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  • Documents on Democracy

Europe

On July 2–4, the Community of Democracies, a global intergovernmental organization working to strengthen democracy around the world, held a high-level meeting in Krakow, Poland, to mark the tenth anniversary of its founding. The member governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Warsaw Declaration of 2000, the Community's founding document. Speakers included Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament. Their remarks are excerpted below:

Carl Bildt: Is democracy losing ground in our world of today? No. I will argue that it's the other way around.

We all know that there is no one-fit-for-all blueprint for democratic governance. We are keenly aware of the fact that there are no quick-fixes or instant solutions when it comes to building the institutions and practices of democratic governance in fragile nations. … And we are certainly aware of the fact that there have been painful setbacks in the different efforts to safeguard freedom and build democracy around the world.

The campaign for the presidential election in Iran just over a year ago was a vibrant, vital, and to a very large extent, open contest between the contenders—it brought real hope to the people of Iran, and to those of us in the rest of the world looking forward to a new Iran to work together with. We know what happened: Repression deepened; there were massive violations of human rights. For many, hope was lost, at least for the time being. But we all know that this was not the end of the story—not in Iran, not anywhere else in the world where freedom is still in danger and democracy de facto suppressed or curtailed.

The remarkable fact is that there is—to my knowledge—not a single regime in the world today that is not claiming that it is democratic. In [End Page 179] very many cases they distinctly are not. In numerous cases the mismatch between their words and their deeds is monstrous. But it's still a fact that a regime in our world today that wants to be seen as legitimate has to claim that it is democratic.

In claiming to be democratic, even the most autocratic rulers of this world are confirming that the moral imperative of governance in our modern world is based on the consent of the governed and on respecting the life and liberty of their citizens. There is thus no real philosophical or ideological challenge to the idea of democracy in the modern world. And that is truly a great victory.

Our task then is twofold. To highlight and expose the hypocrisy of those claiming the principle of democracy but practicing… the suppression of freedom, the undermining of the rule of the law, the denial of freedom of expression, and the manipulation of the processes of democratic elections. …

But the other and certainly not less important task is to give help to those working with the building of free and democratic societies.

Hillary Clinton: I would argue that [Poland's] progress was neither accidental nor inevitable. It came about through a generation of work to improve governance, grow the private sector, and strengthen civil society. These three essential elements of a free nation—representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society—work like three legs of a stool. They lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity. …

Today I would like to focus on one leg of that stool: civil society. Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. …

Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people. Not all of these organizations or individuals are equally effective, of course. And they do represent a broad range of opinions. And, having been both in an NGO and led NGOs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 179-183
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-20
Open Access
No
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