American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, calls on the U.S. and the international community to pursue a true partnership with civil society in setting robust commitments at this week’s summit and throughout the year of action to follow.
In advance of the Summit for Democracy, Robert Bank, President and CEO of AJWS, released the statement below:
“We praise the Biden administration for recognizing that democracies, including our own in the United States, are under attack and require urgent and serious support. While convening the Summit for Democracy is a laudable and necessary move in the right direction, it is not sufficient in and of itself to ensure that democracies win against authoritarian attacks, which are on the rise globally.
“As the leading global Jewish human rights organization, we support more than 150 grassroots civil society organizations across the globe that are fighting for democracy and human rights in their own countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Their voices – and those of other civil society groups like them – must be part of the Summit’s conversation and year of action and must be listened to by the governments of nations with more hard power and wealth, including the United States. We must support and honor their struggle for democracy without compromise and ensure that they have the resources they need to fight for democracy and that they are welcomed and included as equal participants at global decision-making tables throughout the year to come and beyond.
“AJWS is working to ensure that the voices of our partners – those on the front lines of the fight for democracy – are being heard. Some of our grantees will lead or attend side events leading up to the Summit, including a convening on LGBTQI+ rights.
“For the sake of our own democracy and for the world’s democracies, however, the Biden administration must pursue a proactive global agenda for democracy in partnership with civil society leaders. The Summit itself must include the voices of marginalized groups – stateless persons, Indigenous people, genocide survivors, women, youth and LGBTQI+ communities – and all those fighting back against attacks on democracies and democratic rights.
“At the same time, we must acknowledge that our own democracy has always been imperfect, excluding women and people of color from the first days of our republic – the legacy of which persists to this day. Moreover, we must acknowledge that the United States’ democratic institutions have been under intense assault by domestic and global anti-democratic forces over the past five years, ranging from the violent assault of Jan. 6, 2021, on the U.S. Capitol, to disinformation campaigns on social media by global and national actors alike, to a torrent of new domestic laws that restrict voting rights for Black and Brown people and others.
“Given that authoritarian forces in our own country have been actively undermining our democratic norms, the U.S. must show self-awareness as it seeks to lead this Summit. If successful, the Summit would yield meaningful commitments from the U.S. and the international community, which would increase support for civil society and human rights defenders, as well as commitments for supporting emerging democracies and those working on the front lines to protect or establish democracies. If the Summit for Democracy fails to harness this work, it risks devolving into a public relations event which, at its most benign, will not deliver progress on democracy or, at its worst, will provide cover to regimes who are giving lip service to democracy while undermining it at the same time.
“As a Jewish organization grounded in Jewish values, we stand in solidarity and are united with our partners around the world who are demanding democracy, respect for human rights and dignity for their communities free of discrimination and hate. As an ethnic and religious minority in many societies over many centuries, we too have thrived in pluralistic democratic societies, which guarantee human rights for all.
“The Summit for Democracy is absolutely necessary, but it is not enough: We have much more to do over the coming years to defend democratic rights and democracies, and ensure human rights are always central in this work for all. As we approach Human Rights Day on December 10, let us remember the ancient Jewish sages taught that, ‘You are not required to finish the work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it.’ At AJWS, we will not desist until we are confident that the world is safe for democracy and human rights without exception.”
About AJWS and the Fight for Democratic Rights and Democracy
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to fight poverty and pursue justice in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. By supporting hundreds of social change organizations in 18 countries and advocating for U.S. and international policies for human rights, we respond to the most pressing issues of our time—from disasters, genocide, and hunger to the persecution of women and minorities worldwide. With Jewish values and a global reach, AJWS is making a difference in millions of lives and bringing a more just and equitable world closer for all.
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