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The Biden administration puts the state of global democracy back in the spotlight

President Joe Biden speaks alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Summit for Democracy virtual plenary from the White House campus on Wednesday.
Patrick Semansky
President Joe Biden speaks alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Summit for Democracy virtual plenary from the White House campus on Wednesday.

Updated March 30, 2023 at 7:00 AM ET

The United States will co-host the second Summit for Democracy with Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia on Wednesday and Thursday. The hosts invited 120 global leaders to the summit, which will be held in Costa Rica this year.

"This summit is about highlighting the importance of democratic resilience and increasing the participation of young people in democracies," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said.

She spoke to Morning Edition's A Martínez on Tuesday about the state of global democracy since the inaugural Summit for Democracy in 2021.

She says the second summit will recognize "those countries that made commitments and countries that actually followed through on their commitments."

Thomas-Greenfield singled out Albania and Angola for positive reforms to their judiciaries, saying that Angola has "taken steps to create an independent judiciary."

While China is excluded from the summit, Thomas-Greenfield says Taiwan will participate because they have made consistent efforts to move their democracy forward.

"Taiwan has remained a solid democratic partner," Thomas-Greenfield said. "They actively engaged in a Summit for Democracy the first time around."

"In terms of our relationship with China, we still have a one China policy, but that doesn't change the fact that through our Taiwan Relations Act, we can continue to engage with this country that is a solid democracy," she added.

Honduras established diplomatic relations with China this weekend and cut ties with Taiwan. Despite growing tensions between Beijing and the U.S., Thomas-Greenfield says the U.S. will continue to "deepen and expand engagements" with Latin America and Taiwan.

"China's influence in Latin America is only important to the extent that it counters our influence," Thomas-Greenfield said.

She says the biggest threat to global democracy is "authoritarianism," but that technology could support democratic freedom.

"Technology can be a double edged sword," Thomas-Greenfield said. "It gives people access to information about what their governments are doing, how their governments are performing, and it also gives people a platform to actually have conversations about what is happening in their countries.

"Democracies allow that to happen," Thomas-Greenfield said. "And authoritarian systems you see regularly that they block access to technology, they block access to information and they block freedoms."

Amra Pasic edited the audio interview, and Adam Bearne edited the digital version. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Destinee Adams
Destinee Adams (she/her) is a temporary news assistant for Morning Edition and Up First. In May 2022, a month before joining Morning Edition, she earned a bachelor's degree in Multimedia Journalism at Oklahoma State University. During her undergraduate career, she interned at the Stillwater News Press (Okla.) and participated in NPR's Next Generation Radio. In 2020, she wrote about George Floyd's impact on Black Americans, and in the following years she covered transgender identity and unpopular Black history in the South. Adams was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.