The virtual Summit for Democracy, held in December, had over 275 representatives from governments, civil society, and the private-sector who shared insights on how democracies deliver. At the opening session, host President Joe Biden said the “increasing dissatisfaction of people all around the world with democratic governments that they feel are failing to deliver for their needs,” is the “defining challenge of our time.”
Democracy, he said, is under threat from that dissatisfaction, as well as from pressure by autocrats who seek to expand their own power by falsely claiming their repressive policies are a more “efficient way” to address today’s challenges.
“Democracy — government of the people, by the people, for the people — can at times be fragile, but it also is inherently resilient,” said President Biden. “It’s capable of self-correction and it’s capable of self-improvement.”
It is also, President Biden stated, “the best way to unleash human potential and defend human dignity and solve big problems. And it’s up to us to prove that. . . .We have to stand for justice and the rule of law, for free speech, free assembly, a free press, freedom of religion and for all the inherent human rights of every individual.”
President Biden emphasized that democracy requires action. The United States, he pledged, “is going to lead by example, investing in our own democracy, supporting our partners around the world at the same time.”
President Biden pointed to his domestic initiatives to prove that “American democracy can still do big things and take on challenges that matter most,” including laws that relieve the impact of COVID-19; investment in infrastructure and jobs; advancing racial justice and gender equality and equity; and insisting on the right of every American to vote in free, fair and secure elections.
He also announced the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which will focus efforts across U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance programs to bolster democratic resilience and human rights globally.
Working with Congress, the Administration is planning to commit up to $424 million in the next year to support media freedom, fight corruption, promote technology that advances democracy, bolster democratic reformers as well as defend free and fair elections.
President Biden challenged the world’s democracies to “have the vision to once more lead the march of human progress and human freedom forward. . . .I believe,” he declared, “we can do that and we will, if we have faith in ourselves, in our democracies, and in each other.”