US President Joe Biden will gather world leaders in December for a virtual “Summit for Democracy” that is being seen as a challenge to authoritarian China and an alternative to the traditional G20 meeting.
Biden is seeking to bring together heads of state with major figures in philanthropy, civil society and the private sector “from a diverse group of the world’s democracies,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday.
The gathering from December 9-10 will “galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights,” it said.
A year later Biden plans to host the delegates once more — hopefully in person — to “showcase progress made against their commitments.”
The statement did not give details of those invited to the summit, which comes after the leaders of the G20 — whose composition is determined by economic weight and includes authoritarian regimes such as China and Saudi Arabia — are due to meet at the end of October in Italy.
The US invitation also goes beyond the restricted framework of the G7, a group of major Western democracies in which emerging countries are not represented.
Biden has said that “the challenge of our time is to demonstrate that democracies can deliver by improving the lives of their own people and by addressing the greatest problems facing the wider world,” according to the statement.
The American president has repeatedly signaled his desire to be “leader of the free world” — an unofficial designation usually assigned to the occupant of the White House but rebuffed by his predecessor Donald Trump, who prioritized an “America First” domestic and overseas agenda.
During his four years in the White House, the Republican president abandoned multilateral approaches to foreign policy in favor of often testy bilateral exchanges with traditional allies.
The White House described the summit as “an opportunity for world leaders to listen to one another and to their citizens, share successes, drive international collaboration, and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy.”
The adminstration made the case that Biden, who has just won a major domestic victory with the Senate’s vote on a massive infrastructure plan, has in some ways already shown the way.
“In his first six months in office, the president has reinvigorated democracy at home, vaccinating 70 percent of (the) population, passing the American Rescue plan, and advancing bipartisan legislation to invest in our infrastructure and competitiveness,” the White House said.
“And he has rebuilt our alliances with our democratic partners and allies.”
The 70 percent figure refers to adults that have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. In reality, barely half of the US population is fully vaccinated.