U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Remarks at Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 12, 2008

View Video

SECRETARY RICE: Lorne, thank you very much and thank you to the members of the committee. I want to hear from you, so I’m really not going to make much in the way of opening remarks except to thank you for your service. Thank you for the long devotion that everyone at this table has demonstrated for the proposition that it is not acceptable for any human being to live in tyranny, that in fact, it is both a moral responsibility and in America’s national interest that democracies be supported and that those who are trying to bring about democratic change be supported around the world.

And I’m a firm believer that even though sometimes, short-term interest and long-term goals may have temporary tensions, that America has never been confused about our long-term interest. And we have, therefore, never been neutral about the importance of democracy, the importance of democratic change, and we don’t – we have never believed that there was any other alternative which really permitted the full expression of human dignity.

And so with those words, I would like very much to hear about the working groups which I hear have been working very hard, so thank you.

MR. CRANER: Well, Madame Secretary, we very much want to welcome you here. We greatly appreciate your presence and it’s yet another demonstration of the interest that you have in this topic, which we also heard at David Kramer’s swearing-in the other day, so we appreciate that.

We do have a fairly large set of recommendations, but one thing I was struck by in looking through them is how closely they come to your concepts of transformational diplomacy, what you – transitional diplomacy you’ve talked about, to work with our many partners around the world to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people, that it’s rooted in partnership, not in paternalism. But also, you have recognized, and David was just talking about some of this – the new effort we will undertake today, you said, will not be completed tomorrow. Transforming the State Department is the work of a generation, but it is urgent work that cannot be left.

For this set of recommendations, the first set, we addressed how human rights and democracy are addressed by State in two areas of outreach: public diplomacy and multilateral fora. And then we addressed a third area, the mechanisms within the Department itself, what we call delivering on the policy.

Our first working group on public diplomacy was headed by Ambassador Mark Palmer and had a number of recommendations on both tone and substance. Many of these are aimed more at State Department officials in the field. For example, it was suggested that we do not, out of concern for stability and good relations, praise a dictator’s democratic credentials or say that human rights violations are a matter of internal policy.

Second, in recognizing any progress towards democracy and the degree of friendship with the United States, when possible, ascribe this to the people within the country as opposed to the dictator. Third, the working group advocates open solidarity and increased engagement by our diplomats around the world with those struggling to build democracy. And we also advocate – and again, we were just addressing this with David – increased training for all ranks of FSOs in transformational diplomacy.

Mark, what would you add?

MR. PALMER: (Off-mike.) Madame Secretary, we hope that these papers that our work group produced are (inaudible) considered as a (inaudible).

MR. CRANER: Our second group, headed by Jennifer Windsor, the president of Freedom House, covered U.S. engagement in multilateral fora. There was no consensus within the group on whether we should have joined the Human Rights Council. Some of those – some of us who used to deal with the Human Rights Commission felt our time could be better spent on different pursuits. But others felt that our limited engagement has made the Council worse, not better. Notably, our European friends and other democratic countries say that they are left to bear the brunt alone and without effective coordination in our absence.

There was unanimous consternation in the group regarding the decreasing effectiveness of the OAS in promoting democracy and what was referred to as the hollowing out of the OSCE. In the case of the OAS, a more visible effect of U.S. strategy was advocated. In the case of the OSCE, we noted the constructive role played by the U.S. Government regarding Kazakhstan’s chairmanship and the need for good follow-up on their commitments. But great concern remains regarding Russia’s efforts to neutralize the OSCE’s outstanding democracy work.

Finally, the committee felt that despite Paula’s great leadership and Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s attendance at the Community of Democracies meeting in Mali, CD has not yet fulfilled its promise. Jennifer, let me ask what you would add at this point.

MS. WINDSOR: Thank you. It’s a great summary. Just – I think what -- we look at the retreat of democracy and one of the things that I think concerns – should concern all of us is actually the undermining of some of the fundamental principles of human rights in the 60th year of the Declaration of Human Rights. And whether it’s the anti-blasphemy resolution that was just passed at the UN Human Rights Council or other actions, some of the fundamental premises on which human rights and democracy promotion and – as a standard and as something that the international community has a right to do are actually under attack. So I think we really need to step back and look at how do we address this really relentless assault. And it’s not just on democracy promotion and the right of the international community to give assistance. It’s actually on the fundamental values themselves.

So I think that this needs to move up in terms of the priority list, because otherwise, everything that we’re talking about here today will become irrelevant, I think, if the international community continues to move in the direction that it’s moving.

MR. CRAMER: (Inaudible) said ways in which the State Department’s internal architecture might be better arranged to deliver on the policy of democracy assistance. And some of this did overlap with Mark’s public diplomacy working group. First, something we were also addressing before you came in: enhancing U.S. public awareness of the fact that democracy assistance is long term work that involves much more than just elections, ensuring that even when it is necessary to engage closely with a country on high policy issues with an authoritarian country, that we do not downgrade low policy, such as democracy work, but instead keep it constant and even upgraded.

We commended the concept behind the F process; finding, learning where our foreign aid is going, but noted a lack of transparency and outside input with the odd result that some countries identified by you or the President as democracy priorities have received the same or even, in some cases, less democracy funding in Administration budget requests since the F process began. Finally, we advocated a review of the rationale behind the AID’s assignments on democracy spending, an issue that has also been raised by the HELP Commission report and the AID administrator’s advisory committee.

Secretary Rice, if you look around this table, you will see practitioners and academics, Republicans and Democrats on this committee. We do not agree on everything and there are members of this committee who are critical of aspects of this Administration’s policy. But we are united in our belief that a strong emphasis on democracy building is vital to America’s foreign policy interests. This reflects the bipartisan tradition on human rights and democracy work that extends back to Presidents Carter and Reagan. And we look forward to working with you, with Paula, with David to further the vision of the expansion of freedom that you and the President have advocated these last seven years. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Well, thank you very much, Lorne. And what I'd like to do is perhaps hear from other members of the committee. I find myself in substantial agreement with what has been proposed here and we will try to act on it.

I do believe that -- I was struck, Jennifer, that you talked about the retreat of democracy. My sense is that we actually have had some real advances for democracy as well, and that what we really are seeing is that democracy -- the forward march of democracy doesn't move like this. It tends to move like this instead. And there are some places that are never going to be the same, having gone through certain recent events. For instance, I don't think there will ever be an Egyptian presidential election that looks like old ones, given the way that the press mobilized to be open during the presidential elections in Egypt, even if the parliamentary elections that followed on were not very good.

Similarly, I will tell you, to me, one of the most heartening stories -- you probably know I was very involved in the Kenya situation. What struck me about Kenya was this: this country that has been pushing and trying to build a democratic heritage for a number of years that finally got a peaceful transfer of power from Moi to Kibaki. And then when there was great concern that that peaceful transfer was not going to be upheld in the next election, what really helped in Kenya -- of course, Kofi Annan was great. I think we were able to make a contribution. But it was Kenyan civil society, the business community, the press, the Kenyan people going to the press and saying: This is an assault on Kenyan democracy. You both need to get your act together and find a peaceful way to resolve this.

And that was heartening to me, because we sometimes jump to the conclusions that these institutions, that we've all been helping to build over time are going to just fall back at the first sign of trouble when, in fact, that's not what's happening. These are institutions that are sometimes quite resilient in the face of difficulty. And I think for all of us who feel that democracy work is a generational, struggle-- several generations, I think that the Kenyan situation was really quite heartening.

A PARTICIPANT: Thank you, Madame Secretary, for joining us again. We all appreciate it. You spoke about tensions that sometimes exist between short-term U.S. interests and long-term goals. As a place where these tensions were perhaps most acute, how would you view prospects in Pakistan, Pakistani perceptions of the U.S. role there, and the lessons learned about managing these tensions between interest and goals?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I think that I was first in Pakistan in my first year as Secretary. And I remember standing next to the Pakistani Foreign Minister and saying to him that the United States of America expected to have free and fair elections in Pakistan, and I mean standing next to him publicly, and was that indeed the view of the Pakistani Government, and that he said, "Of course, of course, we'll have free and fair elections."

And we did not change our position from that moment forward about the need for free and fair elections in Pakistan. And so while we felt that we had to work with the Musharraf government for counterterrorism, but also in helping Musharraf to bring Pakistan back from the edge of going over to extremism with his policies of enlightened moderation, I think we struck the balance properly in Pakistan.

Now, what's disheartening to me, and it maybe goes to the public diplomacy piece of it, is this seems to be a very well kept secret about our policies in Pakistan. It seems not to be very well understood that we started speaking out for free and fair elections from the very beginning in Pakistan, that we pressed the military government on the -- taking off the uniform and moving to civilian control as soon as those free and fair elections could be held, that we worked hard to try to bring about a moderate center, working with Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf and others to try to bring about a moderate center, so that when the elections were held, you could get the kind of effects that you did get. And it’s a very major defeat for the extremist parties, for instance, in the frontier areas. And that we had significant funding for education programs in Pakistan, to try and modernize the Pakistani curriculum, to try to bring the madrassas under government control so that they would not be just sources for extremism, that we worked on all of these programs with the Pakistan people at the same time that we worked on counterterrorism.

In fact, I would have argued that given the way you have to fight the counterterrorism fight, efforts to begin to unravel the extremism in Pakistan were essential to the things that we were helping the Pakistanis do militarily as well.

But I would ask myself why that story never got out. And I do think we have a problem in Pakistan and that people think that we've been supportive of "the military government" without caring about Pakistani democracy, and it simply isn't true. I now think, with the Pakistanis having made the transition, we can do more in the way that Lorne talked about to help sustain democratic institutions in Pakistan and to work toward that. And we're, in fact, looking at what kind of assistance that might require.

But again, I would ask myself why is that more nuanced story of not just balancing interest, but, in fact, is seeing – of seeing the interest as coincident, not the way that our Pakistan policy is viewed.

CARL GERSHMAN: Yeah, thanks, Lorne. I'd like to follow up on that. And again, Madame Secretary, thank you so much for joining us this morning. I really want to follow up on what you just said about why this story is not better understood in the world. And I think we'd all agree that it's not and we've seen many examples of that.

I guess I have a pet peeve in the -- when USIA was put out of existence. And I want to know, was that a mistake, in your view? And what can the U.S. do now that it doesn't have an agency like that? Because clearly, you know, we don't have a systematic way of engaging in public diplomacy the way we used to have, and having people go out in the (inaudible) program, you know, be speaking regularly to foreign audiences and trying to communicate on a people-to-people basis. Is there some way that we can address that, what is, I think, we all might agree, a shortfall?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I wasn’t around at the time that the decision was made on USIA. And I’ve learned from being here that one should probably never second-guess, because you don’t understand all of the factors. I believe that we have been able to recreate a number of the elements that were strong about the USIA program by trying, through public diplomacy, to make sure that every embassy is really engaged in public diplomacy. We’ve tried to free our ambassadors to really go out and do it and to make public diplomacy not a cone that sits out here, but to be central work to everybody who is engaged in embassy; whether it’s the political officer or the economic officer, they ought to be engaged in public diplomacy.

We also have increased significantly from – certainly from when we got here. The exchanges, whether they are fellowship exchanges or international visitor exchanges, we’ve enhanced sports diplomacy; sending young athletes out as the face of America. And we’ve really tried to build public-private partnerships because, frankly, the U.S. Government is suspect in a lot of places. And it is better to have an American voice or an American face that is not associated necessarily with the U.S. Government. And so we’ve tried to do all of those things. It has taken a herculean effort. Karen Hughes, I think, did a great job of turning public diplomacy around. We had to make it this Department’s mission, as a whole, for public diplomacy to be a part of everything that we do, because we cannot be in the business of just engaging governments. Either people don’t believe their governments and therefore, you need to engage them directly, or their governments need the support of their people and you need to engage them directly. So we’ve really tried to put a major effort into public diplomacy.

I think where we are falling short, and this is going to take a much larger national effort, is in two areas. Jim Glassman, should he be confirmed, is the head of the – currently head of BBG. And we need to do much, much more in terms of the radios and the television stations. This was really our trump card -- as you remember, Carl, we’ve talked about it – during the Cold War.

Now, to be sure, it is not like the days when Poles or Balts believed everything that was said from the United States. We have much more skeptical audiences, whether in the Arab world or the Muslim world, more broadly, or even in places in Southeast Asia. They have much more skeptical audiences. So we have to be sure that we are also recreating what I think the radios did well, is that we’re not viewed as government propaganda, but we’re viewed as telling the truth. And sometimes, that means we have to tell truths that we may not even like. We have to report on – we have to report the facts. Sometimes people in the United States don’t like the fact that things are said that are critical of the U.S. Government on outlets that we fund.

But I have to tell you, I would prefer that than people thinking that the outlets are nothing but propaganda. And so this is a much more delicate balance than we had at the time of the Cold War. The other thing is that, of course, it’s not just radios and television now, not even just satellite television, but it’s the internet and all kinds of alternative means of communication. And I’m not sure that we’ve completely cracked that. But I’ll give you one example of the complications.

We have a blog now at the State Department because that’s what people do; they blog. And sometimes the blogs turn up comments that are uncomfortable for us. But the question is, if we really are going to represent freedom of thought and freedom of democracy and freedom of speech and, yes, we are the United States of America, but we can stand to have people say things that are critical of us -- if we don’t have that image, then nobody’s going to listen to us.

And so it’s a long way of saying, Carl, I don’t know. I don’t think we’re now going to recreate USIA. I think that a lot of the pieces are operating. But we need a much bigger effort on some of the broadcast and other media. And frankly, we need a nationwide effort on critical languages. We have tried to create that. Margaret Spellings, Don Rumsfeld at the time, and some of us put together a critical languages initiative. I hope it will survive us because I’m a beneficiary of the fact that it was a patriotic thing to do, to learn to speak Russian. And as a result, the U.S. Government helped me learn to speak Russian with funding. I hope that we’re going to do that for successive generations in critical languages.

A PARTICIPANT: Madame Secretary, just a couple quick points. First, thank you very much for your leadership in the democracy area and for this – the work of this committee laying the groundwork. Along the lines of public diplomacy, I would add – I’m currently living in Colorado, so I realize now there is life beyond the beltway, but the --

SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible) Colorado.

A PARTICIPANT: Yeah, exactly, exactly. The big point I would add is that public diplomacy is extremely important, but the American people is another one of the audiences that should be factored into the equation because the vast majority of people either have no idea of what the U.S. Government is doing in the democracy area, or if they do, it’s not really an accurate picture. So I would add that.

The second point I would add is that there’s a great legacy under your leadership, Secretary Powell’s, but also under other administrations in the democracy area. Thinking about the transition to the next administration, I think it would be very useful if the recommendations of this committee were to be pulled together and included in a lessons-learned white paper that would then be shared with the transition committees of the next administration. And then obviously, once they came into office, then they could use that as a starting point. When the Clinton Administration came into office, I remember one of the first calls I got was from Jennifer Windsor asking for that kind of thing, has anything been done. So I think that would be a very useful deliverable of this committee. And again, thank you very much for your – your leadership.

A PARTICIPANT: Madame Secretary, you mentioned Egypt and I was happy you did. But I was – if I understood you correctly, I think you said there won’t be another presidential election in Egypt that was as flawed as the one in 2005, no? What --

SECRETARY RICE: No. I – my point was that I think the next presidential election in Egypt will not be back to square one. There were things that were done during the presidential election in Egypt, including very, very, sometimes flamboyant coverage in the Egyptian press about the candidates, including about the president himself. It became a café culture to debate the issues. Words like unemployment were actually mentioned on the front pages of the newspapers. And that’s my point. I don’t think they will go back to square one, having experienced that. I said the flawed – really flawed elections were the parliamentary ones that followed on.

A PARTICIPANT: Well, if I may, Madame Secretary, I think there’s – I don’t have any certainty as to what’s going to happen in the – or even whether there’ll be a next presidential election in Egypt. And I don’t know any Egyptians who have any certainty of that. President Mubarak, in that election campaign, where there was a greater press coverage, promised an era of reform after 2005 and instead, he’s delivered exactly the opposite, that is, Egypt has grown steadily more repressive. The one person who had the temerity to run against Mubarak remains in jail for having done so.

There was a promise by President Mubarak that journalists would no longer be imprisoned in Egypt. That was – he went back on that and there are more legal actions against journalists in the past year than in the previous years, not to mention also against bloggers. And on top of that, there’s the feeling among the Egyptians who – the Egyptian democrats and liberals -- that they were encouraged to go out on a limb by U.S. advocacy and that they suddenly found themselves out without the protection that they thought they had because we’ve been less outspoken in defending them.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know – let me get to the point of the democracy advocates because I’ve talked to a lot of them. You know, I’ve gotten to know them. I had some of them here not too long ago. And I say to them, first of all, the United States has not stopped speaking out about these issues. And we've certainly not stopped talking to the Egyptian Government about them. I think, in every discussion that I have with the Egyptians, this takes a significant portion of our time.

I have asked if the suggestion is that we shouldn't deal with the Egyptian Government, for instance, on trying to get a Palestinian state in place, or trying to end the violence in Gaza. And everybody understands that you have to do that. But I know I've personally continued to speak about the problems of democracy and reform in Egypt. And by the way, we've been very disappointed by what happened since the presidential elections there when promises were made that were not kept.

My point was that -- and again, maybe it goes to my view that these things tend to go step-wise and not in a straight line -- I think you're going to see that when the next presidential elections take place in Egypt, that the expectations will be different. And it will be the -- I hope the goal of an administration at that time, an American administration at that time, to help strengthen those forces that will want to make sure that those elections don't go backwards and don't look like the old-style elections. But I think you've got something to work with there.

A PARTICIPANT: Secretary Rice.


A PARTICIPANT: I wonder if I could – just to share a few ideas here usefully. I certainly agree with Richard -- and Vin Weber mentioned this earlier -- on the idea of this group trying to help with the transition of these policies. Similarly, we might consider, and I suggested this to Jim Glassman (inaudible), a significant portion of his time once he is confirmed. He’s been thinking through public diplomacy for the next administration, with the idea that going back to the Clinton Administration, public diplomacy post-USIA has not been as coherent, as well-developed as it might be. And there might be a better model, we don't know what it is, but it would be a useful exercise for him to think through.

And similarly, through a group like this, going to the next administration, there are a number of questions that, in my view and the view of some of us, we have not adequately addressed. The question, as we’ve just discussed, of whether a democracy is advancing fitfully or retreating -- failed in Gaza-- vicariously in Lebanon right now, I think that's an important question.

The question of whether Islam has come into power through democratic means is hindering the promotion of democracy long-term or is a useful step, even if a difficult one, to take. I think that's a reasonable debate people can have. And the question of whether pro-American autocracies should be traded enthusiastically for anti-American democracies that hold elections but then denigrate democratic values and institutions over the long term. I think these are some important issues we have perhaps not discussed (inaudible) would be useful as we -- as America formulates policy and democracy promotion over the longer term (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I agree. I think those would be very interesting questions. But you know -- Lebanon, yeah, it's very fragile. Look, I -- the reason I'm late is I've been on the telephone about Lebanon a lot today, including with the Prime Minister of Lebanon. But weaker than when Syrian forces occupied it for 30 years? Weaker?

QUESTION: I don't know. I think it's (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) takes over, yes.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, maybe. But with Syrian forces there, they didn't have to. It was a fait accompli. And so, I think we -- sometimes, when there is turbulence in a very, very difficult set of circumstances, the assumption is – and I'm not speaking to your point, but just that the assumption is that there was some other path that somehow didn't get taken. And I've been thinking a lot about the Middle East lately and about whether democracy is on the forward march or "retreating" in the Middle East. And I have to say where we are now as opposed to what -- where was it eight years ago in terms of any democratic forces that one could find? And yes, they are weakened and embattled in Lebanon, but proud and going on television and telling Hezbollah that they've just turned against their Lebanese brothers, is that what resistance is about; who would have said that ten years ago in Lebanon?

If you want to talk about Iraq, yes. However -- whatever you think about how we got there, was this thinkable under Saddam Hussein? Yes, in Afghanistan where they are debating tradition and individual rights and what will be the role of women and, yes, even what will be the role of other religions, but under the Taliban, even possible?

And finally, in the Palestinian territories; yes, Gaza, but you know, it's very interesting. Hamas had power, they just didn't have responsibility. And now people say, well, they were elected. Do you know they were just -- they were thrown out of office in Qalqilyah? Did you know that? Do you know why they were thrown out of office in Qalqilyah? Because they were tired of hearing about the resistance and wanted to hear rather about who was going to pave the streets and deal with the sewage. And do you know the last people actually up in Qalqilyah were our Roadmap monitors? And the people of Qalqilyah looked around and they said, you know, where's the Palestinian Authority? That's what we've got to get the Palestinian Authority to do.

So we all, I think, come at this with an impatience that is totally fitting for who we are and where we are in our advanced state of democracy in the United States. But as you watch, in the Middle East, these tiny seeds starting to go forward, they could certainly be snuffed out. But it's got to be our responsibility not to let them be snuffed out.

Because, just to close, it's very much on my mind today because I've been dealing with Lebanon all weekend. You know, there was certainly a time when you wouldn't have thought that South Korea was going to emerge as a strong, vital democracy, or Japan for that matter, maybe even Germany for that matter. But I think my own-- both sense of impatience and patience comes from the fact that I'm an American and that makes me impatient. But I'm also a black American. And I know that it wasn't very long ago that nobody could guarantee that in my hometown, my parents could vote. So I tend to be more affirming of, and perhaps patient with, these imperfect seeds of democracy and more committed to making sure that they survive long enough to take root.

Thanks very much. It’s great to be with you and I really appreciate the work of this group.

MR. CRANER: Secretary Rice, thank you very much for being here with us. I often say if you'd Google democracy and human – and Middle East eight or ten years ago, you would have come up with nothing. Now there's quite a bit there. If you all haven't read it, I recommend to you Robin Wright's new book on the Middle East where she talks about some of the changes that have occurred these last eight years.

A PARTICIPANT: The last chapter.

MR. CRANER: The last chapter. But it's a very interesting survey of what is actually going on in the Middle East. And we thank you for all you've done and for being with us today.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

MR. CRANER: Thank you.


Released on May 12, 2008

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.