We must act decisively, invest in education to protect democracy – PM

“Young people should be encouraged to continue their studies, while access to higher education should be democratised” – PM António Costa


Portugal’s prime minister António Costa has said at the Democracy Summit in the United States that democracy must be protected in order to preserve freedom and strengthen it day by day, acting “decisively” and investing in education.

António Costa participated, through video message, in the Summit for Democracy, on Wednesday, promoted by US president Joe Biden, to which he invited leaders from 121 countries, including India and Israel, whose leaders have been accused of “retrogressing rights” in their countries.

In his message, Mr Costa said that “no country will be prosperous, inclusive, peaceful and developed without a free society, without free citizens”.

“There may be several ways to achieve freedom, but there is only one way to preserve and truly guarantee it – through democracy. It is for this reason that we must protect democracy and strengthen it day by day; we must never take it for granted,” he said.

Stressing that “democracies are constantly challenged”, António Costa pointed out the threats they currently face: “Growing inequality, ‘fake news’ and hate speech fuel the rise of dangerous populism around the world.”

To combat these threats, he argued that it is necessary to “act decisively” and to invest, “first and foremost”, in education: “There will be no free and democratic societies without conscious and free-thinking citizens.”

“For this reason,” he continued, “young people should be encouraged to continue their studies, while access to higher education should be democratised.

“We must ensure that our citizens, especially the youngest, have the tools to live their lives to the fullest potential, to transform our societies through innovation and build a better future,” he said.

However, striking teachers in Portugal may argue that investing in education is just what the government isn’t doing.

António Costa continued: “We must lift people out of poverty, but we must also ensure that everyone can enjoy a dignified life with access to education, jobs and housing, and that each citizen can achieve the right balance between their personal and professional life.”

Finally, he also argued that “strong democracies” are needed to face some of today’s “biggest challenges“, such as climate change, which “is also a cause of democratic erosion”, affecting the daily lives of millions of people around the world, impacting on food security, as well as generating conflicts and forcing people to migrate.

“The transition to carbon-neutral economies is critical, but we must ensure it will be fair and inclusive, especially for the most vulnerable. We must leave no one behind,” he said, concluding, “through our collective action, we will have stronger democracies and more freedom.”

In addition to the United States, other hosts of this second edition of the summit, which finishes today (Thursday), are Costa Rica, South Korea, Zambia and the Netherlands.

Source: Lusa