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Paula Dobriansky To Community of Democracies FMs

Remarks to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community of Democracies

Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs

United Nations, New York
September 20, 2006

(As delivered remarks)

Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs

United Nations, New York September 20, 2006

(As delivered remarks)

Thank you. I am delighted to represent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at this important ministerial of the Community of Democracies. The Secretary is unable to join us today but sends her greetings and full support for the CD and its work.

On behalf of Secretary Rice, I thank Foreign Minister Ouane for his leadership in hosting this meeting, and commend Ambassador Diop for his stewardship of the Convening Group in Washington. Mali, the chair of the CD, has developed an excellent work plan. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with Mali in furthering democracy, development, and poverty reduction, the theme it has designated for the Bamako Ministerial.

As the Community of Democracies holds this annual Ministerial, I would like to express U.S. concern about the situation in Thailand and hope that Thailand will return very soon to democratic rule.

Over the past year, we have seen ongoing progress in the advancement of democracy, including elections in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Elections are essential to democracy, ensuring that government serves the will of the people, not the other way around. Yet, lasting democracy also requires the development of democratic institutions, the pursuit of good governance, and conditions that allow civil society to flourish. Durable democracies respect the inherent rights of the individual, and also contribute to global peace and stability.

As a Community, we are committed to the promotion of democratic ideas and institutions worldwide. We must now focus on implementing those commitments. To do so successfully requires that we consolidate and strengthen our Community.

 Thus, the United States welcomes Mali's announcement of the formation of four CD working groups, which address civil society; development; regional and international cooperation; and threats to democracy. These working groups will be instrumental in converting our political commitments into on-the-ground realities. The United States will vigorously contribute to and support the working groups, and encourages all democracies to participate actively in them. We hope that by the second half of 2007, in time for the Bamako Ministerial, each working group will have planned and carried out a number of concrete initiatives.

I want to thank Italy and Cape Verde for their leadership of the task force on the development of a secretariat for the Community. The establishment of a permanent secretariat, like the creation of the four working groups, is a crucial step in advancing the work of this Community. The secretariat will provide a locus for implementing democracy programs initiated by CD countries. Given the pressing need for such a capability, the United States believes that the secretariat can and should be operational by next year.

In addition, the CD Convening Group recently welcomed a proposal from the non-governmental sector that would create an International Advisory Committee to counsel the Convening Group on the invitation process for future ministerials. This Advisory Committee will make an important contribution to the invitation process leading up to the meeting in Bamako.

One of the greatest challenges to democracy today is the difficult environment that non-governmental and civil society organizations face as undemocratic and borderline democratic regimes restrict their efforts. The Community of Democracies is a unique forum that shares the task of democracy promotion with NGOs and civil society. A strong, functional Community of Democracies, with working groups, a permanent secretariat, and improved decision-making procedures, will be better equipped to help the people of countries where democracy is under threat.

I take this opportunity to note that the UN Democracy Fund is also an important tool to help address global challenges to democracy. The United States is pleased that during its first allocation of funds in August, the UN Democracy Fund approved disbursements for 125 projects, totaling more than $26 million. More than sixty percent of the funds went to NGOs and civil society organizations.

Some of the projects contribute to civic education, electoral support, or political party development. Others address judicial reform or strengthening democratic institutions. Still others help increase civil society input into the governmental decision-making process. We are pleased both to have proposed the creation of this Fund and to continue to support it financially, and urge CD members to contribute in whatever way they can.

We never forget our fellow women and men who live under tyranny in places such as Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Belarus, and Zimbabwe. As democracies, we have the duty to stand by those who have no democratic voice as they seek to attain it. All of us gathered here today have willingly accepted that responsibility. Now let us set about fulfilling it, ably and effectively. Thank you.

Released on September 26, 2006


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