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United States Supports Bali Democracy Forum

United States Supports Bali Democracy Forum

By MacKenzie C. Babb
Staff Writer

Washington - Praising the opportunity to "listen and learn from the experiences of other countries," U.S. Under Secretary of State Judith McHale expressed U.S. support for the Bali Democracy Forum for promoting peaceful transitions to democracy.

McHale said the forum provides a "unique, welcome opportunity for representatives of countries at different points in their democratic evolution to share experiences and learn from one another."

McHale led the U.S. observer delegation to the forum, held December 9-10 in Bali, Indonesia. The forum "promotes peaceful transitions to democracy while respecting varied processes of democratization," she said in a speech there.

Indonesia launched the third annual Bali Democracy Forum to promote regional cooperation in democracy and political development, according to a State Department announcement. The announcement said 50 national delegations were invited to participate, and another 40 delegations were invited to observe the two-day meeting.

McHale, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, commended Indonesia's "extraordinary democratic transformation," and said that in 12 years it has gone "from military-dominated authoritarianism to a vibrant, stable democracy - the third largest in the world."

She said the country's membership in the Group of 20 advanced economies, leadership within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and strong economic progress demonstrate how democracy and development can reinforce each other.

McHale highlighted the interests and values shared by the United States and Indonesia "as vast and diverse countries, as neighbors on either side of the Pacific and as countries that conduct free and fair elections and guarantee other democratic freedoms."

She said more countries are building systems based on democratic principles, such as respect for civil society and freedom of expression, and she noted that the number of established democracies has grown from 30 countries in 1974 to more than 100 in 2010.

"More Asian citizens have been given a voice to choose their leaders and exercise basic human rights while respecting their own local traditions and culture, showing us that democracy is not just a Western concept, it is a universal one," she added.

McHale commended the forum's role in encouraging democratic reform around the world. She welcomed Burma's release of democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in November, and called on Burma's leaders to release all of Burma's political prisoners and to begin national reconciliation.

The United States will continue to "energetically support the Bali Democracy Forum because we know that our collective future depends on Asia's success in consolidating democratic gains, protecting human rights and generating new economic opportunities," McHale said.

ENDS

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