.
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oting the threats to democratic governance in many parts of the world, the Biden Administration has announced its intent to make the promotion of democracy a central element of its foreign policy and hosted a Summit for Democracy. There is a clear need to address the democratic decline occurring across the world, including in the United States. While there are limited tools for tackling democratic decline globally, there is an important legacy of protecting and expanding democracy in the Americas and important tools for the defense of democracy have been developed. The last couple of years have highlighted just how great the challenges are in the Americas as well as the desire of citizens across the region to address democratic deficits. The United States and its partners in the region should focus on strengthening mechanisms in the Americas as a model for the global defense of democracy.

The Americas have a legacy of being a bastion of democracy in the world and of striving to maintain that position. Following the widespread experience of dictatorships across the region during the Cold War, the turn towards democracy as part of the “Third Wave” of democratization was keenly felt in the region. In order to ensure that these gains were maintained, governments across the region collaborated to develop mechanisms to defend against democratic crises and the return to authoritarianism in the future. These efforts culminated in the passage of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001 which provided tools to the Organization of American States (OAS), the region’s predominant multilateral organization, to address democratic crises. While there have been issues with the usage of the Charter, it remains an important tool for addressing democratic crises in the region.

Although the region has a history of democratic governance, many countries in the region have recently seen democratic backsliding. Just this year, we have seen the U.S. Capital attacked, the assassination of Haitian President Moisel, rapidly escalating authoritarian tendencies in both Nicaragua and El Salvador, pro-coup comments from Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, as well as the on-going democratic crisis in Venezuela among other ongoing and escalating threats to democracy in the Americas. Even in countries with strong democratic legacies, trust in democracy has been declining over the past decade. Despite waning support for democracy, citizens in the Americas have also sought to strengthen their voices at home as was seen this year with the unprecedented levels of social mobilization in Cuba and Colombia. These challenges and opportunities led U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to note in a trip to the region that the Americas are “…in a moment of democratic reckoning.”

Given the state of democracy in the Western Hemisphere and the fact that there are mechanisms and commitments in place to address democratic decline, the United States should seek to stabilize and strengthen democracy in the region before seeking to address the crisis on a global scale. While it is important that this issue was emphasized and discussed at the international level at the Summit for Democracy, seeking solutions for addressing democratic crises within a region that has a long history of seeking to support democratic ideals can allow for a better understanding of what mechanisms work to address democratic erosion and crisis that can be scaled up to address global threats to democracy.

The Biden Administration also has multiple opportunities to push a democratic agenda in the region in the coming year. With 2021 marking the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the OAS has held events about looking for mechanisms to strengthen the Inter-American Democratic Charter. There is hope that the IX Summit of the Americas, will provide an opportunity to address some of the democratic challenges facing the Americas and strengthen the Charter. Furthermore, with the United States hosting the Summit of the Americas in 2022 for the first time since 1994, the Biden Administration has an opportunity to build upon efforts from the Summit for Democracy to develop a regional agenda for addressing democratic challenges.

While the Biden Administration may face challenges in building momentum from countries to address these challenges given the history of U.S. interventionism in the region, it is critical that the administration work with regional partners to develop mechanisms to address regional democratic challenges. The region has reason to be wary of U.S. rhetoric of democracy promotion. As Secretary Blinken highlighted, “…the United States has not always practiced what it preached in our hemisphere, that there are times in our history when we supported governments in the Americas that did not reflect the choice or the will of their people and did not respect their human rights.” Despite this, the region recognizes the threats to democracy that it faces and has a history of seeking to make the hemisphere safe for democracy. Highlighting that this is a problem for the United States as well and showing a willingness to learn from Latin American experiences can help highlight that the Biden Administration takes this issue seriously and wants to work with the region.

Not only does the region have a strong legacy of democracy despite the recent onslaught against it, but has developed mechanisms to address democratic threats in the region. Given this, before the United States goes around trying to solve the global democratic threats, it should make sure that its neighborhood is democratically sound and learn the necessary lessons to develop global regimes for the defense of democracy.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

When it Comes to Defending Democracy, Think Global, Act Regional

Image via Adobe Stock.

December 13, 2021

Democratic governance is under threat around the world, and while the Biden Administration's tools to support democracy globally are limited, there are important opportunities to do so throughout the Americas, writes Diplomatic Courier Series Editor Adam Ratzlaff.

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oting the threats to democratic governance in many parts of the world, the Biden Administration has announced its intent to make the promotion of democracy a central element of its foreign policy and hosted a Summit for Democracy. There is a clear need to address the democratic decline occurring across the world, including in the United States. While there are limited tools for tackling democratic decline globally, there is an important legacy of protecting and expanding democracy in the Americas and important tools for the defense of democracy have been developed. The last couple of years have highlighted just how great the challenges are in the Americas as well as the desire of citizens across the region to address democratic deficits. The United States and its partners in the region should focus on strengthening mechanisms in the Americas as a model for the global defense of democracy.

The Americas have a legacy of being a bastion of democracy in the world and of striving to maintain that position. Following the widespread experience of dictatorships across the region during the Cold War, the turn towards democracy as part of the “Third Wave” of democratization was keenly felt in the region. In order to ensure that these gains were maintained, governments across the region collaborated to develop mechanisms to defend against democratic crises and the return to authoritarianism in the future. These efforts culminated in the passage of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001 which provided tools to the Organization of American States (OAS), the region’s predominant multilateral organization, to address democratic crises. While there have been issues with the usage of the Charter, it remains an important tool for addressing democratic crises in the region.

Although the region has a history of democratic governance, many countries in the region have recently seen democratic backsliding. Just this year, we have seen the U.S. Capital attacked, the assassination of Haitian President Moisel, rapidly escalating authoritarian tendencies in both Nicaragua and El Salvador, pro-coup comments from Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, as well as the on-going democratic crisis in Venezuela among other ongoing and escalating threats to democracy in the Americas. Even in countries with strong democratic legacies, trust in democracy has been declining over the past decade. Despite waning support for democracy, citizens in the Americas have also sought to strengthen their voices at home as was seen this year with the unprecedented levels of social mobilization in Cuba and Colombia. These challenges and opportunities led U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to note in a trip to the region that the Americas are “…in a moment of democratic reckoning.”

Given the state of democracy in the Western Hemisphere and the fact that there are mechanisms and commitments in place to address democratic decline, the United States should seek to stabilize and strengthen democracy in the region before seeking to address the crisis on a global scale. While it is important that this issue was emphasized and discussed at the international level at the Summit for Democracy, seeking solutions for addressing democratic crises within a region that has a long history of seeking to support democratic ideals can allow for a better understanding of what mechanisms work to address democratic erosion and crisis that can be scaled up to address global threats to democracy.

The Biden Administration also has multiple opportunities to push a democratic agenda in the region in the coming year. With 2021 marking the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the OAS has held events about looking for mechanisms to strengthen the Inter-American Democratic Charter. There is hope that the IX Summit of the Americas, will provide an opportunity to address some of the democratic challenges facing the Americas and strengthen the Charter. Furthermore, with the United States hosting the Summit of the Americas in 2022 for the first time since 1994, the Biden Administration has an opportunity to build upon efforts from the Summit for Democracy to develop a regional agenda for addressing democratic challenges.

While the Biden Administration may face challenges in building momentum from countries to address these challenges given the history of U.S. interventionism in the region, it is critical that the administration work with regional partners to develop mechanisms to address regional democratic challenges. The region has reason to be wary of U.S. rhetoric of democracy promotion. As Secretary Blinken highlighted, “…the United States has not always practiced what it preached in our hemisphere, that there are times in our history when we supported governments in the Americas that did not reflect the choice or the will of their people and did not respect their human rights.” Despite this, the region recognizes the threats to democracy that it faces and has a history of seeking to make the hemisphere safe for democracy. Highlighting that this is a problem for the United States as well and showing a willingness to learn from Latin American experiences can help highlight that the Biden Administration takes this issue seriously and wants to work with the region.

Not only does the region have a strong legacy of democracy despite the recent onslaught against it, but has developed mechanisms to address democratic threats in the region. Given this, before the United States goes around trying to solve the global democratic threats, it should make sure that its neighborhood is democratically sound and learn the necessary lessons to develop global regimes for the defense of democracy.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.