In 2021, the Permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies began the year with a sincere attempt to return to normalcy after the global pandemic of 2020. The Delta and Omicron variants, however, impacted this course. In-person activities supporting human rights and the rule of law took place in varied locations as Geneva, Morocco, and through joint missions with civil society to Finland and Romania. Other planned for in-person events were eventually deemed safest only for virtual formats, as with the Community of Democracies’ 10th Ministerial Conference and the Youth Assembly for the Summit for Democracy and Governing Council meetings.
The Community of Democracies welcomed the extension of the Romanian Presidency until September 2022. I am very grateful to Romania for its supportive and visionary leadership, which prioritized crucial issues for democracy, specifically the engagement of youth in public life and digitalization to support democratic governance. This generous offer of extension allowed a smooth continuation of the current leadership in ever-changing circumstances. Later in 2022, the Community of Democracies looks forward to its next Presidency.
The Community of Democracies implemented its 2021 work in an environment of democratic challenge. Longstanding threats to freedom, such as the struggle with corruption, continued as a new tragedy occurred in the loss of Afghanistan’s transitioning democracy. There was increased need to speak to climate change, which combined with the pandemic last year to exert an impact on societies across the globe.
There was also an environment of resiliency. Across the world, civil society remained in the streets, pressing democracies and authoritarian governments alike for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Summit for Democracy took place in December 2021, with commitments made by attending states for a “Year of Action” in 2022. In addition to the promotion and encouragement of young people in democracy and dialogue on the use of new technologies to strengthen freedom and human rights, the Community of Democracies in 2021 was forward-looking on gender equality.
In 2021, an example of resiliency could be seen in the Ministerial Conference, the most significant gathering of the Community of Democracies. The 10th Ministerial Conference, held virtually on the margins of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, gathered foreign ministers and civil society to discuss the theme of Democracy and Resilience. The Ministerial Declaration reaffirmed the determination of the Community of Democracies to engage in global efforts supporting the principles of the Warsaw Declaration. Two decades since the foundation of this coalition of democratic states, the ministerial conferences remain a platform for established and young democracies from different parts of the world to share opinions, ideas, and experiences.
Despite logistical challenges from the pandemic, in 2021 the Community of Democracies partnered with NGOs from six countries to survey democracy in 55 countries, conducted in 45 languages and through interviews with more than 47,000 individuals. Among the many findings is that across the world, majorities select representative democracy as the best of political systems and that people aspire to more freedom, even in hybrid and authoritarian systems. Central to the work of the Community of Democracies in 2022 will be the survey finding that dissatisfaction is not against democracy as a political system but against poor performance by democracies ill-function around the world.
In 2022, the Community of Democracies will seek flexibility and new solutions to ongoing and emerging challenges. For sure, values-based multilateralism strongly allied with civil society will remain critical to efforts to protect human rights and support the resiliency of democracies. The Community of Democracies will continue to offer its assistance to governments worldwide and work with its Governing Council Member States, civil society, and other stakeholders to promote and protect shared human rights and democratic values.