Remarks at the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary on Democracy Delivering on Global Challenges
President Biden. We on? Shall I begin? Hello, everyone. Let me start by apologizing for the slight cold I have. That's the only thing that's happening to me these days.
Let me start by thanking everyone for participating in the second Summit of Democracies—for Democracy, I should say.
But more importantly, thank you for the work you've put in over the last 15 months to deliver on commitments you made to each other and to our peoples for the first Summit of—from the first Summit of Democracy.
Look, you know, that's the power of these summits. Not just to speak high-minded words and shine a spotlight on those critical issues, but to galvanize action and translate to concrete progress for people around the world. That's how we make democracy deliver for everyone.
And here's what I hope everyone gathered here, and everyone watching around the world, takes away from this summit: It's working. It's working.
You know, when we gathered here in December of 2021, the sentiment in too many places around the world was that democracy's best days were behind us. Democracy had declined by some measures for 15 consecutive years.
But this year, we can say there's a different story to tell. Thanks to the commitment—thanks to the commitment of leaders of global—gathered today and the persistence of people in every region of the world demanding their rights be respected and their voices being heard, we're seeing real indicators—real indications that we're at a—we're turning the tide here.
As I often say, we're at an inflection point in history here, where the decisions we make today are going to affect the course of our world for the next several decades, for certain.
We're going forward from this summit. Our job is to keep building on our progress so we don't start heading in the wrong direction again, to keep the momentum going. This is a turning point for our world toward greater freedom, greater dignity, and greater democracy.
Here in the United States, we've demonstrated that our democracy can still do big things and deliver important progress for working Americans.
We're bringing down the cost of essentials like prescription drugs and health insurance premiums. We're giving families a little bit more—as my dad used to say, a little bit more breathing room.
We're rebuilding America's infrastructure, driving innovation and tackling the climate crisis while—all while creating good union jobs and investing in communities that too often have been left behind in the past.
We're also demonstrating the resilience of American democracy. During our free, fair, and secure elections last fall, America's first national election since the January 6 attack on our—Capitol, voters resoundingly and roundly rejected the voices of extremism attacking and undermining our democracy.
The right to vote, to have your vote counted, is the threshold of democracy and liberty everywhere in the world. And with it, anything is possible. Without it, in my view, nothing is possible.
That's why, earlier this year, I was proud to sign the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act to ensure American elections continue to reflect the will of the American people and protect the peaceful transfer of power.
You know, we're going to keep working to further strengthen protections by working to pass what we call the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom To Vote Act. They're just to further strength our democracy.
And it's not just the United States that's—delivering on our commitment and demonstrating power—the power of democracy. Angola—Angola has taken steps to build an independent judiciary, creating three new regions—three new regional courts of appeal, which are going to help process cases more quickly. The Dominican Republic has modernized its anticorruption law to create more than 100 anticorruption offices at local levels. Croatia is implementing a multiyear anticorruption plan to increase government transparency and better oversee public procurement.
And there are many more examples I could give, but I'm not going to take the time, in many other countries for every person, from countries taking the first steps toward reform to well-established democracies of people making real changes to protect and strengthen their democracy.
Look, all we know, it's not easy. It's not—this has never been easy. Democracy is hard work. The work of democracy is never finished. It's never laid down, and that's it, all you have to do. It must be protected constantly.
We have to continually renew our commitment, continually strengthen our institutions, root out corruption where we find it, seek to build consensus, and reject political violence, give hate and extremism no safe harbor.
We have to continue our efforts to advance the rights and dignity—and I emphasize the word "dignity"—of all people, including women and girls—you know, because wherever women and girls are under threat, democracy, peace, and stability are at risk as well. And we can't achieve our goals if we're leaving more than half the world's population out of the solution.
We just heard from two incredible women who made an incredible case about—regarding Belarus. They are—they're not only women, they're leaders. They deserve and all women deserve to be represented.
Moreover, when we advance equality and racial justice, we're in—and invest in young people, protect the LGBTQ+ individuals, our societies are not only fairer, but they're stronger and more successful.
Democracy demands full and equal participation of all—all—of our citizens. That's how we unleash the human potential and put ourselves in the strongest possible position to take on the shared challenges—and I emphasize "shared" challenges.
And when democracies stand together, we reinforce and amplify each other's efforts to great effect. And we've seen it over and over again—democracies stepping up to lead and to solve problems together, not just for our own people, but for the world.
From our work to coordinate a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen global health security so we have—we're better prepared to prevent and respond to future global health threats; to our commitment to raise our ambitions on climate goals that we have to preserve our planet—literally preserve our planet for future generations; to making sure parents can feed their children, strengthening food security by building more sustainable and resilient food systems around the globe; and to the unprecedented unity—the unprecedented unity—we've seen from democracies condemning Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and standing in solidarity with the brave Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy.
So, today, the United States is building on our enduring commitment to boost democracy globally. At the first Summit of Democracy, I launched the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, committed more than $400 million to shore up transparent and accountable governance, support for media freedom, to fight for international—fighting international corruption, stand with democracy and democratic reformers, promote technology that advances democracy, defend elections.
Now, working in close cooperation with the United States Congress, we plan to add another $690 million for new funding for the Presidential Initiative over the next 2 years. And over the course of 3 years, my administration intends to work with Congress to commit $9.5 billion across all our efforts to advance democracy around the world. We're all safer when that occurs.
We're creating a new Bureau for—of Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance at USAID to implement many of these funding commitments to enhance our support for democratic initiatives globally.
You know, one key focus of our democracy work will be on making sure that technologies can continue to develop—continue to develop that are used to advance democratic governance, not used to undermine it.
As part of this, earlier this week I signed an Executive order here in the United States to restrict the U.S. Government's use of commercial spyware that has been abused to target dissidents, activists, and journalists around the world, including in the United States.
U.S. taxpayer dollars should not—should not—support companies that are willing to sell their products to abate human rights and violations—excuse me—abet human rights violations. And I want to thank those countries who are joining us this week in committing to regulate the use of commercial spyware.
This effort is one of many—many my administration is leading in the digital space for strengthening tools for internet freedom; to better protecting activists and journalists from cyber threats, harassment, abuse; and shaping emergency—emerging technologies like artificial intelligence so that they deliver and develop things that are in line with our values—our values.
And as you can probably tell, strengthening democracy is a subject about which I am somewhat passionate. I believe this is a defining challenge of our age. And today we can say with pride that the democracies of the world are getting stronger, not weaker. Autocracies of the world are getting weaker, not stronger.
That's a direct result of all of us—all of us—coming together with confidence in ourselves and conviction in our cause: governments from around the globe, representatives of civil society and business, democratic activists and trade unionists—people who refuse to stand silent at attempts to erode their rights.
All—all—of us are making the choice to be leaders of our world and what our world needs to make democracies stronger, to keep the torch of liberty burning for ourselves and generations to come. We have to keep going, and we will.
Thanks to the Republic of Korea for stepping forward to host the next Summit for Democracies. And we'll sustain this forum as a driver of progress—for progress and an anchor for our commitment to one another.
So thank you all again for participating. I look forward to all of you—each one of you, to hearing from you.
And I know—I'm now going to turn this over to the President of Slovakia. Madam President, it's all yours.
[At this point, President Zuzana Caputová of Slovakia, President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera of Malawi, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, President Guillermo Alberto Santiago Lasso Mendoza of Ecuador, President Maia Sandu of Moldova, President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, and President Laurentino "Nito" Cortizo Cohen of Panama made remarks via videoconference. No transcripts were provided. Each leader was introduced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who sat beside President Biden. At the conclusion of President Cortizo's remarks, Secretary Blinken spoke as follows.]
Secretary Blinken. Thank you, President Cortizo. President Biden, any concluding comments?
President Biden. Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your last comments. I agree with you completely.
Let me just close by thanking all of you again for making a priority, for your country and for the world, more democracy.
You know, we're covering a lot of ground in these sessions today on all ways democracy can—is at the heart of all that we hope to achieve and for our people: spurring economic growth; shared prosperity; unfolding justice and upholding it as well; strengthening our institutions; taking global challenges—tackling them head on; advancing inclusion and equity for all our people.
The great strength of democracy is that it gives us all the tools we need for self-government and self-improvement. And I'm proud to stand with all of you to defend those fundamental values we all share: justice, the rule of law, free speech, assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and our core belief in the interest of human rights for every single individual in the world.
You know, we've accomplished a great deal together, but we all know how much work lies ahead. We've proven we're up to the challenge. But with the Republic of Korea hosting the next Summit of Democracy, we're going to keep going, together, all of us.
So I thank you all very much. I won't take any more of your time. But I've been impressed by what you've had to say. Thank you all very, very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:42 a.m. from the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, opposition leader, and Natalia Pinchuk, wife of imprisoned Nobel Laureate Ales Bialiatski, of Belarus. He also referred to Executive Order 14093.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary on Democracy Delivering on Global Challenges Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/360316