The Columbus Dispatch
Biden sounds alarm at summit
Calls for global action on authoritarianism and human rights
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said preserving and strengthening the world’s democracies is “the defining 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 certification 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 effort,” Biden said.