberal threats.
Six months ago, the Summit convened the global democratic community to reaffirm shared values and commit to reform; however, the invasion of Ukraine makes clear that the democratic community must dramatically increase its ambition and alacrity in order to: defend democratic institutions against homegrown and external threats; help democracies deliver on sustainable development; and support democrats living under autocracy.
Within the Summit framework, the Biden Administration has deemed 2022 as the Year of Action during which participating countries will fulfill the commitments made in December. Working in nearly half of the Summit’s 111 participating countries, NDI’s Year of Action is well underway. We are supporting civil society, legislatures and governments as they translate their national commitments into inclusive reform processes and outcomes.
At the same time, in light of the shared challenges and increasingly high stakes, NDI has identified a global series of five Democracy Game Changers that highlight and mobilize collective action to address the most pressing problems. Game Changers will draw on the experience and expertise of NDI partners from around the world to identify innovative solutions to challenges including:
Ending Online Violence against Women in Politics: The internet is clearly not living up to its promise of being "for everyone.” In fact, it's a toxic space for women and girls with chilling consequences for their political participation and ambitions. While misogyny is not a problem that tech can solve, misogyny online is. At the Solutions Summit we're expecting to hear from tech companies, governments and civil society how this is to be achieved.
Uniting Political Parties to Defend Democracy: Demonstrating the value of a united democratic front, this Game Changer will bring together legislators from the Ukraine and the United States to discuss democratically-minded political parties from around the world and across the ideological spectrum to coordinate strategies for defending democratic institutions and combating the authoritarian surge.
Securing Electoral Integrity: Recognizing the keystone role of credible elections in defending and advancing democracy, this Game Changer will highlight essential strategies to safeguard the universal and equal rights to vote and stand for office free of domestic and foreign manipulation in the digital world.
Combating Corruption and Malign Foreign Influences: Showcasing the concept of “radical transparency,” this Game Changer will identify the most effective openness and oversight strategies for building resilience against corruption and malign foreign influences.
Achieving Gender Political Parity: Globally, about 75% of the world's legislators are men, and the World Bank reports that women only have 75% of the legal protections given to men during their working life. This Game Changer will discuss how #MenMustDoMore to pick up the pace towards the global target of a 50:50 gender balance at all levels of political decision-making, and why this is central to democratic renewal.
Each of these Game Changers tackles issues that are complicated and enduring – challenges that require concerted efforts extending beyond a single “Year of Action.” Yet these problems are no the less urgent for their complexity. Ukraine is an extreme example, but it is not the only one. Battles against repression and autocracy are waged daily around the world. The success of democratic champions anywhere is a boon for democracy everywhere. Their struggle is our struggle and there is no time to lose.
Author: Kristen Sample, Director of Democratic Governance, National Democratic Institute
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.