WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent today to top White House officials in the Biden administration, a coalition of over 80 organizations including Public Citizen, American Civil Liberties Union, InterAction, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Oxfam America, Southern Poverty Law Center, Partnership for American Democracy, and Amb. Norman Eisen (ret.) former White House Ethics Czar, urged the United States to more fully engage with civil society and take effective, strong steps towards leading protection and renewal of democracy in the wake of the recent 2021 Summit for Democracy.
The letter describes how cooperation with domestic civil society could be improved and the benefits that such expanded cooperation would bring. Specifically, during this Year of Action, the U.S. government should establish an interagency task force that works directly with civil society to focus on implementing the United States’ domestic commitments to democracy and human rights, provide input on the formation of future commitments, as well as provide regularized updates on the progress that has been made.
The groups further note that while the U.S. government has already announced commitments at the virtual Summit in December 2021, civil society organizations should be given an adequate chance to respond and weigh in on these developments. The letter states that finalizing commitments without adequate civil society consultation will send a message that civil society is not viewed as a partner alongside government and private sector in the Year of Action.”
The letter also explains that lack of sufficient cooperation between domestic civil society and the U.S. government hindered effective participation in the 2021 Summit, as many relevant domestic organizations that would have benefited from, and contributed to, the Summit “were either not aware that the Summit was taking place, did not think the Summit was relevant to their advocacy, or did not know how to engage with Summit organizers.”
By bolstering the partnership between U.S. civil society organizations and the U.S. government, the commitments that were made during the 2021 Summit can be more effectively and efficiently met, not only benefiting the American people, but also helping establish the U.S. as a credible leader in the push for strengthening democracies and protecting human rights globally. The letter concludes, “This upcoming year presents an opportunity for the United States to engage in self-reflection, learn from global experiences, and take bold action to demonstrate accountability for moments when we have failed to live up to our values at home and abroad.”