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Biden announces $690m for world democracies

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP/Agencies

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced new funding to bolster democracies around the world amid criticism his administration has made little progress in advancing human rights and democracy as a focus of its foreign policy.

Biden announced he planned $690 million in funding to help fight corruption, support free and fair elections and advance technologies that support democratic governments at a second White House-led Summit for Democracy.

He announced over $400 million for similar programmes in 2021 when he last held such an event.

“We’re turning the tide here. As we often say, we’re at an inflection point in history here, when the decisions we make today are going to affect the course of our world for the next several decades for certain,” Biden said.

US President Joe Biden (left) delivers remarks while hosting the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary session with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Wednesday.—AFP

Rights advocates say there is little evidence the countries joining the summit have made progress on improving their democracies, and that there is no formal mechanism to hold participants to the modest commitments made at the first meeting even as Biden and South Korea announced plans to host a future third summit.

Freedom House said this month that global freedom had declined for the 17th consecutive year, but there are signs the tide is turning, said Katie LaRoque, the monitoring group’s deputy director for policy and advocacy, explaining that while 35 countries scores declined in Freedom House’s annual rankings, 34 countries improved.

Out of the countries that participated in the first Summit for Democracy, 77 countries’ scores remained the same in 2022, 17 declined and only 16 improved.

In addressing the summit on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu voiced confidence that a political compromise could be reached on the judicial reforms, which he argued could be reconciled with civil liberties even as his opponents have accused him of seeking to curb judicial independence.

He called Biden “a friend of 40 years”. “Israel and the United States have had their occasional differences, but I want to assure you that the alliance between the world’s greatest democracy and the strong, proud and independent democracy — Israel — in the heart of the Middle East, is unshakable. Nothing can change that,” Netanyahu said.

Addressing foreign critics, Netanyahu promised that Israel “was, is and will always remain a proud, strong and vibrant democracy as a beacon of liberty and shared prosperity in the heart of the Middle East”.

Biden on Tuesday warned that Israel “cannot continue down this road” and called on Netanyahu to reach a compromise, while calling himself a “strong supporter” of Israel.

The summit is co-hosted by the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia. The event involves 120 countries including Taiwan, civil society groups and technology companies.

1- Header image: US President Joe Biden (left) delivers remarks while hosting the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary session with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Wednesday.—AFP

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