The Columbus Dispatch

Biden sounds alarm at summit

Calls for global action on authoritar­ianism and human rights

- Joey Garrison

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said preserving and strengthen­ing the world’s democracie­s is “the defining challenge of our time” Thursday morning as he kicked off an inaugural summit of global leaders to push back at the rise of authoritar­ianism.

“In the face of sustained and alarming challenges to democracy and universal human rights all around the world, democracy needs champions,” Biden said in remarks from the White House to about 80 world leaders attending the virtual summit.

Biden said he wants the “summit for democracy” to spark a “year of action” for the 110 participat­ing countries to follow through on commitment­s made during the two-day event.

As an example, he pointed to his administra­tion’s new “strategy on countering corruption.” It proposes rules to make it harder for corrupt actors to create shell companies to launder money or hide assets.

Biden urged participan­ts to stand for justice, the rule of law, free speech, free assembly, a free press and freedom of religion.

In the U.S., the president singled out Democratic-backed voting-rights legislatio­n – the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act – that Republican­s in the Senate have blocked.

“We should be making it easy for people to vote, not harder. And that’s going to remain a priority for my administra­tion until we get it done,” he said. “Inaction is not an option.”

Biden said “half of all democracie­s,” including the U.S., have experience­d a decline in at least one aspect of democracy over the last 10 years. He acknowledg­ed America’s own struggles with democracy.

A violent insurrecti­on on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol waged by supporters of former President Donald Trump sought to stop the certification of Biden’s election win.

“Here in the United States, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthen­ing our democratic institutio­ns requires constant effort,” Biden said.

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