- News and Notes
Conference on Democracy Promotion in Africa
On June 3–4 in Washington, D.C., the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Council on Foreign Relations cosponsored a conference on “Democracy, Human Rights, and Good Governance in Africa: French, American, and African Perspectives.” The conference brought together over 130 leading government officials, representatives of prodemocracy and human rights groups, and scholars to examine how democracy and the protection of human rights can best be promoted in Africa.
The conference was held in light of recent shifts in policy toward Africa in both France and the United States. Both countries have moved to orient their programs toward, and condition their aid on, concern for democracy and good governance. In addition, the French government has reorganized its foreign policy structures for addressing African issues. For its part, the United States has signaled greater attention toward Africa in its foreign policy through President Clinton’s extensive trip to Africa in March 1998.
Gérard Conac, recently retired professor of political science at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), a Visiting Fellow at the NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, played a seminal role in the conception and organization of the conference. Professor Conac encouraged support for and participation in the conference by several organizations based in France, including the Agence de la Francophonie, the Association Internationale de Parlementaires de Langue Française, the Institut International d’Admini-stration Publique, the Association Internationale des Barreaux, and the Centre d’Études Juridiques et Politiques du Monde Africain.
The conference opened with presentations on national objectives and strategies, featuring comments by John Carson (U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for [End Page 184] Africa), Jean-Claude Faure (Directeur de Cabinet de Monsieur le Ministre de la Coopération et de la Francophonie), and Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah (Executive Secretary, Global Coalition for Africa).
Subsequent sessions focused on state institutions; civil society; and French, American, and African co-operation to promote democracy. Panelists included Robert Dossou (former foreign minister of Benin), Jacques Legendre (member, French Senate), René Degni Segui (former president, Ligue Ivoirienne des Droits de l’Homme and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Rwanda), and Salih Booker (director, Africa Studies Program, Council on Foreign Relations).
Luncheon addresses were presented by the Reverend Jesse Jackson (U.S. Special Envoy for Promotion of Democracy in Africa) and Congressman Amo Houghton, both of whom were introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne. France’s ambassador to the United States, François Bujon de l’Estang, held an evening reception at his residence.
Participants suggested several activities to maintain the momentum toward greater cooperation begun at the conference: holding subsequent conferences on specific issues, such as the rule of law, the conduct of elections, and the role of donors, that would also help span the cultural and linguistic divisions between Francophone and Anglo-phone Africa; promoting civic education and training in the areas of judicial systems and the rule of law; instituting channels of communication and information exchange via e-mail and the Internet, including the establishment of an online database of democracy-promotion activities in Africa; and forming a small working group that would meet periodically to assess the progress made in French-African-American cooperation.
A report based on the conference is in preparation and will be published in both French and English. For information, contact Robert Carpenter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Conference Promotes Civic Education in Asia
On August 10–13 in Kuala Lumpur, CIVITAS International sponsored the first major Asia-Pacific conference on civic education. CIVITAS, which has an international steering committee and a secretariat with headquarters in Strasbourg, has organized three previous regional conferences on civic education: in 1995 in Prague; in 1996 in Buenos Aires; and in 1997 in Pretoria. CIVITAS@Kuala Lumpur 1998, which focused on education for democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, sought to increase awareness of work on civic education and civil society in the region and to foster regional cooperation in the field through the establishment of a regional network of civic educators. Topics addressed during the conference included sustainable development, the role of religious bodies, good governance, the role of the media, gender...