In convening the unprecedented gathering in Washington on December 9, President Biden told delegates that “global freedom is under threat from autocrats seeking to expand power, export influence and justify repression.”
According to the Reuters News Agency, Mr. Biden added: “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to renew it with each generation. In my view, this is the defining challenge of our time.”
The President did not identify any countries by name, but authoritarian powers China and Russia were absent from the invitation list.
Portions of the summit are being watched live on the BBC, VOA, and its proceedings relayed by a number of other news agencies. The early reaction by Beijing and Moscow was anticipated.
Initial reaction from authoritarian regimes
On the eve of the summit, Chinese and Russian ambassadors wrote a joint essay describing the gathering as exhibiting what they called “a Cold War mentality.”
The White House, on the other hand, has announced it’s working with Congress to provide $424.4 million toward a new initiative to bolster democracy worldwide.
After Mr. Biden’s opening summit remarks, according to the Associated Press, leaders took turns delivering a variety of views on the state of democracy today.
“The democratic conversation is changing,” according to Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederikson. “New technologies and large tech companies are increasingly setting the stage for the democratic dialogue,” the AP quoted Mr. Frederikson as saying, “sometimes with more emphasis on reach than on freedom of speech.”
The AP account also quoted President Biden as saying that passage in Congress of his domestic agenda (including the $1 trillion infrastructure act he recently signed into law) demonstrates how democracies can improve people’s lives.
The two-day virtual summit in Washington was scheduled to end on Dec. 10. The world is watching to see if it is able to tackle its ambitious agenda in just 48 hours.
And of course, the summit’s final conclusions about how the decline of worldwide press freedom and the number of democracies this past decade might be halted or reversed. Look here for an update on December 12.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More