Strategies on Democracy PromotionPaula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Global Affairs
Remarks to the Hudson Institute
June 20, 2005
Thank you for that introduction, Lawrence. It’s a pleasure to be here at the Hudson Institute to discuss strategies for promoting democracy and human rights. Democracy is the cornerstone of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, and is key to a peaceful and prosperous future.
In his second inaugural address, President Bush stated that "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." He predicated this on the belief that "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world."
Functioning representative governments with the rule of law, economic opportunity and other tenets of a free society do not make fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists, do not produce massive outflows of refugees, do not cause famine, and do not war with other democracies.
President Bush’s historic statements have delineated a new chapter in American history. Advancing freedom requires comprehensive and tailored strategies to ensure that we are analyzing each unique situation, learning from successful—and unsuccessful—transitions to democracy, and using all of the tools in our arsenal to address the many facets of democratization. It is a complex undertaking—each country has a distinct history, is at a unique point in its own political development, and has a different set of public and private circumstances that help or hinder democratization.
You are familiar with the Winston Churchill quote that "democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried." This reflects that democracies and democratic processes are imperfect, and above all, complex. Similarly, they rely on complex institutions that must be cultivated. We need strategies that bolster the very pillars of democracy, which encompass far more than the absence of a dictator. In speaking to the International Republic Institute last month, President Bush outlined the most basic and essential of these pillars. They are:
These pillars comprise the foundation from which other components of democracy are derived, such as:
These tenets of democracy serve as the goalposts of what we are seeking to create, cultivate or strengthen. We assess each element in different countries to determine the best path to democracy. We view governments of concern on a spectrum ranging from those making gains toward democracy, but in need of help in consolidating those gains; to those backsliding from stable democracy; to those that are outposts of tyranny. Examples of the latter are North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and Cuba. In such situations, we reach out to opposition actors and reformers.
What are our tools? Too often, critics will look first and only at the dollar figure we are spending in a country. The tools we have are far more diverse than just programmatic assistance, although that is an essential component. We must also look at each capability and how it can be calibrated to address country-specific needs.
First, we engage in bilateral diplomacy, which involves raising our concerns at very high levels of foreign governments. From our interactions with governments at staff levels, all the way up through the Secretary and the President, we press others on the need to establish or support democracy, and we raise human rights issues with ally and adversary alike.
Examples include President Bush encouraging the Chinese to engage in substantive dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama; Secretary Rice sending a clear signal to leaders and officials in the Middle East about the imperative to advance democracy and respect human rights; and my visit to Yemen, where with President Saleh and other high-level officials, I cited progress, but also urged them to continue their political liberalization. Bilateral pressure on undemocratic states to reform and on emerging democracies to support actively their form of government is a key element of our diplomacy.
We also conduct bilateral diplomacy with third countries as partners—governments that can influence a non-democracy or a country teetering between authoritarianism and movement toward democracy.
Recently, we have taken this approach with African democracies, urging them to be more active in confronting threats to stability and accountable government. We have seen these governments rally to address democratic backsliding in Togo. During last year’s election crisis in Ukraine, we worked with the European Union to bring international pressure to bear against those seeking to undermine democracy. More recently, our combining efforts with the E.U. against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon also engendered results.
Multilateral fora offer an important vehicle for advancing our democracy efforts as well. Often, they have more influence than a single nation acting alone. Also, depending on the organization, membership or the denial of membership sends an important signal of the member countries’ acceptance or condemnation of a government’s activities.
We have sought the inclusion of issues related to the advancement of democracy in fora like the OAS and G8. Our Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative launched in the G-8 has made democratic reform a central pillar of our and others’ engagement in this pivotal region. We are consulting with our allies in ASEAN to discourage them from rewarding the Burmese military rulers with a leadership position in the Association. Through the Community of Democracies, we have joined with others in supporting the creation of the International Center for Democratic Transition, to be located in Budapest. At the UN, President Bush has called for the establishment of a Democracy Fund.
The State Department issues several reports each year that press for human rights and democracy, including the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the Trafficking in Persons Report, and the Report on International Religious Freedom. These have a real impact, and some also carry sanctions for the worst violators. Although they may complain, many governments will act—some quite rapidly—when confronted by the threat of sanctions.
Economic, financial and technical assistance to foreign governments and non-governmental organizations is crucial to support democracy. This can range from funds to hold elections, to foreign aid conditioned on good governance to the denial of financial assistance to those unwilling to reform. Likewise, it is not just our democracy assistance that is supporting this goal. For example, the Millennium Challenge Account, a poverty reduction tool, is an example of how assistance tied to good governance can reinforce the values and objectives of our democracy promotion strategy. The Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative, which was founded to support economic, political, and educational reform efforts in the Middle East, is making significant progress in furthering democracy.
An illustrative tool at our disposal—just one of many—is the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, overseen by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, which has grown to $30 million annually over the past several years. Through it, we have funded many diverse and innovative democracy support activities.
In Kyrgyzstan, the Fund supported the region’s first independent printing press and a nationwide network of Information Centers for Democracy that were instrumental in ensuring access to objective information during February’s elections. The Fund also provided resources to establish up to ten information centers for democracy in Azerbaijan. These centers will provide a non-partisan forum through which citizens can gain access to news reports, and acquire grassroots organizing and advocacy skills.
To support the Iranian people’s unmistakable aspirations for freedom and a true democracy, the State Department allocated $1 million last year to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center based in New Haven, Connecticut. This year, the U.S. will spend approximately $14.7 million on Persian broadcasting through media such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. The State Department also issued requests for proposals to utilize $3 million on projects that promote political party and media development, labor rights, civil society and human rights in Iran.
These are a few examples that are indicative of our overall efforts. The focus is global and predicated on the premise that freedom is the right of everyone, everywhere.
The practical tools we use to support democracy are varied and flexible. They are not singularly perfect, and we do not have a textbook on how flawlessly to help people bring about accountable governments that respect their rights. No two instances of democratic transitions are the same—any approach must be flexible and creative. But many of our efforts have been timely, crucial to civil society needs and have been met with success. We have been proactive—not just reactive to identified needs. There is a clearly perceptible rising tide of democracy around the world.
These are the policies and methods we employ to execute the President’s freedom agenda. As he has said, freedom’s advance is the challenge of a new century and the calling of our time. A quote that I think truly captures our objectives was made at the end of World War II by General Douglas MacArthur, who was in Tokyo at the time. He marked the end of that era by stating "A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won…men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight." Our present fight for freedom will not end with such ceremony, but will be marked by the broad demise of tyranny. And men and women everywhere will at long last be able to ‘walk upright in the sunlight.’
Thank you for inviting me here today to open up your program. I look forward to hearing the recommendations of the panelists.
Released on June 20, 2005