MS. GLASSER: I’m Susan Glasser from the New Yorker and we have the opportunity to open the final session of this year’s Brussels Forum. We have the nice minimal topic of democracy’s next decade. So we can talk about pretty much anything we want.
It turns out that we’re going to have a panel that’s more Atlantic than transatlantic today because Minister Sophie Wilmès from Belgium has been called into a last minute Cabinet meeting, but it’s my great honor and pleasure to introduce, I think, a superstar panel. And we have with us Ambassador Samantha Power, who is the newly confirmed head of USAID, and a veteran of both the Obama and now the Biden Administrations.
I’m delighted to be speaking with her today, and we are joined by The Honorable Marc Garneau, who is the Minister for Foreign Affairs from Canada, served as Minister of Transport before that. I think he’s been a member of the Canadian Parliament since 2008. And he also, for those of you paying attention, is former head of the Canadian Space Agency, and an astronaut, so we have lots to talk about with both of them today and not too much time.
What a capstone event, really, for this year’s Brussels Forum and particularly, obviously, resonant timing with the conclusion of President Biden’s very first trip overseas, and given that our subject today is democracy, I want to just jump right in and ask about that to start off with.
Ambassador Power, you served, obviously, in both the Obama and now the Biden Administrations. This framing that we’ve heard again and again from President Biden about essentially becoming a global conflict, hopefully not a hot conflict, between democracies and rising autocracies such as China and Russia. That’s very different than the sort of big picture framing of foreign policy in the Obama era and obviously events have occurred, and inside our own democracies, as well as what’s happened with China and Russia in the years since you were in office before. I’m just curious, how do you see the difference between foreign policy now and foreign policy in the Obama Administration, and why are we talking so much about democracy now?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much, Susan, thanks for doing this.
There will be many cases, I’m sure, in the next 45 minutes where I will want to ask you the same question, because I know you have views on all of this. And Mr. Minister, it’s great to meet you this way. I look forward to meeting in person, when circumstances allow.
I think it’s interesting to pose the question the way you did in terms of these snapshots, and I guess I’d offer a few thoughts. Fifteen straight years of freedom in decline is different than where we were, especially at the beginning of the Obama years back in 2009. That’s hard to believe that’s 12 years ago. We can look at our kids, Susan, to know that it’s 12 years ago. I just think you could tell yourself a particular story about the financial crisis and the fallout from that back in 2009. But once these trends become embedded and perpetuated to the extent that they have and once — especially, I think seeing the backsliding in established democracies. I think that was not something that — it’s very fair to say not something that was anticipated in 2009. And, again, historians more informed than me, will go back and disaggregate the range of factors that have helped fuel the phenomenon, really of democratic backsliding. But I think that’s a factor behind the frame that you mentioned.
A second factor is the assertiveness of China, not only in its [inaudible], but globally. I’m just back late yesterday from Central America. And you see, for example, when it will come at some point to talking about vaccine diplomacy and all the rest, but you see China having delivered vaccines in El Salvador, you see the flipping of recognition in the region and the pressure from China for people to shift their recognition from Taiwan to China. But all across Sub-Saharan Africa, all across Latin America, and that’s not without impact on the trends insofar as part of what the investments secure and, or at least what China asked for is votes within the United Nations. Votes that in turn erode democratic and human rights norms that even if they weren’t always honored, nonetheless undergirded what was called the international system over the last 70 plus years. So that actually, the fact that you have a lot of bilateral leverage and that you’re throwing your weight around in that way then has ramifications on what the norms even look like over time, so that’s something of course that’s gotten President Biden’s attention.
But, last thing I’d say, I guess for now, is just that we’re also seeing some very intriguing trends, where it — citizens in a vast array of countries aren’t reading the Freedom House reports, right? They haven’t gotten the memo that democracy is in decline. And we saw, I think more protests in 2019 before the pandemic than in any year of recorded history, and a lot of those protests, fueled by concerns about corruption, fueled — associated with elites perhaps of all kinds, but we see, I think in the Biden Administration, a real opening and a real Achilles heel for many of the most centralized, either autocratic or trending illiberal countries because the centralization of political power very rarely occurs without the centralization of economic resources as well.
And so I think that’s why you saw two weeks ago, before President Biden’s international trip, him issuing the first ever Presidential Memorandum, National Security Memorandum, on anti-corruption as a core national security threat and core national security agenda item. And I think we see there a key pillar to our democracy work. That I think was not — I was President Obama’s advisor for human rights in his first term and we launched the Open Government Partnership and put in place, I think, some tools that we can use today on corruption. But I don’t think it will seem quite as the pillar that we see it as today to our democracy work around the world.
MS. GLASSER: So, Minister Garneau, I want to bring you in here because I think one interesting question is, you see President Biden on this first trip and you were there at the G7 meeting, Minister Garneau, and so you can tell us a little bit what that felt like and the difference that you’re seeing. But President Biden sort of had this message of America is back and we’re going to rally the democracies, but it’s a lot easier to say that than to do that in terms of consensus when it comes to, in particular, even coming to a common agreement on what nature of challenge China is, for example. To what extent do you see kind of shades of difference or different approaches right now among the Western leaders when it comes to sort of naming and understanding the autocratic challenges to democracy?
MINISTER GARNEAU: Thank you very much for the question. And the first part of it dealing with President Biden engaging multilaterally, the G7 you mentioned, but there are numerous other multilateral bodies that he is engaging in and this is, I think, sending a very good signal. It is this reengagement on the part of the United States and let’s be honest, the most influential and biggest economy in the world. I think that sends a signal that was missing for about four years, and so I think that’s moving us in the right direction at a time when democracy is under threat as Samantha pointed it out very clearly.
Whether you’re talking about on the human rights front, we’re seeing more and more threats with respect to people’s individual rights in many of the countries that are autocratic. The rule of law is something that we take great pride in, in our interactions with other countries in the world, that we make the assumption we must operate within the rule of law in dealing with each other and the rules-based international order; those are all things under threat.
The judicial system in certain countries is not independent from those who are running the country and that’s very, very preoccupying. Media freedom is under threat in many, many countries and this is something that’s also extremely preoccupying. So when the United States re-engages with other countries and we begin to take a multilateral approach, such as at the G7, I think it sends a stronger signal that those of us who believe in human rights and democracy and all those values are speaking up to make a very important point with countries that perhaps do not view things the same way, who engage in coercive diplomacy, who practice arbitrary detention of citizens from another country because they are not happy with that country, those kinds of behaviors, so we’ve got to speak up loud and clear about it, if we’re going to reverse the course that I think the planet is on at the moment.
MS. GLASSER: So you mentioned arbitrary detention; I know that’s something you’ve been very active on given Canada’s recent experience with China. Tell us a little bit about that and other new kinds of threats and challenges that one faces in a world where China has become more assertive outside of its own sphere. And I want to ask you that as well, Ambassador Power.
Like, I’m thinking about this Belarus, essentially state-sponsored hijacking, literally bringing down a European civilian airliner to drag an opposition journalist off the plane, with at least a tacit assent, if not active cooperation of Russia. That’s a new kind of threat if that becomes commonplace, if we’re not seen as responding in an assertive enough way, so if both of you could maybe give us a little bit of a perspective on what it actually means, right?
Democracy versus autocracy is a very abstract framing, but these are actually quite concrete challenges that we’re talking about here, whether it is arbitrary detention or something like attacking outright the international order on civil aviation.
MINISTER GARNEAU: Well if you like, I’ll start off. I mean, my predecessor deserves the credit for coming up with this, but we felt that it was important for Canada to speak up on the issue of arbitrary detention. In this case because we have some citizens who have been arbitrarily detained in China, without any justification, because China has a bone to pick with our country. That kind of practice is totally unacceptable and we decided to try to engage other countries. We’re now up to 63 countries who have signed, if you like, the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, and by the way, China is not the only country. Our declaration is actually country-neutral; it’s country agnostic because there are other countries that practice this, and that’s totally unacceptable and so it’s important for us to speak up in the same way as we all have to speak up when a country like Belarus pulls down an aircraft from the skies because they deliberately want to get a hold of a journalist on board. That is totally unacceptable, and it is really, really important that we all speak out very strongly against it. And the more we do it multilaterally to show that we all feel the same way about it, I think the greater effect it has.
MS. GLASSER: Samantha, do you want to also weigh in on this one?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I would just put it also in a larger context of extraterritorial acts of impunity, acts of impunity in two respects. Brazen violations of international norms, international law, and a show of how invulnerable certain actors have felt. And I think you could put in that category the poisonings and the assassination attempts beyond borders; you could put in that category what — the Chinese apprehension of citizens who might be traveling in Thailand; you could put in that category the North Korean assassination in a major airport.
So, the number of these actions, where countries, authoritarian countries feel impunity to do things beyond their borders — it’s been adding up. And I think what’s really important about what the Minister said and what President Biden stressed on this recent trip is: we need to increase the costs for those actions. And that was really hard when the United States treated multilateral institutions as if they were there to rip off the United States rather than strengthen and enforce norms that we all, as in democratic countries as well, benefit from. And you see this also with China’s attempts to censor individuals who aren’t living anywhere near China, but who deign to weigh in on events inside China. In Xinjiang or in Hong Kong, as we saw starting a few years ago with the Marriott and the NBA, and all the rest. And so this sense that these authoritarian countries have that they get to enforce their writ wherever they feel like it, is something every democratic citizen and every democratic actor in the world has an interest in banding together to condemn and to respond with, as robust an enforcement mechanism as we can mobilize.
And so I think what we have right now is, sort of an agreement on the diagnosis among democracies and ever more willingness on the part of our partners to join us in condemnations. I think the last American Administration by the end of its tenure, if you remember, Susan, was speaking out on Xinjiang, was putting sanctions in place, but never attempting to coordinate those measures ahead of time with our closest allies. And so if we are going to increase the cost, it’s going to have to be done with the democracies of the world standing together and that will be our best prospect, I think, of denting this culture of impunity that has gone on too long.
MS. GLASSER: Well, can I ask you about what you think about the tools in the toolkit? Just as these are new or at least more aggressive forms that have challenged the international order, it strikes me that we don’t yet have — I mean condemnation is one thing; rounds and rounds of sanctions as we’ve seen on Russia for example over the years since 2014 and its annexation of Crimea, but at the same time, that obviously hasn’t been the deterrent effect than anyone would want.
Even with President Biden, rose a lot of expectations when it came to say the Khashoggi killing which the previous administration didn’t do much about even though this was an American rescued journalist who was literally dismembered by what appears to be Saudi agents on the territory of a NATO ally. You release the information about the Khashoggi killing, but MBS has not faced the kind of sanctions that I think — expectations had risen.
I raised that case not so that we can talk about that, but what beyond sanctions — there’s also the even more explicit military type threats from drone warfare, let’s say, which is much easier to conduct outside of borders or around traditional borders and then there’s cyber-attacks, and this is a subject at the meeting with Putin this week. But I don’t think it’s clear to people what it means to be more aggressively confronting these kinds of threats. Do you have any insight for us?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, let me just say from my vantage point at USAID, a few of the ways that we’re thinking about contesting erosions in democracy, the liberal trends and the kind of impunity that we’ve just been speaking about. As I alluded to earlier, thinking through the corruption piece of it, and what insights the United States and our allies might have into leaders that for all of their bravado and all of their shows of perceived impunity, clearly feel very fragile and in their own way, at risk at home. And so thinking through how different actors can be empowered to expose some of the ill-gotten gains or the natural resource extraction that for example, China is carrying out in large parts of the developing world. I think there’s information there and there are actors, very brave actors, of course not at this point in China able to operate freely, but look at the reaction to the exposé on the Uighur detention network, and the amount of panic that that generated. So this question of, sort of, what is known at USAID, how we can empower our partners who are working, let’s say not in those full authoritarian countries, but in countries that might be at a tipping point in one direction or the other. I think that’s really important.
I think for us together as democracies, also in a more positive sense, to be teaming up when there’s a moment of opportunity, of the kind for example, that exists right now in Sudan. I was very pleased when President Macron, about a month ago, was maybe two weeks into my time at USAID, convened a conference looking at debt relief for the country of Sudan and what other resources we can bring to bear. The U.S. Congress has passed a $700 million spending package. I mean if you had told me when we left office back in January 2017, left the Obama Administration, that I would be a part of an Administration figuring out how to spend $700 million in a country that was then run by somebody who was indicted at The Hague for genocide, but those opportunities — there aren’t that many. We’re all familiar with the Burmas and the Ethiopias and the disappointments when it comes to democratic dividends, or the lack thereof, and really disturbing violence and human pain. But when you have an opportunity like Sudan presents, I think all of us are thinking through, okay, how do we come in and try to support that?
The other dimension of it, and I could say a lot more about what USAID is doing in different countries in these ways. But I don’t want to lose sight of another key, perhaps distinguishing feature, of the way that democracies now talk about international leadership on democracy, and that is by talking about the importance of democracies delivering at home. And so in fact, if I think about what are the tools in the toolbox, maybe less on the issue that we were just talking about but on democracy generally and on winning the war of ideas and the battle of narratives. I think it’s every bit as important, or more important, that Joe Biden’s spending bills are likely to cut child poverty in half in the United States. I think it’s incredibly important that after a very rocky response to COVID for the first year, that the United States, taking advantage of its scientific innovation and funding from the state in partnership with pharmaceutical companies, but rush to vaccines online has been in a position to respond robustly domestically, that’s a show of competence and a reminder of the innovative capacity that the United States has. Whereas before it was all people were thinking about in the context of COVID, was our polarization, how we couldn’t agree on anything, and the disputes over whether to wear a mask or not wear a mask.
While those disputes still exist throughout the country and impede our last leg here somewhat, this is an overwhelming scientific and governance success story. And it’s something that comes about because the President came along who wanted the democracy to work on behalf, not of blue states or red states, but on behalf of the populations across the country. So I think really thinking through the connectivity and again all foreign diplomats and internationalists talk this way now, in a way that I don’t think we did five, six years ago, but just actually looking inward in our democracies to see how the progress, hopefully that we are making, also can be talked about and integrated into how we talk about the importance of democracy internationally.
MS. GLASSER: Well, I’m glad you brought up this issue of the connection between a sort of democracy at home and foreign policy and democracy internationally that obviously I think is a key question for anyone involved in, in the practice of foreign policy right now. But Minister Garneau, I’d love your perspective as someone closely watching what’s happening here in the United States; what is happening to American credibility? Can we just show back up and say like, “Okay guys we’re, you’re the head of the table again; we’re delighted to begin multilateralism?” The world looks at America’s internal crisis of democracy and how does that affect its ability to act internationally?
MINISTER GARNEAU: That’s a very good point and, and you’re right to bring it up because it’s one thing to try to project your values internationally, but people in other countries are naturally going to ask the question, well how’s it going back in your own country? For example, at the moment, because of some of the measures and criticisms we’ve had of China, they’re focusing very much on how we have treated our indigenous people in our country, and they’re trying to sort of exploit that as much as possible in terms of putting out information in Canada about that. So it is extremely important that — as countries, that we also address the issues domestically as well. And Canada has very clearly said that we are a country that has racism in it, whether it’s anti-Black racism, whether it is anti-Semitism, whether it’s Islamophobia, whether it is the way we have treated our indigenous peoples, and now a certain rise in anti-Asian racism.
And I think the first step is to face that very, very squarely. And in fact, when President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau met in February, they developed a roadmap on the two countries working together and one element of that recognized that both countries have to deal with racism in their own countries. And that is one of the things that we’ve clearly recognized in. I know the United States — that Biden and his administration has done the same. And both countries are working towards eliminating that; that’s not going to happen overnight, but it is essential to your credibility if you’re going to go out and try to project your values on other countries.
MS. GLASSER: To be blunt, I mean people like President Putin, he’s on the record as saying, for the last few years, well, this internal crisis of democracy is a sign of the failure of the West, and, the bottom line is that this crisis is not limited to, say, the election of Donald Trump inside the United States. But it’s something that’s happening across the board in different ways in the liberal democracies of the past, and that that’s looking in the rearview mirror. Do you — how do you counter that?
MINISTER GARNEAU: Oh, certainly, we, as countries, are far from perfect, and we have to work on that, but it’s very easy for somebody like President Putin just to throw rocks at other countries, because he is feeling the criticism that’s being addressed towards his country, whether it’s, the annexation of Crimea, whether it’s the treatment of Alexei Navalny. Those are going to provoke, in somebody like Putin, a natural instinct to criticize other countries and, yes, fair enough. We have to make sure that we address our own issues. It doesn’t prevent us from also pointing out to other countries that they are — they are offside with respect to some fundamental values.
MS. GLASSER: Ambassador Power, I’m curious now that you’ve just taken your first foreign trip into this new role, how much do you find that the crisis of American democracy is a hindrance to America’s ability to work on democracy around the world? Are people bringing this up with you? What is — what do you tell them about the credibility of our country at this moment in order to make commitments internationally?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I’m just back from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. And all three countries are so hungry for economic growth, economic investment, economic development, which is the core — at the core of USAID’s mission.
And to be honest, Susan, it’s — sometimes it’s really helpful [laughs] to get away from the editorial pages and the abstract question of, when will we retrieve our credibility or can we, or how big is the deficit, and are our friends going to be hedging, and have — you know? And just, I went to a village that was obliterated by Hurricane Eta and USAID was there, helping people repair their homes and not asking for anything in return, just sort of saying to the people, hey, let’s think about, infrastructure investments that make you less vulnerable the next time around because we know we’re going to have more climate events.
I saw the relief in Guatemala in the wake of Vice President Harris’s announcement that 500,000 vaccines will be coming to Guatemala. This is a country, really, really struggling with the pandemic right now. I mean, no relief from social distancing or from mask wearing or businesses not even close to coming back up to speed and hungry for American innovation, public health support to help them back on their feet. And so I think again, to remember what the United States is about — this has been very gratifying for me, having not worked at USAID before. We have missions in 80 countries in the world and to see American ingenuity at work, the compassion of American people, which by the way was sustained, also, in the last four years of the Trump Administration by internationalist Republicans that may not have challenged President Trump in the ways that some of us might have hoped, but sustained support for programs out in the world that are making a critical difference. And where do those countries look when they see democratic backsliding or, for example, slippage in the anti-corruption fight as all three countries are unfortunately showing, which is going to make economic investment much, much more challenging and make it much harder to deal with new causes of migration, as well, if those — if, people aren’t able to invest in investigations and anti-corruption and if the rule of law is going in the wrong and not the right direction.
But where do they turn to support? They turn to the United States and they turn to our democratic allies on the ground in these three countries, and there again, in the places — and this again, just the universe in a grain of sand, right. I can’t say I’m either an expert on the three countries or on how — the extent to which one can extrapolate. But what the minister was describing globally, I just want to stress is true in every country, where these issues are in peril around the world, which is when, on the ground, in, for example, Guatemala, we and our European, Canadian, Japanese, Korean, and other friends speak together as democracy — democracies on behalf of the rule of law. That is much more powerful in getting the attention of leaders that feel, in the wake of COVID, economically vulnerable and in need of public health support.
And so just what happened in Europe was so important these last days. And I think part of what we are trying to do now, all of us, is instantiate that in countries, so that we are synched up in a way that we really want again over the course of the last four years.
MS. GLASSER: I know we’re going to run out of time, but I want to ask each of you a couple more specific questions because I take your point, Ambassador Power. That this can be a very abstract conversation. For you, President Biden has said on the campaign trail that he was interested in holding a summit of democracies. I’m curious if that’s going to happen, when that’s going to be, and what you think we can get out of it.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you. Well, it’s not to me to make news in answering those specific questions. Sorry.
MS. GLASSER: Come on, this is the big closing event of the Brussels Forum. What better time to make some moves?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I think others will be well-positioned to fill you in on those details, but I think the lines of effort are very important.
MS. GLASSER: But it is happening?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, absolutely. Lots of planning is afoot. I think, again, the details will be forthcoming from someone, I’m sure, one day soon. But I think that, again, the lines of effort are including such matters as we’ve talked about, the question of what work can we as democracies do to combat corruption? What would it mean if we were all rowing in the same direction? We haven’t actually yet today, weirdly, talked about misinformation and cybersecurity. I mean, Canada actually, maybe Minister, you can speak to this, but as — is, I think, ahead of many democracies in terms of how it has handled misinformation.
I don’t think anybody these days can talk about societal consensus because all of our countries are divided in certain ways. But I think Prime Minister Trudeau has done a very able job in finding ways to enlist political opposition, actually, in being on the same side of rebutting misinformation or foreign interference. And trolling that can occur, whether in an election season or just in order to sow division out of an election season, but there are lots of countries around the world where that very thing is happening, and they could use best practices, lessons learned, some technical assistance, depending on whether it’s civil society or a government that we’re talking about.
So I think — I think thinking through what — when we pull our resources, what does that look like in terms of cybersecurity, but also in terms of the fight against disinformation? And independent media struggling everywhere in the world with new media infringements and laws, getting sued. This disparity between the resources of oligarchs who don’t want their finances exposed, and the plucky and very, very courageous journalists who are still doing that work, that disparity in terms of economic resourcing can put a lot of independent journalists and anti-corruption investigators out of business, not only in jail, which — or are unable to do their work. So thinking through how we democracies come together to try to ensure that, whether it’s from governments or from foundations, that there’s some insurance for actors that are doing this vital work, which really is a source of vulnerability for [inaudible] regimes.
MS. GLASSER: So Ambassador — sorry, Mr. Minister, Samantha has listed, I think, a pretty long and comprehensive list of the kinds of challenges where democracies might work together around the world. What are the threats, I think, would be interesting to hear from you, that most concern you when it comes to this democratic backsliding? I mean, what are some concrete things that you’re most concerned about right now?
MINISTER GARNEAU: Well, I think that Samantha touched on something extremely important; that is disinformation or misinformation that is deliberately propagated out there. And one of the things that we did at the G7 when it was held in Canada in 2018 was to propose something called the Rapid Response Mechanism. And this is really an effort of resources to combat disinformation, and at the beginning, it was fairly simple to recognize when a piece of information was deliberate disinformation. But today, it is not only pervasive, but it’s also much more sophisticated and it influences people, obviously, in many cases in the wrong direction, in the direction in which the propagators intended. And I think it has an incredibly important effect on democracy itself because people are believing in things that are simply not true.
Secondly, media freedom. The Media Freedom Coalition is an effort that tries to recognize how important it is for the media to continue to be an independent group of people who are able to put out the truth at a time when we need it more than ever, because I mean, we can all list tons of examples of where awful things have happened because people were influenced by incorrect information, and there was not sufficient presence of the media to correct that misinformation. So those are looming threats that are with us at the moment and that will continue to grow unless we address them, well, full frontally.
MS. GLASSER: So Ambassador Power, I’m going to give you the last word. We’re almost out of time but you raised this important question at the very beginning of your remarks about the fact that we’re now 15 years into democratic backsliding. Every year, we look at the Freedom House report and we see that the number of democracies around the world is shrinking in some important way, and I just — I’d love for you to leave us with a little bit of a sense of like, the framing here was democracy’s next decade. Is this — is this a long term trend that we’re seeing? Do you expect that this democratic backsliding is going to continue? Do you believe that what’s happened inside the United States in the last few years when it comes to assaults on our democracy like challenges to voting rights? For example, how much do you see that that’s part of this global trend or do you see it actually as an outlier? I’d just love for you to leave us with that thought today.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I’d say a couple things. I mean first, as I indicated at the beginning, I do think that the way that citizen action is getting mobilized in so many parts of the world, even notwithstanding COVID, right. Take the climate protest movement all around the world, which is — played a hugely important, if undefinable, role in expanding the political space, I think, for leaders or, in some cases, nudging leaders to go further than they might otherwise have done. And so, I think it’s important to think about democracy at work, and the return on democracy at work, and I think that — I’m not saying that, again, what we collectively are managing to do in terms of cutting carbon emissions is sufficient, by any stretch of the imagination. But think of where we would be without that bottom-up movement that has taken hold, building on the foundations laid by the environmental movement decades ago.
I come back to the fact that in 2019, there were more pro-democracy demonstrations than during the Arab Spring, then at the end of the Cold War, that there is citizen — I think we might call it entitlement to better returns on citizenship and to better governance and we saw that here. We — President Biden’s agenda would look very different if not for the activism of young people in Georgia, particularly African American women who mobilized a state where I went to high school in. If you’d told me that we’d have two Democratic senators from Georgia and that they would be the difference between President Biden being able to cut child poverty in half, and hopefully, now be an arsenal of vaccines for the world or not, I would have been very skeptical. I mean, just the change that has been wrought by the, yes, changing voter demographic but also just the work to get past some of the voter restrictions that existed before and now. Even more work will be required to push for citizen voices to be heard.
So, I date myself. I’m probably dating you, too, Susan, but we — I think we graduated from university when it was the end of history and people were predicting with the fall of the wall and the end of the Cold War. The triumph of liberal democracy and of course, many — much self-analysis has been done about expectations for what China would become as it grew richer and more connected in the global economy, those expectations and hopes, at this point at least, dashed. But, I think — I think we do know the seams in our own democracies, and we expose them to the world because we [inaudible] address far better than we know the vulnerabilities in the authoritarian countries and whether the early days of COVID which people were focused on. On the question of how COVID started, but it’s also to remember just how maladaptive it was for there to be a climate of fear in which people couldn’t come forward and raise a flare about what was happening in their communities. The same is true in economic circumstances when bad numbers are — we know it back from prior authoritarian eras, when bad economic numbers or are shunned and only, yes men are welcome in the inner circle. And others these days are prosecuted for sometimes trumped up corruption charges or other trumped up charges over time. That doesn’t strike me as adaptive, right? No more than it would in an American business or any business to be surrounded by people afraid to deliver truth to leaders.
So, I guess where I would end up in the spirit of ending also on a note of hope, is just that there is a universal longing to be treated with respect and to experience individual dignity or community dignity. To not be a means, but to be an end in oneself. And that’s true across geography and culture. And I think you can see it on the Chinese netizens when they’re allowed to speak freely; some of the expression of those aspirations and those longings and you see it in Sudan that brought down a genocidal dictator against all odds with female led protests. And you see it in so many parts of the world. So, in the end, I think the force of those aspirations is what is going to be hard for any government to reckon with. But we don’t live in that future, the ill-defined future — we live in the present. I think what’s important now, given how much weight China is throwing around the world on behalf of a very different model, including by providing surveillance technologies and the tools of repression to other countries. It’s important that we have our answer as a community of democracies in return. And I think that’s what President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, and other Democratic leaders are building toward building back better.
MS. GLASSER: Well, Ambassador Power, thank you so much. We can — I would say that, I guess this is why I stayed a journalist and, it is an act of optimism to be in government, and I’m here to remind us that history smacked us in the face a little bit in the few decades since the end of the Cold War. But what a great conversation. I have to thank Mr. Garneau, really invaluable perspective today and to Ambassador Power as well. And I hope it was a great Atlantic conclusion to this Brussels Forum. I know that the head of GMF and soon your future colleague in the Biden Administration, Karen Godfrey, is going to follow us now with some closing remarks for the event that I want to thank both of you for our terrific conversation today. Thank you.
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you, Susan.
MINISTER GARNEAU: A real pleasure. Thank you.