Joe Biden opens the Summit for Democracy: “We must unite to reject authoritarianism”

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The president of the United States, Joe Biden, began this Thursday the Summit for Democracy virtually with presence in more than 110 countries.

In his inaugural speech, the president, who was accompanied by the US Secretary of States, Antony blinkenHe explained that he had been planning this summit for a long time. “Renewing democracies is a constant effort”, he said, while alerting that “15 years ago, democracy has been in decline”.

Biden took aim against the autocrats who “try to seek more power”. “What we see indicates that we are in the opposite direction“, He pointed out, and warned that freedom of expression”is being threatened globally “.

He also called to defend “The values ​​that unite us: freedom of expression, of the press and religion”. “Democracy is not perfect, but we can make it better. We are going to defend it around the world “, he expressed.

United States President Joe Biden speaks at the start of the Democracy Summit at the White House in Washington, United States, on December 9, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis (LEAH MILLIS /)

Regarding democracy in the United States, the president urged “facilitate the right to vote and not make it more difficult “. “The democracy of the USA can do great things”He added.

On the current news of journalism and the persecution suffered by many media workers around the world, Biden pledged to protect them.

A global Pew Research poll reveals that a large majority of citizens support democracy, but an average of 56% in 17 advanced economies say their political systems need major changes or must be completely reformed.

In this context, Biden launched the Summit for Democracy, which takes place virtually on December 9 and 10. It is designed to begin to address these concerns. With more than 100 video speeches from invited leaders, the summit kicks off what the administration and democracy activists hope will be a year of coordination and reform among democracies, to shore up their reputations at home and in the world. It is an idea that Biden already had before arriving at the White House. The coronavirus pandemic prevented him from doing it with a great meeting of leaders in Washington and the pomp he would have wanted. While there is no pristine agenda on what to look for as a result, deep down what the United States needs is a revitalization of ties with western democracies that isolate and compete with the growing influence of China and Russia. The Atlantic Council, the Washingtonian think tank, announced that one of the results sought could be a global Alliance of Democracies, with a core group of 30 to 40 countries as founding members.

United States President Joe Biden on December 9, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis
United States President Joe Biden on December 9, 2021. REUTERS / Leah Millis (LEAH MILLIS /)

The international affairs correspondent for the magazine Politico, Nahal Toosi described it this way: “This is the summit of democracy and for democracies. It is about elevating, building and protecting this concept of democracy. But he’s lame. It lacks balance. Turkey was left out, Hungary was left out, Bangladesh was left out, Singapore was left out. For a time, Serbia and Kosovo were left out, but they changed their minds. Some of the decisions were geostrategic: ‘If we are going to invite India and we don’t invite Pakistan, it is going to cause us problems.’ And not everyone was happy about it. Poland was invitedAnd I think that was partly because there was a sense that you have to try to make sure they don’t fall off the undemocratic cliff. “

And her colleague Usha Sahay, one of Politico’s general editors, added in a podcast that “This idea that everyone wants democracy and no one wants autocracy is a very binary view. What the people want is a competent government. So what this administration is trying to say is that we cannot limit ourselves to: ‘Well, we have elections, and therefore we are better.’ We have to show that democracy can work. The pandemic has called into question the competence of many democratic countries, including the United States”.

Although the Biden Administration originally hoped to hold this first summit before, and in person, its December 9-10 election has some significance. December 9 is the International Day Against Corruption, while December 10 is Human Rights Day. The administration is expected to unveil new sanctions against kleptocrats and human rights violators in those days. Themes that prevail among the initiatives that the White House will bring to the consideration of leaders: The defense against autocracy, the fight against corruption and the promotion of human rights.

US President Joe Biden with global leaders at the Summit for Democracy.  REUTERS / Leah Millis
US President Joe Biden with global leaders at the Summit for Democracy. REUTERS / Leah Millis (LEAH MILLIS /)

From Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador were left uninvited. Something that deepens the existing rift in continental decisions and puts in a bind some countries where Chinese investments are playing a leading role. “Although the rise of authoritarian regimes, such as China, may also play a role in the global crisis of democracy, prioritizing this trend will likely make Latin American governments have more doubts about the entire democracy promotion effort. ”Explains Oliver Stuenkel, from the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) of São Paulo. “If the summit overemphasizes concerns about growing Chinese or Russian influence around the world, skeptics of the summit in the region will quickly describe the meeting as little more than an effort to bolster the US-led alliance against Beijing and Moscow.. No Latin American leader, not even the fervently pro-United States president of Brazil, would be left in a very comfortable position, given the region’s strong economic ties with China. Instead of allowing geopolitics to frame the debate as a struggle between democracies and autocracies, Latin American leaders would prefer to focus on the internal factors of democratic erosion. “

Biden’s great challenge at this summit is to present initiatives that go far beyond rhetoric and that they understand the roots of the global malaise with democracy. Growing inequality is eroding the entire social fabric. Its consequences, corruption, kleptocracy, lack of opportunities for the youngest, poverty and misery, do the rest. On Friday night it will be known if the summit managed to go beyond the statements and addressed integral democracy to preserve it or if the crisis continues its course towards the abyss.


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