< Distinguished speaker series

Robert Gilchrist

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor

Former United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania 2020-2023

The U.S. Role in the Struggle For Democracy vs. Autocracy

DATE: January 9, 2024 6:00 pm

Event information



Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights and Labor, 2023-

United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania, 2020-2023

Director of the Department of State’s Operations Center

Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Sweden

Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Estonia

Director of Nordic and Baltic Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

Deputy Political Counselor at the United States Embassy in Iraq

Chief of the Political Section of the United States Embassy in Romania

Special Assistant in the Office of the Deputy Secretary of State

MA, University of Virgina

BA, Wake Forest University


Democracy vs. Autocracy:

The Summit for Democracy – This year, President Biden co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy, an assembly of world leaders showcasing progress since the first Summit. The first Summit for Democracy, hosted by President Biden in 2021, organized collective action to address the emerging challenges threatening democracy. The Republic of Korea will host the third Summit for Democracy.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s Commitment to Domestic and Global Democratic Renewal

  • In December 2021, President Biden launched the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, with a focus on the following to defend democratic resilience through diplomacy and foreign assistance:
    • Advancing technology for democracy
    • Supporting free and independent media
      • Providing aid to the Promoting Information Integrity and Resilience Initiative
    • Fighting corruption
    • Bolstering human rights and democratic reformers
      • USAID is creating a first-ever Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance
    • Defending free and fair elections

To learn more, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/29/fact-sheet-the-biden-harris-administrations-abiding-commitment-to-democratic-renewal-at-home-and-abroad/

Advancing Technology for Democracy

  • Expanding the Advancing Digital Democracy Initiative
    • USAID that “fosters open, secure, and inclusive digital societies in which technology advances democratic principles and respect for human rights”
    • Pilot programs in Serbia and Zambia
  • Strengthening the Freedom Online Coalition
    • Program of Action in which 36 governments focus on Internet Freedom
  • Growing the Multilateral Surge and Sustain Fund for Anti-Censorship Technology

Countering the Misuse of Technology and Rise of Digital Authoritarianism

Technology is increasingly being weaponized by non-democratic governments to repress citizens. In addition, in both democracies and autocracies, technology is used to spread harassment and abuse. The following actions, initiated by the Biden-Harris Administration, aim to curtail the dangers of technology:

  • Executive Order Prohibiting the Use of Commercial Spyware that Poses Risks to National Security
  • Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware
  • Restrictions on Post-Service Employment with Foreign Entities of Concern
  • High Risk Community Protection Initiative
  • Strategic Dialogue on Cybersecurity of Civil Society Under Threat of Transnational Repression
  • Guiding Principles on Government Use of Surveillance Technologies
  • Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative—Code of Conduct for Enhancing Export Controls of Goods and Technology That Could be Misused and Lead to Serious Violations or Abuses of Human Rights

Shaping Emerging Technologies to Ensure Respect for Human Rights and Democratic Principles

  • National Strategy to Advance Privacy-Preserving Data Sharing and Analytics
  • National Objectives for Digital Assets Research and Development
  • Launch of Trustworthy and Responsible AI Resource Center for Risk Management

To learn more, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/03/29/fact-sheet-advancing-technology-for-democracy-at-home-and-abroad/