WASHINGTON: Democracy faces “sustained and alarming challenges” worldwide, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday at the opening of a virtual summit on democracy with representatives from some 100 countries. Biden said trends are “largely pointing in the wrong direction” and that democracy needs “champions.”
“We stand at an inflection point,” Biden said, adding “Will we allow the backward slide of rights and democracy to continue unchecked?” The two-day event, held by video
link because of the coronavirus pandemic, was billed by the White House as the US leadership in an existential struggle between democracies and powerful autocracies or dictatorships.
“Make no mistake, we´re at a moment of democratic reckoning,” said Uzra Zeya, the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. “Countries in virtually every region of the world have experienced degrees of democratic backsliding.”
The summit featured opening remarks from Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with representatives from some 100 governments, as well as NGOs, private businesses, philanthropical organisations and legislatures attending.
But Biden went into the summit with the United States deep in its own democratic troubles. His Republican predecessor Donald Trump continues a shocking campaign to disrupt US political norms and overturn the 2020 election in which he was defeated by Biden. And there was also tension simply over who should be on — and off — the list of invitees.
China and Russia, which Biden sees as champions of the autocracies camp, were pointedly left out, something they say is stoking an ideological rift. “No country has the right to judge the world´s vast and varied political landscape by a single yardstick,” wrote ambassadors Anatoly Antonov of Russia and Qin Gang of China in a joint essay last month.