S_light_edited.png

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Panel Discussion with Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes, And Civil Society Representatives At the Civil Society Forum

MR ALEGRET:  Thank you, everyone.  Let’s open my mike.  Thank you, everyone, for joining us in this amazing panel.  The topic is democratic governance, and you’re here to listen to the conclusions, the suggestions from civil society to high officials from three different governments.  As I mentioned, United States, Canada, and Panama.  From the United States we have the Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  From Canada, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly.  And from Panama, Erika Mouynes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs too.

So I’m going to give the word to the spokesperson from civil society, Vanessa Neumann.  You can — deliver the remarks, and then we will open the conversation.  Everyone is going to be able to intervene in this panel.

MS NEUMANN:  I have been asked to give my remarks in Spanish, if that might be all right.

MR ALEGRET:  Up to you.

MS NEUMANN:  Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you all for being here.  Appreciate it.  Thank you for the kind invitation of the OAS and for the host country, the United States.  Gracias.

(Via translation.)  Good morning to everyone here with us today.  Our America has changed.  That is why our nations are called to unite, add to, dialogue with, and respect the people.  We see with concern the degradation of the democracies in the region due to the installation of authoritarian leaders, the persistence of structural inequalities, and due to the implementation of restrictive and regressive human rights actions and/or policies that significantly aggravate the quality of life of all of its countries, in addition to those who have not renounced the death penalty.  Governments exist with the consent of the people for which they work, not the other way around.  It is their duty to provide the necessary instruments and the opportunities so that all persons can have a decent life, respecting the same rights in others.  After intense work from the regional groups, and a gathering of these, civil society representatives and social actors on the topic of democratic governance present before you your proposals.  We have divided these into three primary issues.

First, human rights. The civil society members participating in the 9th Summit of the Americas condemn the dictatorships of Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela.  (Applause)

And call upon all of the states to condemn all dictatorships and take the following actions to promote the right to democracy among the peoples of the Americas.  One, eliminate all forms of political violence and the immediate release of all persons deprived of their liberty who are imprisoned for political motives in all countries.

Two, protect those groups whose rights have been violated and those that are especially vulnerable.  For example, communities of African descent, indigenous, corruption whistleblowers, human rights and environmental protectors, LGBTQ+ communities, disabled persons, boys, girls, women, adolescents, young people, senior citizens, migrants, refugees, stateless persons, people in transit, scholars, and journalists.

Eradicate harassment and discrimination in the workplace; sexual abuse and exploitation; forced labor, partnerships and marriages; and human trafficking, in order to eliminate all forms of violence, political as well as against the dignity of human life.

Four, guarantee and protect the right of the people, indigenous, rural, and communities of African descent, to the access to land, territory, and safe and balanced environment.  As well as their right to self-determination.  Achieve a regional agreement on migration, refuge, and internal displacement which includes structural measures to avoid the expulsion of migrants and respects the right to political asylum and international protections.

Six, guarantee the independence of state powers.  Specifically, the judicial power and access to justice.  As well as the electoral agencies at the national and subnational level.  That there be no more impunities in the Americas. Guarantee the physical safety and legal status of civil society organizations and not criminalize national or international cooperation with them.  Including the management and execution of those resources.  Stop the advance of organized crime in the political class and the state capture, which takes advantage of populism to dismantle democratic institutions.

Nine, expand the participation of civil society and social actors in the inter-American system, summits, and general assemblies of the OAS.  Ensure the right to freedom of the press, free will, expression, and opinion.  Condemn the destabilizing actions of the Sao Paulo Forum and the Puebla Group on the hemisphere.  As well as the inherence of the Cuban dictatorship in any other state.

Thank you.

On the subject of transparency and anti-corruption, adopt transparency measures as to the expenditures, management, and execution of the public budget.  Encourage and facilitate the reporting of irregularities and acts of corruption, including money laundering, by protecting the whistleblowers and also identifying and making whole the victims of corruption.  Promote effective socialization and integrity measures.  Implement and broadcast public consults via accessible and friendly technology platforms in the legislative and public policy community development processes.

Criminalize corruption and demand transparency in the management of public funds. Guarantee resources to work in the fight for democracy and against corruption. Criminally sanction public officials who are involved in corruption for the responsibility they hold.  Demand that multilateral organizations and agencies condition their financing and cooperation to the respect of human rights and integrity in management.

Strengthen PASCA, composed of the Caribbean, United States and Canada.

(I’m almost done).

On the subject of citizen participation and inclusion, increase international cooperation to guarantee access to education, justice, and health for all persons, with special attention to vulnerable persons.  Encourage the inclusion of the youth, identities, disabled persons in the decision-making chain of governments.  Promote strategies to encourage diverse candidates to run for public office and the integration of vulnerable groups in the electoral process in all countries.

Implement the necessary changes so that civil society organizations, social actors, and the private sector have a permanent representation in the GRIC (SIRG) and JTCC processes.  As well as active and collaborative participation in SISCA.

We call upon all member states to form a working group with civil society representatives and of the national legislative assemblies to fulfill the recommendations of the MESICIC (OEA).  To follow-through with the agreements of this summit, strategies must be included for publishing and training in the use of the proposed mechanisms.  As well as the work between the GRIC and the Joint Summit Task Force, civil society, and the private sector in order to evaluate the progress of governments regarding the implementation of the plan of action prior to the 10th Summit of the Americas.

Essentially, good character, bolstered by values of faith, hope, charity, love, humility, perseverance, patience, equity, non-violence and non-discrimination are the antidote to corruption.  Our governments need to create mechanisms that address human rights issues, transparency, and anti-corruption in order to achieve true and efficient democratic governance.  As nations, we have the great challenge to overcome corruption and lack of transparency.  As well as deepen unity, brotherhood, and cooperation among the people and governments.  Taking into account, each person’s right and dignity of each person to self-determination.

“Peace means respect for the rights of others.”- Benito Juarez

Thank you very much.

MR ALEGRET:  Thank you.  Thank you, Vanessa.

This is a summit that is hosted by the United States.  We have three representative – government representatives here on the stage today.  So I’m going to give the floor to the host of the summit, the representative of the United States, Secretary Antony Blinken.

Secretary, the floor is yours.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.  And let me start by saying — this is what this summit is all about.  It’s not just about governments meeting together, as important as that is – and it is important because it’s been four – more than four years since the heads of government of our respective countries have come together.  But it is about working with, hearing from, listening to all of the stakeholders in our societies – civil society, the business community, labor, young people, and what – the power of the summit is to bring all of us together.  I hope that that includes a lot of interaction among the different groups, not just between the government representatives and civil society, but what we heard was a very powerful call for countries to adopt, adhere, implement basic democratic principles, all of which are founded in the democratic charter of our hemisphere that was launched actually at a Summit of the Americas in 2001 in effect, and took life, and should be the foundational document for all of us.

We all have shortcomings when it comes to this.  We all need to be held accountable for those shortcomings.  Civil society is a powerful way of doing that, and we value it even if we don’t always make clear our appreciation.  But making sure that this voice is heard is critically, critically important.  It will animate what we do.

And the last thing I’ll just say is this is a critical time for our entire hemisphere.  No region of the world has been more affected by COVID-19 than our region.  We’ve suffered more loss of life than any other part of the world.  And all of the other repercussions that followed from that, including economic repercussions, where people are suffering.

We have about 30 percent of world GDP in our hemisphere.  But we need to activate it, and we need to activate it in a more equitable fashion.  So there has to be greater inclusion in what we’re doing.

But we have COVID.  We have climate.  We have migration, which is at historic proportions.  More people on the move in our hemisphere than at any time in memory, and that’s also true around the world.  We have the impact that technology is having on the lives of all of our people, and big digital divides among us.  We have inequities in our health systems.

All of these things, as well as the shortcomings that our very societies have when it comes to democracy – these are things that we need to work on together.  And in part, that’s what we’re trying to do among our countries at the government level.  Because we know this basic fact is true, and I think there’s a recognition across most of the countries in our hemisphere: not a single one of the big challenges that we face that’s actually having an impact on the lives of our citizens can be addressed by any one of us acting alone.  And not only acting alone in terms of governments, but acting alone in terms of stakeholders.  The only way we’re going to get sustainable results is if we can somehow bring all of the stakeholders along together.  It’s very hard, it’s very imperfect, it takes time, but that’s the way to do it, and that’s exactly why we’re meeting and listening to each other, and trying to learn from each other.

So in that spirit, I’m really pleased to see everyone here, and want to keep listening.

MR ALEGRET:  Let’s close the round of government officials on the stage.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  Let’s hear from Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Canada.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  Thank you.  Well, it’s great to be here.  Thank you, Tony, for hosting this important Summit of the Americas.  I had the chance to meet some of you in the room before being here.  I know that there are great people, strong women from Mexico and – yes, working on the question of women empowerment.  Thank you for your work.  I know I met some of you also that are working to make sure to combat poverty and make sure that education is available to children.  So thank you.  And I know a lot of you are coming from different perspectives and different walks of life, and are all about defending human rights and freedom of expression in your different countries.  So thank you for being here.  Merci d’être ici.

Well, Tony has mentioned it a bit earlier, the Summit of the Americas, of what last happened in 2018.  Let’s all remember what has happened since 2018.  Obviously the pandemic, but also we know that the war in Ukraine is having a real toll on gas prices, on cost of living, on affordability in general, and obviously we know that there has been and there will continue to be issues linked to the impact of climate change – definitely in the Caribbeans, but also throughout the hemisphere and throughout the world.  And so more than ever, the discussions we’re having at this Summit of the Americas and everything in line with foreign policy is having an impact in people’s lives and in households, may you be in Erika’s country, in Panama, in Canada, in the U.S., in Chile, et cetera.

And so that is why it’s important that we have this conversation together, because more than ever, your work is also important, and we need to make sure that we continue to talk to each other.

There’s been some issues also in dealing with our own democracies within the hemisphere.  We know that.  There’s been shining lights from President Cortizo in Panama, and Erika, you’re part of this government, from Gabriel Boric’s election in Chile, but there’s been also democratic backsliding, and I am convinced that many of you in the room have opinions about that.

And so we know that democracy is being threatened three ways.  The first one is linked to the fact that there are some authoritarian new regimes and authoritarian leaders that are challenging democracies, and there’s that fight on the world stage between both regimes.  The second one is also democracies and democratic institutions being challenged at home within our own democracies and a mistrust of people towards the very possibility of countries being able to tackle these difficult issues.  And the third one is the impact of the online discussion, so democracy and – in the digital age and the impact of misinformation and disinformation.  That’s definitely something we have to look into.

So thank you for being here.  Clearly as the representative of Canada, it’s a pleasure to be here and being a strong voice for human rights and feminist foreign policies and many other issues, and of course it’s my goal to make sure that we have greater discussions and relationship between each other.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR ALEGRET:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup, Ms. – Madam Minister.  And let’s hear from the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Panama, Erika Mouynes.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUYNES:  (Via translation). Thank you. I will be very brief because we are here to have a dialogue and we want to hear from you.  I think it is important you have a platform and that there really are key words – it is a frank and honest dialogue about what is happening.  If we do not start there, call things by their name, and really try to, jointly society and government, cooperatively to try to raise our voice when necessary, to mobilize in the sense and emergencies that occur, because yes, we are going through a lot of complicated crises.  Climate crisis, we are going through a pandemic crisis, a crisis of an invasion in Ukraine.  But, none of those situations allows or lends the space for a negotiation about- gender equality is non-negotiable, freedom of speech is non-negotiable, human rights are non-negotiable.  So, let’s talk, let’s dialogue.  Let’s get to the point.  The concerns- let’s make sure that we as States are receiving, our raising and really representing all of the concerns that throughout the hemisphere civil society has.  Thank you.

MR ALEGRET:  (Via translation.) Thank you very much, Minister.

Let’s close the round with the two other voices from civil society.  Let’s start with Adela Panezo Asprilla from the Centro Familiar Afro Santeño.

MS PANEZO:  (Via translation.)  Good afternoon — I was saying that I am happy to be here precisely with our Panamanian Chancellor.  And the question that I have, we are, and you all have said it, we are going through a very difficult situation.  Particularly as a result of this pandemic that has affected all of our countries.  So civil society has been doing an excellent job and the result is what we are going through here, the whole process in which we have been participating with the society, as civil society.  And we have made the documents with the proposals we are making.  Which we hope you can all read, not just the synthesis but also the documents drafted in our sub-regions.  And that’s the concern that remains for us, it is to really know if what we have put forth, all the work we have done throughout this process, which are proposals to improve the quality of life of our populations, to improve the state- the democratic situations that our countries are facing, if you all really, the members who are here, truthfully, in what way are you going to put into practice the follow-through to our proposals.  Because we believe that we should not just do a panel, we need to consider the proposals of all of civil society.  Because there’s a representative part here, but there’s others that also must be taken into account. So, that is our concern.  To see how far the disposition of all of you- we know that there are, we know that there are a lot of problems.  But, we need, more concrete solutions.  Because we continue to live in poor populations, that get poorer and poorer.  We continue to live through violence- the pandemic has increased violence.  And so we need to be able to improve these things with concrete measures that achieve a solution for the problems of our people. Especially those most violated (of rights), the people most impoverished.  (Applause)

MR ALEGRET:  Good.  I really think that this is a critical point, how – what the civil society has been done in the last weeks, it arrives to the desk of these people, the government officials, and ends in decisions that the society expects.

But before we hear from the politicians – it is the tough questions, and we will expect some answers from you guys —

QUESTION: It’s a good question.

MR ALEGRET:  It’s a good question, yeah.  But let’s finish the round with Gale Mohammed-Oxley from the Social Actor.

MOHAMMED-OXLEY: Good morning, everyone.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good morning.

MS MOHAMMED-OXLEY:  Thank you all for the cause observed.  It’s a pleasure to be present here.  As the host country, thank you for accommodating us.  Civil society has included social actors as part of the process since Panama.  Now, yes, we have become a part of, but we are still apart from.  Why I say this is because many of our social actors are not practicing politicians, and we have to face the agonizing attitude and the agonizing developments that politicians practice.  Many of us prefer to stay away from conferences like this.  Why?  Because we do not feel a part of.  It’s not part of our culture to be fighting, to be arguing, to be questioning unnecessarily, to be preventing, to oppose unnecessarily.  We don’t like that.

So therefore, my question:  How can civil society and social actors implement our shared work plan – because we work together – from the Summit of America, from this ninth summit?  How can we join the government, partner with governments to implement the proposals?  That’s my question.

MR ALEGRET:  That’s a good one, and I think it’s related to the other one.  So let’s hear from our government representatives.  Madam Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  Yes.  Well, thank you.  These are indeed the questions, because being – I’m the foreign affairs minister of Canada, but I’m also a member of parliament, directly elected, and therefore I really understand the legitimacy that comes with the fact of representing people directly in my riding of Montreal and being able to make sure that I serve them well in order to have the legitimacy to be at the cabinet table with Prime Minister Trudeau and really take decisions on – in terms of our foreign policy.

And so it goes both ways.  You guys have to be happy with the work we’re doing, because if that’s not the case, I can’t be on the stage.  And at the same time, we have to work together to find a way that when we take decisions based on your advice and your comments, that we can celebrate the solutions we found together.  And I think that’s the balance we need to get to, because if we don’t, and if there’s just an idea of confrontation, which I clearly don’t see in the room – not at all – but if we don’t, we’re not able to show to our citizens that democracy works, institution are – have a legitimacy and therefore we can be able to work on creating more opportunities and basically that government matters.

I come from a country where a part – at the core of our constitution it’s written peace, order, and good government, which is quite rare, quite frankly – good government.  What is a good government?  A good government is a government that is serving the people, but also that is able when serving the people to be efficient, that is able to make sure that we’re addressing systemic issues from racism to poverty, but also that the people within Canada believe that government works and matter.

So on the international stage, this is how we conduct our businesses and our foreign policy.  And it is, yes, about having solutions in the Summit of the Americas.  I think clearly Tony can talk about them, but to help your health care system, to make sure that we can deal with the root causes of migration, and finally that we can really tackle the issue of climate change while building real infrastructure, helping making sure that people are able to deal with one more crisis that are happening on the environmental front that are having an impact on food crisis and just their capacity to work.

So that’s what I would say to your tough questions, ladies.

MR ALEGRET:  Merci.  Okay, minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUYNES:  (Via translation.)  I have a very simple answer and I think that the question “what happens now?” is very important.  Because we are always experts in making queries and consultations and very long documents that say “where did they go and how was it implemented.”  The end goal cannot be the photos of the flags and the leaders of all of the countries.  That does not represent any result. It represents that we met. But, generate accountability, that is what is important.  Because if not, we have thousands of wonderful speeches and there’s a lack of coherence with the actions.  One of the proposals we have put forth is that we begin these summits and these forums, discussing what we promised in the past and what was done.  That way we know. (Applause)

MS PAZCO:  [Inaudible]

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUYNES:  (Via translation.)  That is going to mean that we look back and we begin by putting into context with actions or not the lack of these.  Because frequently we arrive to meetings where we end up promising the same thing and there is no way to give follow-up and understand that we are talking the same discourse, lacking action.  So I think that it is a valid question and a question that in the end, what needs to exist is a plan of action with a milestone for the next one: we don’t meet again if we don’t start by talking about what was done.  Thank you.

MR ALEGRET:  Secretary Blinken.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So I find myself in violent agreement with my colleagues.  (Laughter.)  Both of them articulated it very powerfully, and I think in a way that should resonate with everyone.  Let me just add on a couple of points.

First – and you both said the same thing, and the questions are so important and have implied the same thing – we have a summit that takes part – takes place, excuse me – over three days.  But the other 362 days of the year matter more because it really goes to whether we’re actually going to do anything about what we’ve said here in Los Angeles or what we said at previous summits.  I think Erika’s idea of imposing a report card on ourselves is a really good one.  We should be held accountable for commitments that we’ve made, principles that we’ve said we’d adhere to in the past, to see if we’re really doing that.  So that’s a really good idea.  I think we should take it on.

But I don’t want to discount the fact that as challenging as it is, we are getting – we are doing things that I think can have an impact, will have an impact, if we follow through.  Mélanie mentioned the need to improve health care systems in all of our countries, not only to deal with hopefully preventing, and if not, effectively mitigating the next pandemic, but also, there are such huge disparities in health care within our countries and among our countries that we have to do better.  Well, one of the things coming out of this summit is a commitment to fund 500 – the training for 500,000 health care workers, technicians, specialists across the hemisphere, will be in different parts of the – of our hemisphere.  If we make good on that commitment, that’s going to have a real impact.

Our Vice President Kamala Harris has been leading an effort to generate more private sector investment in countries of the so-called Northern Triangle – in Guatemala, in Honduras, in El Salvador – because we know, of course, that the lack of opportunity is one of the main reasons why people end up becoming migrants and choosing to leave everything they know behind – their families, their towns, their cities, their culture, their language – and take an incredibly risky journey across the hemisphere.  Well, you have to create opportunity, and one of the ways to create opportunity is to actually make investments in countries.  That takes time, but there’s now a commitment just as a result of the work the Vice President has done from the private sector to invest $3.2 billion in those countries.

Now, it helps to have good, effective, transparent governance to make sure that those investments can proceed smoothly and actually get to where they need to go.  We have work to do there.  But these are concrete things, and we should be held to making good on them.

So the last thing I’ll say is this because it goes to the questions that you’ve raised that I think are very important:  How do we make sure that 365 days a year, not just three days a year, we have this connectivity with all of the different stakeholders, that we are working together as best we can even though sometimes we represent different points of view, and that’s the way it should be; and that if – in the case of civil society, that you’re there on the takeoff of initiatives, not just on the landing?  That’s on us to find ways to better work together.  I think it’s also on you to be willing to participate in that.

And finally, it goes to something that Mélanie said that I think is true.  We have to deal in a world – and I – we have to be pushed by those of us who seek the perfect.  But my own country is not perfect.  It never will be perfect.  What we’re about is a journey toward trying to be more perfect.  And that’s in inherent acknowledgment that we’re not perfect.  It’s good that there are those who expect perfection.  But in government, part of our challenge is trying to bring together all of the different interested groups, parties, stakeholders, and finding a way forward.  And that way forward is probably not going to be perfect, but hopefully it’s progress.

My boss, the President of the United States Joe Biden, likes to say on any given challenge that we face, when we come up with a solution that may be imperfect, he likes to say to those who are unhappy, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty.  Compare me to the alternative.”  (Laughter.)

So I hope we can keep that in mind, too, and work in a spirit of working forward together because here’s the last thing on this:  I think there is a growing recognition among those of us who are in government for – and I’ve been doing this in one way or another for nearly 30 years – that if we’re not able to bring along all of the different stakeholders on any given issue, whatever we do won’t be sustainable.  It won’t hold up.  It will fall apart.  So simply out of rational interest, we should be doing this.  It also happens to be the right thing to do, and sometimes it’s nice when conscience meets practicality, and I think it’s a necessity that we do this.

MR ALEGRET:  Thank you, Secretary.  Let’s hear from Vanessa.  This is a conversation.  We have six minutes left.  Vanessa, be short if you can, and then we will hear from other —

MS NEUMANN:  Yeah.  Very, very short and to the point, no secret that corruption is the biggest thing that turns governments away from their people, right.  Makes the government genuflect to either nefarious foreign interests or particular criminal interests, and state capture is something that concerns all of us in civil society.

I made – I spoke the recommendations from my group.  They’re not my recommendations; they’re the group’s.  And I would like to hear from you and those in government three specific ways in which you will help us concretely combat corruption and state capture and the involvement of aspects of government, including militaries, in activities like drug trafficking.  How are you going to help us get our governments back responsive to our people?  Thank you.

MR ALEGRET:  Let’s give one minute for each.  Let’s start with minister from Panama.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  Erika.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUYNES:  One minute.  (Laughter.)

(Via translation.)  The fight against corruption- Let’s see, confidence in government is eroding.  What is happening in democracy in part is simply that there is a lot less confidence in our leaders.  The same thing is happening to us in every country.  As trust is lost, representativeness is lost.  So the fight against corruption goes hand in hand in the own interest of all politicians who govern, because if they don’t have that trust, they are not really representing and they are losing leadership.

I believe that commitment [inaudible] and we are at a very delicate and conjunctural point.  We have gone through a very complicated pandemic in which in every country we had scandals about the management of medical supplies, etc.  So then, where did that go directly?  To the trust of all of our populations.  And, why is that fight so important?  Beyond society asking for it, it is in the very interest of all leaders to have it at the forefront everything that has to be done- and there’s a lot we could talk about here about what can be done about corruption, from digitizing, accountability, etc. but it has to be an absolute priority.

MODERATOR:  Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  Yes, of course.  Well, the question of corruption is really important because like Erika said, it has an aspect – has an impact on public trust.  But also in general, it really has an impact on really being able to take the public’s resources and to invest in public services.  And so of course, I can understand the frustration, the – how can I say – not only frustration, but the revolt of people when looking at the impact of corruption in their country.

So this is something we take very seriously.  Vanessa, you were asking us in terms of what do we think, but more what are the solutions.  We think – Canada is in favor of creating an international anti-corruption tribunal.  (Applause.)  Yes, I think it’s worth clapping, I think.  (Applause.)

MS NEUMANN:  Yes, I’ll applaud that.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  Because we think it would help put pressure on countries and it would bring accountability in the face of injustice.  So that’s our goal and that’s something we are willing to work with many countries, and, of course, it will be first democratic countries wanting to join in this very important project.  But I think also that we can pressure other countries bit by bit to participate.

And last but not least, there are all these principles and international norms.  We call them the international rules-based order, which is important, yes.  But one of the things that has been difficult is the question of accountability when a country doesn’t respect the norms and principles that, for example, are at the core of what the United Nations have put into place since the Second World War.  We’re seeing it with Russia right now, but we are seeing it in other parts of the world as well.  So we as a country has been – have been pushing for the question of accountability.  That’s why we were in favor of creating the international court of justice and that’s why we’re coming up with this new idea of creating an international anti-corruption court because I think it makes sense in the circumstances to push more accountability at the international level.  Thank you.

MS NEUMANN:  Thank you.

MR ALEGRET:  Merci.  Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m very tempted to say what they said and leave it at that.  (Laughter.)  But just to almost emphasize what’s been said, first, I agree very much with the question and with the ideas put forward by civil society in this.  We know that corruption is perhaps the most corrosive, negative element in democracy.  We know that if you look at virtually every social movement around the world in the last 20 years, whether it was Tunisia, whether it was Egypt and Tahrir Square, some countries in our own hemisphere – I could go down the list – in virtually every instance, a revulsion at corruption was the main reason or certainly one of the main reasons for people to say, “Enough is enough.”

But to your point, we also see genuine state capture, where it becomes so endemic that it is incredibly difficult to root out because virtually everyone has an interest in perpetuating the system, and incredibly brave individuals are putting their futures and their lives on the line to say, “No, we reject this system.”  So we have to help give the tools.

So a few things in a practical way.  One is, look, just putting a spotlight on the problem is in and of itself important – it’s insufficient but it’s important – and that’s something we do.  Creating tools and support for all of the different groups that are the most effective watchdogs when it comes to corruption is hugely important.  We know the media is vitally important.  We also know that it’s under tremendous challenge.  Some of us talked about this yesterday.  Independent media in our hemisphere is – and other places in the world is constantly being threatened.  Just in this year alone, 17 journalists in our hemisphere were killed doing their jobs, and a big part of their jobs has been exposing corruption.

So there are very concrete programs that we’re putting in place, including through the Summit for Democracy that President Biden convened and this summit, to support independent media – to support it financially so that it can survive, to give journalists the tools to protect themselves against various efforts to stop them from doing what they’re doing, whether it’s through cyber technology, physical protection, to push back against states using laws against journalists – for example through lawsuits – to try to put them out of business.  We now have a fund to support them so that they can effectively defend themselves and not go out of business in doing it.  These are practical things, but we’re driving that to make sure that there is an independent media.

Civil society – coming out of this summit, the United States will be providing another almost $100 million between the State Department and USAID to about 300 civil society groups across our hemisphere so that they continue to be able to do their work, including finding ways to combat corruption.  Whether it’s an international tribunal or whether it is existing mechanisms that have proven effective in our hemisphere through the United Nations, we support the work because sometimes bringing in an independent body is the only way that you’re actually going to be able to do it.  It’s impossible to set that up sometimes within a state.

A word that I know a lot of people don’t like, but in this instance I think it can be very important: sanctions.  We will continue to identify and, as necessary, sanction corrupt officials, because that is one way of disincentivizing them and disincentivizing others from engaging in these practices, including sanctions that prohibit them from coming to the United States, benefiting from our country, sending their children there, et cetera, et cetera.  If other countries did the same thing, that I think would create a lot of disincentives for people to engage in these in these practices. And then there are lots of things that can be done that different countries can look at, including my own country – for example, looking at things like beneficial ownership, who actually owns and is behind different institutions and different assets that are being used, including to advance state capture.

So there’s a very practical list, but I really do think it starts with a common commitment to say that this is inherently in contradiction with the basic principles of our hemisphere, principles that all of our countries agreed to in the charter that should animate what we do.  (Applause.)

MR ALEGRET:  Thank you so much.  I was advised to finish this panel sharp at quarter to 1:00, so I think it’s time to thank the Secretary, ministers, and voices from civil society on your job, your work done in the last weeks, the last months, and since you took your positions.  We trust you.  We need you to work hard to those voices, those ideas ends up on your desk and changing things.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)