December 4, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks at a Roundtable with Civil Society

9 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Nairobi, Kenya

Sankara Hotel

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good morning, everyone. Wonderful to be here, my first opportunity to (inaudible) conversation here in Kenya. I’m very grateful to all of you for being able to join us this morning. I really wanted to spend the next hour or so listening to each of you, so let me just be very brief at the top.

This is an important time, not just for Kenya but around the world. We’re seeing – we’ve seen over the last decade or so what some would call the democratic recession – democracies are falling back – as opposed to (inaudible) test democracy in all sorts of ways, from inside and from outside. As we’ve seen citizens’ trust in democracy decrease, we’ve seen bad actors play up some (inaudible) that exist within democracies; independent institutions challenged and undermined; journalists, human rights activists threatened and attacked. Even vibrant democracies like Kenya are experiencing these pressures, especially around election time.

We’ve seen the same challenges here that we see in many parts of the world: misinformation, political violence, voter intimidation, voter bribery, (inaudible). And these are stories that we see in place after place. And there’s also something that chips away at democracy in country after country, and that is corruption – there’s also bias and intimidation, (inaudible). What I’m describing to you is the story in many countries around the world. Of course, the United States is hardly immune from these challenges. We’ve seen just how fragile our own democracy can be.

So the reason I wanted to get together and start the day and hear from all of you is we’re going to hear more about your experiences with these challenges and how you’re impacted, and how you’re thinking about – how you’re confronting them, and what’s most effective in strengthening our democracies, building resilience, and resisting some of the efforts to undermine. And for me, it’s important, as I said, to be listening to you because in country after country that is experiencing these challenges, people are finding different ways to strengthen their whole democracy. And no one has all the answers, but somewhere is somebody who does have the answer.

So for me, to be able to hear how (inaudible) dealing with the challenges is hugely beneficial because it’s something I can bring back with me and also share with others. And I also want to hear, to the extent it’s helpful, how the United States can be helpful. So you’re out there every single day speaking up and speaking out on behalf of your fellow citizens, monitoring electoral processes, shining a much needed light on corruption and (inaudible). And this is the difficult, day-in-day-out work: standing by democracy, upholding it, helping (inaudible). It’s what’s – what our Constitution refers to when it talks about wanting a more perfect union. The work is never fully done, even in a strong democracy (inaudible). And you’re doing this all in the face of real resistance.

So simply put, thank you for everything that you’re doing, for all of the services you’re providing to your fellow citizens. And now, as I said, I would love to hear your perspectives on how we can build not only our partnership, but (inaudible) as a democracy. With that, let me stop talking and start listening.

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