Why US-backed "Summit for Democracy" only triggers division, confrontation

Facing various human rights woes at home, more US citizens are losing faith in American democracy.

24 Mar 2024 08:47am
Secretary Blinken in Seoul for the third Summit for Democracy, bringing together leaders committed to strengthening democratic governance and addressing the world’s most pressing challenge. (Blinken FB)
Secretary Blinken in Seoul for the third Summit for Democracy, bringing together leaders committed to strengthening democratic governance and addressing the world’s most pressing challenge. (Blinken FB)

SEOUL - The third so-called "Summit for Democracy" quietly ended here Wednesday. Unlike the previous two summits hosted or co-hosted by Washington, this year's event was outsourced to South Korea. Nevertheless, its fundamental nature as an ideological tool for confrontation remained unchanged.

Despite Washington's vigorous promotion, the previous two summits did not achieve any tangible results. The third edition did not focus on real crises in Ukraine and Gaza either. As the sponsor, Washington had one intention with the summit: to suppress other countries and divide the world in the name of democracy.


Portraying itself as a "Beacon of Democracy," the United States frequently bloviates about democracy, yet the so-called beacon is getting dimmer. Facing various human rights woes at home, more US citizens are losing faith in American democracy.

A Pew Center poll shows that 65 per cent of Americans believe the US democratic system needs major reforms, and 57 per cent of respondents believe the United States is "no longer a model of democracy."

From aggravated political polarisation and widening wealth disparity, to growing social divides and deep-seated racial discrimination, the list of challenges troubling the US society is ever-growing, making the narrative of American democracy even less convincing.

Meanwhile, the American political landscape is riddled with systemic flaws, including rampant voter suppression, gerrymandering and outsised influence of corporate interests in electoral politics. These shortcomings have eroded public trust in the democratic process and undermined the legitimacy of American governance.

Failing to solve problems at home, the United States has waged wars around the world and imposed sanctions on other countries in recent decades, causing large-scale humanitarian catastrophes.

Since 2001, wars and military operations launched by the United States in the name of counter-terrorism have killed more than 900,000 people, of which about 335,000 were civilians. Sovereign countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya have suffered numerous disasters due to U.S. invasion and proxy wars.

For long, the United States and other Western countries have interfered in many countries and regions under the banner of "democracy" and "human rights," said Cavince Adhere, a Kenya-based international relations scholar.

The United States weaponises the concept of "democracy," and its summits could hardly convince the public of what Washington preaches, Adhere added.


Over the years, the so-called democracy summits have been dogged by criticism from rights activists, who question whether these gatherings can push the participants to take meaningful action, Reuters reported Monday.

Last year's summit made the Ukraine-Russia conflict a topic of discussion but didn't come up with any constructive solution. Presently, the Ukraine crisis has hit a two-year mark, and the Palestinian death toll in the Gaza conflict has surpassed 30,000.

Ignoring the fact the two ongoing conflicts are causing humanitarian catastrophes, the United States has continued to fund the protracted conflict in Ukraine, and blocked UN Security Council draft resolutions for a ceasefire in Gaza multiple times.

However, participants did not seriously discuss these burning issues during the three-day summit, and the chair's summary of the summit, published Thursday, did not mention them either.

Kwon Ki-sik, head of the Korea-China City Friendship Association, criticised the summit for being an empty gathering that ignored the global crises at hand. The lack of discussion of solutions to existing global crises, such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, climate change and poverty, shows that the conference was just a platform for confrontation led by the United States.

For South Korea, the summit is more of a political demonstration of its international standing. According to the president's office of South Korea, the country has once again demonstrated its position and contribution to the world, creating an opportunity to consolidate the leadership of a "global hub country."

However, given the "regressing political situation" in South Korea, the government's boast of "our democratic leadership" will leave most citizens disappointed, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun said recently in an editorial.


Since the end of the Cold War, the world has seen growing support for multilateralism. Washington, however, has stubbornly pursued global dominance in disregard of this evolving landscape.

The essence of the Washington-sponsored summit is to weaponise democracy, foment division and safeguard its hegemony.

In East Asia, the United States is seeking to build an alliance with Japan and South Korea to contain China and Russia and create a "new Cold War" by putting the "democracy summit" in South Korea, said Lee Jang-hie, emeritus professor at law school of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Washington's bid to rally some countries against others, which has further entrenched ideological divisions, undermines efforts to foster genuine dialogue and cooperation among nations with different political systems.

Kwon said the "democracy summit" is being criticised as a divisive international conference to build a hegemonic international order with the United States at the center. "The US hegemonic action of weakening the function of the UN and leading a so-called 'democracy summit' is a hindrance to world peace."

"By weaponising democracy as a political tool," said commentator Yirenkyi Jesse in an op-ed in The Standard, a leading daily newspaper in Kenya, "the United States seeks to assert its hegemonic dominance, dividing the world along arbitrary lines and sowing discord in its wake." - XINHUA