Fri. Jul 12th, 2024
Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Opening Ceremony of the Third Summit for Democracy

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very, very much.  President Yoon, Foreign Minister Cho:  Thank you for hosting this third Summit for Democracy.  And I hope that the extraordinary spirit of nori that we just saw a few moments ago pervades the next three days, and indeed, helps us carry forward from Seoul as we not only do our work here, but then continue it in the many weeks and months ahead.

It’s particularly fitting – in fact, it’s even a little bit poignant – that we’re gathered here in Seoul, in Korea, for this third Summit for Democracy – a nation that transformed, over a single generation, into one of the strongest, most dynamic democracies in the world, a champion of democracy for the world.

I also want to thank our partners who are here with us today from the United Kingdom and Ecuador in helping to carry forward the banner of the Summit for Democracy.  And everyone present today:  Thank you for being here.

We come from nations large and small; East and West; developed and developing economies.  But we’re all united by a fierce conviction: that democracy is the single most powerful tool for unleashing human potential and delivering results for our people.

Three years ago, President Biden launched the Summit for Democracy, out of a recognition that democratic governance has reached what he calls an inflection point.

There was a powerful wave of political opening around the world after the end of the Cold War, but that has been followed by nearly two decades of democratic backsliding.  In many places, basic freedoms have eroded, electoral rights have come under assault, corruption has eaten away at hope.

Under the summit banner, over the past three years, we have risen together to meet this challenge.  More than 100 governments from every part of the world have committed to taking concrete action to strengthen and renew democracy both in their countries, but also working together to tackle shared threats around the world.

We’re fighting corruption.  Bulgaria is protecting whistleblowers and increasing accountability for public prosecutors.  Kenya adopted open contracting data standards for public procurement and created a public beneficial ownership register.  Canada is investing millions in combatting money laundering around the world.

We’re promoting free and fair elections.  Switzerland is supporting emerging democracies with technological expertise and guidance to reduce the risk of violence ahead of elections.

Botswana is engaging regional bodies like the African Union and the regional economic communities to advocate for presidential term limits.  Australia is providing electoral support to Southeast Asian and Pacific nations.

We’re protecting independent media and journalists.  The United States has supported grants around more than a dozen countries to strengthen the long-term stability of media outlets through the International Fund for Public Internet Media – excuse me, Public Interest Media.  And we’re improving the security of journalists, including those operating in exile, under the Journalism Protection Platform.

We’re upholding and defending human rights.  Nepal increased the statute of limitations to file a rape case.  Czechia has begun a program to issue emergency visas for human rights defenders who may be under threat.  The Bahamas launched a mobile tool to connect people with disabilities to services and employment opportunities.

And critically, we are bringing partners outside of government into the important work of protecting and promoting democracy.  The United States is launching a new National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct.  This plan sets out more than 40 concrete actions across the U.S. Government to help ensure that the companies that we work with are actually upholding human rights.

President Biden has made the defense of democracy a core pillar of American diplomacy – because safeguarding and accelerating our democratic renewal at home requires that we help shape a world in which democracies can thrive.

Shoring up traditional pillars of democracy is more important than ever.

But we also need to show that democracy is responsive to our people’s needs and can deliver on the issues that matter most in their lives and for their livelihoods.

Like the climate crisis – which, for millions of people, is literally an existential threat to their livelihoods today.

Inclusive economic growth that protects the dignity of work and strengthens the economic competitiveness of democracies.

Social rights, like food, health care, education, housing.

The rights and needs of the vulnerable and historically marginalized: women and girls, people living with disabilities, the LGTBQI+ community, religious and ethnic minorities, young people.  Our democracy cannot be for some – it must be for all.

That’s why we’re investing in new Summit for Democracy initiatives like the Youth Democracy Network to connect young democratic leaders across our countries.  We need to be informed and animated by their needs, by their aspirations – and act on them, if we want rising generations to support democratic societies.

Revitalizing democracy will also require us to shape a technological future that’s inclusive, that’s rights-respecting, directed at driving progress in people’s lives.

As authoritarian and repressive regimes deploy technologies to undermine democracy and human rights, we need to ensure that technology sustains and supports democratic values and norms.

A little bit later this morning, we’ll have an opportunity to talk about ways to make sure that our technological progress – specifically artificial intelligence and digital tools – actually spur democratic renewal and do not undermine it.

As President Biden often says, democracy doesn’t happen by accident.  We have to renew it constantly.  And we have to confront our own shortcomings, transparently, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when it’s painful.

We do so secure in the knowledge that democracy is a shared aspiration for people around the world – and that demand for representative democracy remains strong.

Safeguarding our democracies is a collective effort, one that depends on our governments and on our people working together.  All people, all nations, all sectors have contributions to make.  And none of us has a monopoly on ideas, never mind good ideas.

And that’s, in a way, the power of the Summit for Democracy – the ability to actually share and scale solutions; to catalyze collective action; to shift norms.  In doing that, we continue to earn the confidence of our people and the confidence of the world in our democratic model.

So to everyone here, thank you.  Thank you for your engagement.  Thank you for your leadership each and every day by each and every country here.  And looking around this room, hearing the commitments from so many partners, I remain more than optimistic that we will – we will – meet the challenge of this moment.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS