Biden kicks off Summit for Democracy with ambitious new initiatives

Biden sitting at table talking and gesturing (© Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
President Biden called safeguarding rights and freedoms the defining challenge of our time as he hosted the virtual Summit for Democracy in Washington December 9. (© Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden opened the December 9–10 Summit for Democracy with a five-point plan to support freedom worldwide. Its initiatives include ones to bolster independent media and combat corruption.

“Democracy needs champions,” Biden said from the White House in a first-of-its kind virtual event. “In the United States, we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy … requires constant effort.”

The president convened governments, civil society groups and the private sector to discuss bold, practical ways to strengthen democracy.

The president said democracy is hard work best advanced through consensus and cooperation. “This is the defining challenge of our time,” Biden said alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people can at times be fragile, but it is also inherently resilient. It’s capable of self-correction and it’s capable of self-improvement.”

President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken sitting at table facing screen showing participants (© Susan Walsh/AP Images)
President Biden (left) greets leaders attending the December 9–10 Summit for Democracy as Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on. (© Susan Walsh/AP Images)

Biden announced what he called the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal to bolster democratic resilience and human rights worldwide. The administration plans to commit up to $424 million, subject to congressional approval, to support efforts in five areas:

Among the new initiatives is support to the multidonor International Fund for Public Interest Media. The fund will support independent media in areas with limited resources or in vulnerable settings. Another program will protect investigative journalists from censorship.

To fight corruption, the administration is launching a Democracies Against Safe Havens Initiative. It will seek to prevent corrupt actors from hiding assets obtained through illicit activities.

To strengthen the presence of women in political circles and protect their rights, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department will create the Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative.

“Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” Biden said. “We have to renew it with each generation.”

Blinken said, “While each one of our countries faces real challenges, we also know that democracy remains the most effective way to tackle those challenges and to advance human dignity.”