SECRETARY MRUGA: Good morning, everyone. And let me say first that I am really tempted to say “what she said” and we can call it a day, and it usually is. Because yes, we are here – and I am here – to savor a bit of that inspiration that we see at this table. But much of this inspiration for me begins with over a decade of friendship and adoration, if so, Sam and everything that she has inspired so many of us to do over the years, with this constant focus on democracy, human rights, the fight against the worst people and doing the best.
So it’s always great to partner with my friend, my longtime colleague, and be with all of you. I am truly grateful for this remarkable turnout of leaders and associates in both governments and organizations and, as Sam said, really in different regions and around the world.
Thus, usually the events we have on the future of democracy focus on challenges and related trends. And they are real. They are deep; are serious. And I know they are a deep concern for all of us. We – and this “we” includes governments, NGOs, multilateral institutions, businesses and others committed to restoring and spreading democracy – we tend to overlook the other side of the coin at times: people around the world who, Sam said, are demanding democracy, demand human rights, demand responsible government, and who routinely go to polls and sometimes to the streets to reject corruption, repression, and authoritarianism.
And in this room, around this table, we see the results of many such moves: inspirational leaders who have passed waves of popular support for democracy and the fight against corruption to the office, but who now need to prove, as Sam said, that their reform programs can indeed deliver tangible results. benefits to the people they represent. It really is a task ahead of us. This is what President Biden has focused on and has spoken of with certainty since he became president, but I’ve heard him focus on it for a long time.
And the good news is: We see – see – democracy actually provides the people in your countries. And I think we now have a great opportunity to support these efforts, support your efforts and help ensure their continued success, at a time when I know many of you are facing very serious adversities. So today I know we have the opportunity to hear from some of the top reformers about how we can do this.
Governments have a key role to play. At the December – sorry – Summit for Democracy, President Biden announced the Presidential Democratic Renewal Initiative. We have committed approximately $ 425 million to keep our commitments. About $ 55 million of this funding in the first year will go to the USAID Partnership for Democratic Development, which will provide flexible, multi-year support – and multi-year support is important – to countries striving for democratic opening, such as those attending today’s event.
But government is needed, but not enough. We need others, including the private sector, which has a steady share of supporting stronger democracies. Transparency, the fight against corruption, the rule of law, all – you know it – create a more level playing field for companies. And countries that respect human and labor rights tend to be more stable and reliable partners – especially in a crisis, as we experienced during COVID-19.
The private sector, on the other hand, has exceptional expertise in many areas where emerging democracies need the most support. We will hear about some of them today, such as Vodafone’s efforts to improve maternal health in Tanzania. I’m sure the others in this room, at this table, will have ideas of where to report. We’d love to hear them. We are happy to help you act in accordance with them wherever we can. I’ve seen it from time to time and it’s also incredibly inspiring. We see practical results when we can build public-private partnerships to actually make progress, actually change people’s lives.
One way we can do this in government is through the Development Finance Corporation, which works with the private sector to lower the risk of investment in developing countries, including all the democracies represented here today. And Scott, thank you so much for being with us today, but thank you for what you do every day. I have to say that from my perspective, one of the most important tools we have in the US government on this agenda is the DFC, and I am very proud that we are working so closely together.
Today, however, it is about more than just providing support. We are also here to learn. We’re here to learn from everyone at this table. We are here to adapt. We are here to share and spread best practices because another thing I have learned in many years of doing this is that no one has a monopoly on ideas, let alone good ideas. Nobody has a monopoly on best practices. Somewhere in the world, for every problem we face, someone has probably figured it out.
But if we don’t share this information, if we don’t share best practices, we are constantly re-discovering the wheel. And the strength of gathering so many people focused on different aspects of this challenge is that I bet that in almost everything we deal with, someone has found a good idea or a good solution. That’s why we want to share them today.
Ultimately, the challenges faced by many are just not that different from those faced by democracies around the world. Allow me to quickly quote one that I know tops almost all programs: corruption. It is currently estimated to cost up to 5 percent of global GDP. We all know this, but corruption discourages investment. It stifles competition, deepens inequalities and perhaps the most detrimental to democracy, undermines public confidence in government and institutions. And that’s the most corrosive thing of all. It also lubricates the wheels of foreign interference, disinformation, transnational repression, and other actions taken by authoritarian governments to undermine democracy.
Every country here today is taking significant steps to remedy this scourge. The Dominican Republic passed new legislation that allows the government to seize assets acquired through illegal activities and invest them in the Dominican people. Ecuador created the country’s first specialized court to fight corruption and organized crime. The Armenian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption conducted an integrity audit of 261 candidate judges and prosecutors in the first half of 2022, looking for conflicts of interest and other issues that could actually undermine their independence. These are real, practical ways of dealing with corruption.
Now much of this democratic renewal is actually being done from below – in Zambia, where last year more young women voted for the first time than ever in the country’s history and appointed new leaders who are already making positive changes. from extending the protection of human rights to reducing the country’s crushing debt.
And Moldova, where mass voter turnout to reform the government, a government that operated on a platform of transparency, anti-corruption and the independence of the judiciary, brought this government to office.
And I must say that my own admiration for Madam President and for all your colleagues is boundless. You have an extraordinary challenge under the most difficult circumstances, but know that the United States is and will remain your partner in everything you do.
For all the reasons to be optimistic about this progress, citizens’ enthusiasm can be the most inspiring and ultimately the most important because when people in other parts of the world, including closed societies, see citizens holding their leaders accountable when they see that the government is actually working to solve the problems that people grapple with on a daily basis, then they also begin to miss a freer, more open and responsible government in their own countries. And that’s the kind of virus we want it to spread. It’s a good powerful one that can make a huge difference.
The most important thing is: I think that more than ever before, the fate of our democracies is intertwined, intertwined. The more dynamic, resilient democracies that we can develop on our side, the more we will be able to do what we are all here for, which is to provide for our citizens, our fellow citizens. This is a mission; that is the goal. We are grateful to be able to work with so many people who are doing just that.