The announcement on Saturday that Joe Biden had been elected as the 46th president of the United States was met with a rousing global chorus of church bells, dance music and car horns. The election of Vice President Kamala Harris made history. She is the first woman, and first woman of color, elected to the office. It was a landmark victory for feminism.
IATP applauds the resolution evident in their first speeches on how to tackle the challenges facing the country. Those challenges are profound: the mishandling of a global pandemic that has needlessly claimed hundreds of thousands of lives; centuries of racial oppression that persist in social, economic and political structures; and a climate crisis that after several decades of neglect — and worse, outright malign interference — on the part of U.S. government and industries is forcing fast and fundamental changes to our economy and our relationships with nature.
A record number of Americans voted in this election. Despite the global pandemic and attempts at various levels of government to discourage turnout, citizens insisted on their rights. They are part of the country’s extraordinary history of multiple peaceful transfers of power from one elected president to another. It requires little searching around the world to see how rare it is for a society to have peaceful transitions of power embedded in their political culture. Never perfect, U.S. voting processes were subject to direct attack this year. They are crying out for investment and reform. But the country should be proud for the example it presents to the world of how democracy, with all its imperfections, serves the people by holding those to whom we entrust with power accountable.
The history of people organizing as civil society for social justice and political change predates democracy. The urge to dream, debate, understand and advocate seems to lie deep in human DNA. Civil society plays a crucial role in articulating, protecting and promoting the public interest, working alongside formal governments but challenging them, too. We can always do better; that is why IATP is proud to play a role as a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to the public interest.
Civil society organizers around the world have recently seen their freedom shrink in many places. Attacks, imprisonment and the threats of state violence against citizens from authoritarian governments have been on the rise, especially against those, like journalists and scientists and community organizers, whose lifework rests on speaking truth to power. Much like a market, democracy thrives on the free flow of information to provide an ever-ready check on concentrated power. To work, governmental institutions need to hear and learn from a diversity of voices. Our shared prosperity depends on protecting science and countering the conspiracy theories and lies that misassign blame to the most vulnerable in our midst. The people had a way to check the trend: their vote. And they used it.
President-elect Biden, the election result demands creative ideas, new coalitions and lasting action to end systemic racism and economic exclusion. We expect that you will take the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves. We await a new course for foreign and domestic policy; we look forward to seeing the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement. Because we know that food systems are vital to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we believe a transformation of public investment in just, sustainable agriculture must be at the core of your recovery plan.
We look forward to an administration committed to multilateralism. We hope you, in the quest to protect our planet and uphold the values of democracy, will balance the need for clear leadership and the need to engage with other nations respectfully.
The election demonstrated the power of kindness, empathy and understanding. IATP stands ready to demonstrate how powerful those forces can be.