Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Washington Convention Center
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, everyone. Good evening. It is my honor now to actually close out the summit, and I want to start by thanking everyone – all the heads of state and representatives from more than a hundred countries, leaders of subnational governments, partners from civil society and the private sector – for joining us, for taking part in the second Summit for Democracy.
And I was really pleased to see as I was coming in Senator Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was heading out. Other members of Congress who participated, we’re grateful for that participation.
And a special thank you to our summit co-hosts – Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Zambia, and our next summit host, the Republic of Korea. I’d especially like to thank the Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs Yongmin Park for joining us from Seoul here today, and for the partnership as the United States prepares to pass the summit baton to Korea.
In his first year in office, President Biden launched the Summit for Democracy out of recognition that democracy is our single most powerful tool for unleashing human potential and delivering for our people. We know that democracies are more inclusive, more equitable, more peaceful, more prosperous; more able to address the issues that matter most in the lives and livelihoods of their populations, whether it’s protecting public health, advancing children’s education, expanding economic opportunity.
And we know that the pursuit of a stronger, freer, more democratic future is shared by people and governments from big and small countries, North and South, developed and developing.
As President Biden has said, democracy doesn’t happen by accident. It requires constant effort, constant tending by each new generation – and by each of us. And indeed, we are at an inflection point when it comes to the future of democracy, where a defining question of this time is whether we are willing to do what it takes to make sure that democracies continue to deliver for their people, continue to thrive.
Throughout this Year of Action, this group has answered that question with a resounding yes. Since the last Summit for Democracy, we have made – and we are delivering on – over 700 commitments that help us defend and strengthen democratic values and institutions.
These commitments include new laws and initiatives to combat corruption – like Ecuador’s new National Anti-Corruption Strategy, the Dominican Republic’s Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture, and Australia’s National Anti-Corruption Commission Act.
Steps to support a free and independent press – including the contributions of France, Slovakia, New Zealand, and the United States to initiatives that help independent news outlets become more financially stable and sustainable, and protect journalists, as well as the abolition of laws, as in Zambia, that could be used to silence government critics.
Governments have taken measures to bolster democratic institutions, including judicial reform in Albania and Angola; to encourage inclusive representation in government, particularly by women, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and other historically marginalized groups.
And many have taken action to protect civic and human rights. The Democratic Republic of Congo passed landmark legislation to recognize indigenous peoples’ land and cultural rights. Taiwan lifted barriers to prevent the recognition of transnational same-sex marriage. Nepal passed legislation to punish perpetrators of acid attacks and rape, to name just a few.
These national commitments are significant. They’re making a difference, an actual difference, in the lives of millions of people around the world. And as we close this second Summit for Democracy, as we prepare for summits to come, we’ll continue to help one another sustain, adapt, and build on our collective efforts.
Because President Biden believes deeply – as do I – that safeguarding our democracies is a collective effort, one that depends on our governments and on our people working together. Because all people, all nations, all sectors have contributions to make. And for sure, none of us has a monopoly on ideas, never mind good ideas.
And that’s exactly why we tried to bring such a wide-ranging group of summit participants together to drive progress on shared priorities – from promoting youth engagement in politics, supporting an independent press, securing free and fair elections – and, as we discussed today, shaping the norms around the internet and emerging technologies. And it’s why such a major focus of our work leading up to this summit, and in the months that will follow it, is on multilateral efforts – including Democracy Cohorts: innovative platforms that bring governments together with leading civil society and private sector groups.
This shared fight against corruption is just one powerful example of why we need to work together across borders and with partners across our societies. And there has been – and I’m pleased that we’ve done it – real focus on combating corruption through our Summit for Democracy process.
We know that corruption is a transnational scourge. It discourages investment. It stifles competition. It deepens inequities. And maybe worst of all, it erodes public trust in government and institutions.
Every country, unfortunately, has experience in fighting corruption – experience that we need to be sharing with one another. Over the last 15 months, the United States, together with the Brookings Institution and the Open Government Partnership – which includes 76 countries, 106 local governments, representing more than 2 billion people, and thousands of civil society organizations – we’ve been leading a new Financial Transparency and Integrity Democracy Cohort to do just that, to come together, to bring our experiences, our knowledge, and our efforts together in combating corruption.
Bringing these diverse perspectives together, the Cohort has worked to study the problem across regions. And it’s crafting actual solutions based on lessons learned, based on best practices from member countries. Guidelines put together by the Cohort will help prevent bad actors from shielding illicit activity behind shell companies, stopping corrupt government officials and their cronies from enriching themselves, making sure that gatekeepers of the financial system – lawyers, accountants, investment managers – don’t enable money laundering.
This work – this summit – is about looking inward at our democracies: recognizing our challenges, striving to do better by our people.
And in a very profound way, I believe that’s what distinguishes democracies: our willingness to confront these challenges – out in the open, transparently; to acknowledge our shortcomings – not to sweep them under the rug, not to pretend they don’t exist. That is one of our greatest strengths. It’s what we mean in the United States when we commit to the enduring task of forming a more perfect union.
We don’t believe that we hold all the solutions – far from it. But we do know that when we join together with our fellow democracies, we make one another stronger, more resilient, more responsive to our citizens, and better able to do what we’re here to do, which is to deliver for them – and, I hope, for the world.
So to each of you who are still here hanging in there at the end of the day, thank you. Thank you for your participation. Thank you for your engagement – but not just today, every single day – in doing this work. It matters. It’s making a difference, and I can think of no recent time in history when it’s been more vital. So thanks to everyone. Have a great evening. (Applause.) Thank you.