Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told world leaders that our model of democracy is “being challenged across the globe” and that to address issues like COVID-19 and climate change we need to value a diversity of voices and build enduring institutions.

Arden gave two pre-recorded speeches overnight as part of the Summit for Democracy, a virtual event held by United States President Joe Biden and attended by more than 100 world leaders.

The event aimed to bring together figures from government, civil society and the private sector to lay out an “affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action”.

Notably, authoritarian states Russia and China, with which the US currently has poor relations, were not invited to the event. They’ve both criticised the event.

In New Zealand’s National Statement at the event, Ardern thanked Biden for “bringing us together in these challenging times of COVID-19 and when other events threaten to disconnect us and divide us”.

She said the summit came at a “critical time in which our model of democracy underpinned by human rights and the rule of law is being challenged across the globe”.

“If we are to navigate the challenges of our time – including COVID-19 and climate change – we will need to do so in a way that reflects our key strength – the inclusivity of our societies which allows us to acknowledge and value a diversity of voices and build enduring institutions and approaches to help solve challenges and address needs.”

The Prime Minister laid out New Zealand’s history as a “proud, independent and democratic nation”, noting we’ve been holding regular elections since 1854 and, in 1893, became the first self-governing country to allow women the right to vote.

Referencing the need for democracies to evolve, Ardern mentioned the shift to MMP, leading “our Parliament [to] being now more representative and diverse”, and how governments are seeking to foster “stronger, ongoing and effective relationships with Māori”, including by trying to settle historical grievances.

“This settlement process has been critical to addressing the wrongs of the past and for creating a pathway for a more inclusive society in New Zealand – an areas where we must continue to work hard to realise that vision.”

She also boasted of the global perception of our democracy, with Aotearoa listed as among the most democratic nations in The Economist’s Democracy Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.