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Remarks at the Community of Democracies UNGA Event

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
New York, NY
October 1, 2007

I am delighted to be able to join you today. We are grateful to Mali for its dynamic and effective leadership of the Community of Democracies, and particularly for its hosting of the upcoming fourth annual Ministerial.

The United States shares Mali’s enthusiasm for strengthening this global network of fellow democracies. Despite many challenges, democracy is gaining ground around the world, and we are particularly pleased that Mali will be able to welcome more African countries than ever before to this year’s Ministerial.

I have just come from the launch of the OECD’s Partnership for Democratic Governance, an innovative new initiative to help improve governance and promote global development. This new Partnership is a concrete example of free nations working together to advance both democracy and development – which is precisely the theme of the upcoming Bamako Ministerial.

Like Mali, we believe that democracy is critical to sustainable development. Mali itself is an example of the power that democratic governance has to attract investment and sustained momentum toward development. Mali’s recent $460 million Compact with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation highlights this fact.

The United States supports the Community of Democracies’ focus on concrete initiatives that address global challenges to democracy. For instance, we want to continue to work with you to support programs such as the Democracy Bridge, which links the Organization of American States and the African Union together to share best practices on how to promote and defend democracy. This organization’s early and active support for the UN Democracy Fund is another example of its longstanding support of concrete initiatives. Today the UN Democracy Fund is strong. It supported over 120 projects in over 75 countries during its first year, and it has received contributions and pledges from 31 Member States, totaling approximately $69 million.

We also support the establishment of a CD Secretariat which will strengthen this mission. I would like to thank the government of Poland for its generous offer to host the secretariat.

Consistent with the Community of Democracy’s call for increased regional and inter-regional cooperation to promote democracy, President Bush called for the creation of an Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership at the recent APEC Summit in Sydney, a venture we think is a worthy goal, and that we encourage you all to support.

And, while we are discussing Asia, I would like to say a few words about the horrific and tragic events taking place in Burma right now. Thousands of citizens and Buddhist monks have taken to the streets to peacefully raise their voices for change. This is a basic natural right, and it should not be a crime in any country. Yet, the military junta in Burma is treating freedom of speech as a license to kill. No responsible member of the international community, especially of the Community of Democracies, can afford to remain silent and inactive in light of what is occurring in Burma. I encourage all of you to stand in support of all Burmese citizens who peacefully exercise their basic rights and voice their aspirations for a better, freer future.

Finally, as we look forward to Bamako, we must do more to protect human rights defenders and NGOs, which in many cases are under siege by authoritarian or totalitarian regimes. We would also urge this organization to re-energize the UN Democracy Caucus so that our votes at the UN reflect our common democratic values. Last May, the Community of Democracies issued a strong statement on the Human Rights Council, calling for free, fair, and contested elections, with slates filled by those states with a proven track record of defending human rights and democratic governance. We need to keep the pressure on and continue to work together.

We are indeed in trying times around the globe. Democracy is being challenged, but I also think there is proof throughout the world that democracy is growing. From Iraq to Burma, people are standing up and demanding their freedom, their rights, and the democratic institutions to protect them. Your efforts give them inspiration, support and assistance, and I thank you all for your good work.

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