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Democracy Needs You in The Conversation
February 24, 2022

Portrait of a woman in front of palm fronds and a U.S. flag
US Charge d’Affaires Usha E Pitts

U.S. Embassy Nassau – Op-Ed
Chargé d’Affaires Usha E. Pitts

Over half a century ago on a chilly morning in March, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Though change may be slow and difficult—whether on racial justice, democratic reform, or economic equality—progress is possible when like-minded people, institutions, and governments join forces to bend the moral arc toward justice.

This Friday, February 25, the U.S. Embassy in The Bahamas welcomes a Good Governance conference hosted by the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG).  The event will bring together over 100 participants from government, the private sector, and civil society committed to transparency and accountability in The Bahamas.  Our hope is that this conference will support democracy, spark community discussions, and encourage good governance, integrity, and equity.

ORG has made 30 in-person slots available to the general public, and I cordially invite all interested Bahamians to register to attend at www.orgbahamas.com/GoodGovernanceSymposium.  For those who cannot attend in person, I invite you to participate virtually by visiting https://bit.ly/GoodGovernanceBahamas between 8:30am and 5:00pm on Friday, February 25.

Democracy, transparency, and accountability can only flourish when we all come together and participate.  I want to thank all the Bahamians who lend your voices to the conversation daily at home with family, at work with colleagues, and in your free time with friends and loved ones.  There are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in the conversation.  For example, in addition to Friday’s conference, ORG will be hosting a series of events on democracy titled ‘Freedom School,’ and a series of Freedom of Information Sessions in the Family Islands for those of you outside of New Providence, so please visit their website at www.orgbahamas.com for details on those events.  It is thanks to active, engaged citizens like you that democracy can continue to flourish in The Bahamas and around the world.

The Good Governance conference and the ongoing conversation on democracy come as the need to bolster people’s faith in government and democracy has never been greater.  Democracies around the world face challenges from both criminal organizations and authoritarian leaders.  During the COVID pandemic in particular, drug trafficking has thrived and global cybercrime by both criminals and state-actors has blossomed.  Corruption facilitates transnational crime of all kinds and undermines democracy at its core by eating away at public trust and the ability of governments to deliver for their citizens.  The worst examples are when political, economic, and social elites—at times working with criminal organizations—buy (or rent) judges and/or police and threaten independent and courageous judicial actors.

As is true with many of the most pressing challenges we face, the United States cannot succeed in the fight for transparency and accountability alone.  Enduring partnerships with other democracies like The Bahamas are a crucial part of bending that long moral arc towards justice.  This week’s conference is just one piece of ongoing efforts to assist The Bahamas in strengthening institutions, countering transnational crime, and enabling the rule of law.

We are acting on the global stage as well.  In December, during the Biden Administration’s Summit for Democracy—which The Bahamas also attended—the United States announced the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, committing $424 million to working with global partners to strengthen our collective response to corruption, crime, authoritarianism and discrimination.  The strategy will be in the spotlight again during the Summit of the Americas, which the United States will host this June for the first time in over 25 years.  Leaders from around Latin America and the Caribbean will come together to uphold our shared commitment to democracy and human rights, and to combating crime and corruption.

Much work remains to be done.  Democratic values are under pressure around the world—including in the United States.  The arc of the moral universe is not only long, it also meanders, climbs, stumbles, and sometimes falls.  But I am confident that by working together with partners like The Bahamas, who share our values, the moral arc will indeed consistently bend towards justice.

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Usha E. Pitts