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Rice - Opening Session of the Forum for the Future

Remarks at the Opening Session of the Forum for the Future

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Manama, Bahrain
November 12, 2005

SECRETARY RICE: I would like to thank King Hamad, and our many generous hosts here in Bahrain, for welcoming us this beautiful country for the second annual meeting of the Forum for the Future. I would also like to thank the British government, for co-hosting this important event.

I'd like to start by noting again our common outrage at what was done in Jordan and our deep condolences to the government and people of Jordan, but also to note that there are other countries around this table who lost citizens there. It reminds us that while we sit here to talk about a future of reform, a future of hope, a future in which economic prosperity and political participation can be imagined for the people of this region that there are those who have quite another vision of what the region should look like, and I think it makes even more urgent our work to have an answer to the ideologies of hatred that produces the kind of violence that we saw in Jordan and that we have seen in many countries around this table.

A year and a half ago, at the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, the world's leading industrial nations pledged to support courageous men and women across the Broader Middle East and North Africa, who are demanding economic freedom, and democratic rights, and educational opportunity.

President Bush and his fellow heads of state heard the calls for change that are redefining this region. And to amplify these voices, they partnered with the governments of the Broader Middle East and members of civil society -- and created the Forum for the Future.

The Forum held its first meeting last year in Rabat. And since then, the entire world has witnessed a tremendous expansion of liberty in the Broader Middle East.

The long-suffering people of Iraq and Afghanistan have held unprecedented democratic elections -- not once but twice.

The Palestinian people have elected a leader who openly calls for peace with Israel. And if we can make progress on the roadmap, the establishment of a Palestinian state should be within our sites.

For the first time, Egypt's presidential election was a multiparty competition. Kuwaiti women have gained the right to vote. And one million citizens in Lebanon have demanded and won their independence from Syrian domination.

We have all seen that the human longing for justice is a force that is not easily denied.

And we continue to support the peoples of Syria in their aspirations for liberty, democracy, and justice. We would like to see an end to the arbitrary detentions of democratic and human rights activists there -- including Kamal Labwani and all the prisoners of conscience from the Damascus Spring.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have worked too hard and come too far as partners to rest content with these initial gains. The goals of democracy are not realized with one demonstration or a single election.

Democracy only achieves lasting success when the rule of law is sanctified, when the media is free, when government is transparent and accountable to its people, when independent courts ensure justice in society, when civilians control the military, and when all citizens have equal opportunities to succeed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the United States, of all countries, knows that the road to democracy is hard and that it is uneven. In my own country, the full right to vote for citizens was only ensured a little over 40 years ago. And so we say with humility, not with arrogance, that democracy is worth having, even if it is difficult to achieve.

We must improve, and strengthen, and expand our partnership for reform in this region. That is the mission of our Forum here today.

Last year, we had only five representatives of civil society in Rabat. Today we have over 40 men and women from civil society representing hundreds more who are working for change in their countries. And today, they will present their recommendations on reform to governments in this region on sensitive but urgent reform issues -- from women's empowerment and civil liberties, to anti-corruption and the rule of law.

My friends, today we reaffirm our fundamental support for certain basic democratic principles -- like liberty and justice, dignity and human rights -- which transcend all differences of culture, race, and religion, and unite us all in a spirit of mutual respect and shared determination.

The Forum for the Future is helping to transform the Broader Middle East. But it is all of you, through the impatience for the blessings of freedom and prospects of a better life, who are making that transformation real among citizens. It is our citizens who are making the great goal of democratic reform, once thought impossible in this region, now begin to seem inevitable.

I want to thank all of those who are here for the hope and hard work that is represented. And I look forward to the rest of today's meeting, Mr. Minister.




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