Remarks at the Democracy and Governance Partners ConferenceJohn D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
As Prepared for Delivery
June 12, 2008
Thank you for your kind words, Michael.
I’m delighted to be with you for this inaugural session of the Democracy and Governance Partners Conference, and I want to commend USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance for organizing this event. It’s inspiring to see so many of you here and sense your enduring commitment to the expansion of democracy, freedom, and good governance worldwide.
I understand that we have USAID Democracy officers representing some fifty countries with us today. They are joining their Washington-based colleagues and our implementing partners in the private sector. I’d like to welcome you one and all. It’s important for us to gather together in this fashion to reinforce our esprit-de-corps, especially for those of us who work in far-flung countries and sometimes under serious peril.
Just last month, John Granville’s name was added to the black granite wall at the State Department that commemorates our fallen colleagues. His work as a DG officer in Sudan is a source of inspiration for all of us to continue serving the cause for which he and others died. The United States promotes democracy because it is a reflection of our values and identity as a people. We promote democracy because democracy is central to the success of our broader development goals. And we promote democracy because it enhances our national security, fostering political stability, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and international cooperation.
That is why we have seen a dramatic expansion in support for democracy promotion over the last seven years:
USAID, of course, is an innovator without parallel in the field of democracy promotion. That’s widely known and widely admired:
Those are major accomplishments that reflect bold vision, commitment, and hard work—all of which continue to be required in these early years of the 21st century. Over the next two days, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to think through the themes and techniques we will have to emphasize to build momentum in the promotion of democracy and good governance.
I’m glad to see that many conference sessions focus on building greater interagency collaboration. That’s a critical theme. Since many of you work under conditions of conflict and instability where reconstruction and security issues are a major concern, it’s vital that the State Department, USAID, the Defense Department and other federal agencies work together to ensure not only your success but also your safety.
Interagency collaboration is essential to helping us expand our understanding and skills in areas where we don’t have substantial experience, such as security sector reform and community policing. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for people to support democracy when they live in fear for their lives. Personal security is an essential prerequisite for effective governance.
I am also pleased to see that this conference will focus on youth and on tapping the energy and resources of labor and business. Many countries are experiencing a demographic "youth bulge" wherein the majority of the population is under the age of 25. Our challenge is to design programs to equip youth with the technical skills and civic values necessary to become constructive actors in both the political and economic market place.
The session on “New Media: The Next Frontier for Free Expression and Civic Organizing” is equally important. The borders of even the most closed societies now can be penetrated to give citizens access to information and enable them to communicate beyond their national boundaries about their values, goals, political environment, and aspirations. Congressional interest in using Internet technology to promote democracy was manifested by the 15 million dollars appropriated to DRL to thwart censorship of Internet communication. This initiative reflects a profound commitment on the part of the U.S. Government to promote democratic activity on the Internet. I encourage all of you to stay abreast of state-of-the-art communication technologies and capitalize on what they can accomplish.
Finally, I am pleased that you have a panel entitled "Food Crisis and Governance." Rising food prices are creating grievous hardship for millions of people with woefully insufficient incomes. Food riots have broken out in some thirty-five countries this year. That puts serious stresses on government agencies throughout the developing world and reminds us of a circuitous truth: economic prosperity is contingent upon good governance, and in some measure, good governance is contingent upon economic prosperity—and the entire political/economic equation is contingent upon having free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and a vibrant civil society that insists governments effectively respond to citizen needs. The new Partnership for Democratic Governance at the OECD, which the U.S. helped to launch, is designed to help governments respond to these needs. I hope you all will support this effort.
So the challenges we face are complex, but we now have nearly twenty-five years of experience in developing the skills and practices to support free and fair elections, political party development, rule of law reform, anti- corruption campaigns, a free media, and all the other vital elements that constitute a dynamic democracy and governance portfolio. We should be confident that our efforts can and do make a difference.
Yes. Of course, we still have a long way to go. Advancing democracy and strengthening governmental practices in the developing world is difficult; it takes time; but it’s worth it. Your professional efforts focus on our central values and interests as a nation. They are a critical dimension of our foreign policy and national security. Year by year you help advance freedom, prosperity, and security around the world.
I applaud your commitment and hope you make the most of this conference in strengthening your contributions in the months and years ahead.
Thank you very much.
Released on June 12, 2008