Chakwera joins world leaders in Democracy Summit

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, who is also chairperson of the 16-member Southern African Development Community, SADC, has reaffirmed his position to defend civil society, human rights, and freedom of the press, stating “freedom is something I consider to be non-negotiable.”

Chakwera and President Luis Rudolf Abinader Corona, of the Dominican Republic, sat on a panel with human rights activists from USA, Burman, Bangladesh, and Egypt, where they discussed the “Expanding Civic Space: Empowering Human Rights Defenders and Independent Media Within and Across Borders,” as part of the first ever world’s global summit for democracy.

The Summit, initiated by President Joe Biden of the United States and convened virtually was opened Thursday and gathered together 0more than 100 world leaders from all parts of the globe.

President Biden opened the summit with a call for world leaders to renew their commitment to the principals of democracy saying: “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident; we have to renew it with each generation. And this is an urgent matter on all our parts in my view, because the data we are seeing is largely pointing in the wrong direction.”

The summit comes at a time when there are reports that more than half of the world democracies have experienced a decline in at least one aspect of democracy over the last ten years, including the United States.

A 2020 report from Freedom House on the state of democracy during the pandemic, stated that Malawi was the only country in the world where democracy had grown stronger during the pandemic.

Commenting on the report earlier, before the summit, Chakwera had said:

“The reason for this has nothing to do with the size of our population, nor the strength of our economy and military, nor the length of time Malawi has been a democratic state.

“Strengthening democracy even under adverse conditions is about three things: first, having strong governance institutions carrying out their constitutional mandate when the situation demands it; second, having political leaders use their platforms to engage citizens in actively holding those institutions accountable; and lastly, protecting the rights of citizens and enforcing consequences legally on those who violate them.”

During the panel, the Malawi leader advised new democratic leaders; “Let the media need to be the first to be invited inside your government operations.”

Chakwera added: “My second advice to new leaders is to surround yourself with people who will remind you that civil society organizations are a key partner in development and should be actively engaged to help you make better decisions.”

Over 22 countries, including Nigeria, Israel, Greece, Italy, India, Japan, Canada, Iraq, and Germany made their contributions at the opening of the Summit.

The Malawi leader was invited to participate in the summit by President Biden through the US chargé d’affaires to Malawi Jeremey Neitzke , along 16 other leaders from Africa.

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