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Remarks At the Organization of American States/African Union Democracy Bridge Forum

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
July 11, 2007

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SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much and good morning. Distinguished guests, distinguished fellow members of the platform, I welcome you to the Organization of American States/African Union Democracy Bridge Forum. I want to recognize especially Secretary General Insulza for his excellent leadership of the men and women of the Organization of American States. Thank you very much for your outstanding leadership. I want to thank African Union Commission Chairman Konare and the members of the AU Commission for participating in this important dialogue.

To the entire diplomatic corps from the OAS and the AU, thank you all for coming. I thank all the countries and institutions that are represented here and for the commitment to democracy in Africa, in the Americas, and in the world. As I entered this room, I noticed the busts of the founding fathers of the Americas that are lining the hallway. They tell me it's called the "Hall of Heroes." And it reminded me of all our forebearers, both in Africa and the Americas, impatient patriots who would not accept that their countries could not be made better; not perfect, just better.

It was these men and women who laid the foundations for independence and democracy in our regions. In recent years, in Africa, we have seen a democratic transformation sweep the continent and we have observed many heads of state leaving office voluntarily. In the Americas, we have witnessed the end of military dictatorships and the rise of a new democratic consensus. And in both regions, we have now enshrined our commitment to democracy in visionary documents: the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the newly adopted African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance.

We have made these commitments to democracy within our regions and now, we gather to make them between our regions. We make them to each other. That is the great vision that brings us together today, a vision of partnership between the premiere multilateral organizations of Africa and the Americas that grew out of the Community of Democracies. And I want to thank Mali for its chairmanship of that Community of Democracies.

Our challenge now is to use our democratic partnership, Americans and Africans together, to deliver the benefits of democracy to our people. For amidst great progress and the great opportunity in our countries today, there is still great and tragic suffering: citizens who are excluded from opportunities for economic advancement and social justice, citizens who are beginning to wonder whether democracies really can deliver on their rightfully high hopes for a better life.

We must use our democratic partnership to build up, expand, and broaden democratic institutions, institutions that are transparent and accountable to the needs of all of their people. We must fight corruption and protect civil liberties and the rule of law. We must encourage vibrant, civil societies and defend freedom of speech. Through free and fair elections, governments earn legitimacy in the eyes of their people and it is through good governance that they earn people's trust and confidence that life will get better.

Our new initiative to help democracies build good and enduring institutions is the Partnership for Democratic Governance, currently under consideration at the OECD. We support this new global initiative and we appreciate your support of it as well, because we must use our democratic partnerships to reduce poverty and advance social justice in all of our countries. Today's forum is much more than a dialogue on best practices. We're here to work together to meet the greatest development challenges that we face, to join together as democracies, to help meet our people's needs, from housing and health, to good jobs and education.

The democratic governments of Africa and the Americas must liberate the creativity and industry of their people. They must help them seize the opportunities of regional and global trade. It should not be easier to start a rebellion than to start a business. Governments must help, not hinder, the social and economic progress of their people. The right to vote is not enough when men, women, and children lack opportunity, personal security, healthcare and education.

Finally, we must use our democratic partnerships, as well, to support those in Africa and in the Americas and in the wider world, who still struggle for freedom and opportunity. We must support the great people of Cuba who still long for a future of freedom that their government denies to them. We must support the men and women of Zimbabwe who suffer from misrule and long for a better life.

And of course, as fellow democracies, we must remain resolved to end the suffering and end the violence in Darfur. Too many have died, too many women have been raped, and too many children have been torn away from their families. The planned AU/UN peacekeeping force is essential to increasing security for the people of Darfur so that they can begin returning to their homes. We must not let the Government of Sudan continue this game of cat and mouse diplomacy; making promises, then going back on them. It is our responsibility, as principled nations, as principled democracies, to hold Sudan accountable.

We must also rise to our global obligations, lifting our sights beyond our regions and championing the democratic aspirations of all people, in places like Burma and Iraq and Afghanistan. The promise of democracy is not confined to any particular region. It is universal and it is global and our partnership must be as well.

Your countries have learned great and important lessons in your own democratic transitions, and people around the world look to you not only for inspiration, but for cooperation and assistance. Great patriots can determine their countries' future, and we have a responsibility to help those who seek liberty chart a free and better course.

Ladies and gentlemen, those of us gathered here know that democracy is a process. It's a very hard one. Everyday, you get up and you work to put yet another brick in place in the foundation of democracy.

Here in the United States, we firsthand know that our own progress towards a more perfect union has been long and imperfect, and it goes on to this day. As a young girl growing up in segregated Birmingham, I too, and my parents and my neighbors, were frustrated with the pace of democratic and social justice in this country. And we learned what an important difference committed partners can make in the pursuit of democratic ideals.

Now, we are beginning to fulfill a democratic vision together. In centuries past, the peoples of Africa and the Americas met in another way, a more tragic way. We met across a bridge of slavery spanning the Atlantic. The ties that bound our people were literally the shackles and the bindings of slavery. One of our largest shared endeavors was the theft and transport and sale in the Americas of the sons and daughters of Africa, my ancestors among them.

Now, we have a different and hopeful binding -- hope binding us together. And we meet here to build these new bridges between us, bridges of liberty and justice and dignity and human rights which transcend all differences of culture and race and religion. Today, we stand here together, united as the force for human advancement through liberty. One day, we will look back at tyranny as we now look back at slavery; as a crime of man, not a fact of nature. And history will remember the new bridge of democracy and freedom that we built together.

Thank you very much.


Released on July 11, 2007

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