10th Anniversary of the Community of Democracies in Krakow, July 2-4, 2010


Former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, takes part
in a panel on Women for Democracy at the HLDM

From July 2-4, 2010, the High Level Democracy Meeting commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Community of Democracies took place in Krakow, Poland. The event, organized by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland with the Permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies, hosted over 100 democracy and human rights activists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, international and national press in addition to ministers and ambassadors from over 70 democratic countries from around the world, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, Foreign Minister of Indonesia Raden Natalegawa and many others.  Also in attendance were former heads of state as special guests, NGO participants, young diplomats, parliamentarians and one of the CD's founders, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The weekend commemoration event focused on ways to overcome barriers faced by civil society in promoting and strengthening global democracy as well as efforts to revitalize the CD.  Working Groups, which feature governmental and civil society participants, met on July 2 to discuss such issues as gender equality, enabling and protecting civil society, regional cooperation, reform of the CD, threats to democracy and poverty, development and democracy. Thematic panels were also held, focused on the contributions of activists, women and new technologies towards democracy.

The Council for a Community of Democracies, which serves as the secretariat for the International Steering Committee, a network of 25 democracy activists from around the world, also released the Second Edition of its publication, The Diplomat's Handbook for Democracy Development Support, which features new case studies on Egypt and Cuba and may be found on its website: www.diplomatshandbook.org. It also features a greatly expanded resource list of donor and democracy support organizations around the world as well as a compendium, thanks to CIVICUS, that outlines which international covenants support the core freedoms of expression, association and assembly for civil society. In tandem with the release of the Second Edition of the Handbook, CCD announced in Krakow the creation of the Palmer Prize for Significant Contributions to the Advancement of Democracy by Diplomats, which will be awarded at the Vilnius Ministerial in 2011.

Using the metaphor of a three-legged stool in her speech to conference participants, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society were vital components of a vibrant democracy – and that all three pillars “lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity.”  Commenting on the current “democracy recession” around the world - marked by such actions as 50 countries having passed new restrictions against NGOs in the last six years - and focusing much of her speech on the civil society leg of democracy, Clinton cautioned “We must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.”  Reasserting the importance of civil society, Clinton stated, “For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens.”

Specifically addressing the Community of Democracies in a White House press release, US President Barack Obama stated, “This forum also challenges us to act collectively, as a community of democratic nations, to support countries undergoing democratic transitions and to push back against threats to democratic progress.”  Echoing Clinton’s speech, President Obama also noted that civil society around the globe has been subjected to numerous government crackdowns, and said that governments should be proactively working to ensure citizen freedom, not contributing to corruption.  In closing, President Obama stated, “I welcome this celebration of the Community’s first ten years and believe that its role in fostering strong and effective cooperation among the world’s democracies is essential for confronting the challenges ahead.  Working together in partnership, we can advance the dignity of all human beings and the rights that are universal.”

Paul Graham, Chairman of the International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies, concluded in his remarks to conference participants that, "Kowtowing to bullies while ignoring the plight of their victims is not non-interference - it is cowardice.  Where would South Africa be, friends, if your citizens and your predecessors in government had stood aside? All delegates to this 10th anniversary regarding commitment have received the Diplomat's Handbook for Democracy Development Support. In it you will read of courageous men and women, citizens and public officials from all our countries who did indeed stimulate democracy - not because it was a product their country was exporting, but because through it they had become human and because they understood that others sought only the same right. As John Kennedy said, we choose to stimulate democracy not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  Let the Community of Democracies lead us out of recession."

In honor of the late Polish Foreign Minister and CD founder Bronislaw Geremek, the CD awarded its Geremek Award to Father Jose Conrado Rodriguez of Santa Teresita parish in Santiago de Cuba for his outstanding achievement in democracy promotion in Cuba. An interview with Father Conrado may be read here.

This conference also served the purpose of announcing the creation of the Corporate Democracy Forum, as a "critical third pillar of the Community of Democracies" and as "key participants in the democratic process." The full press release is online.

The Working Groups each developed recommendations regarding their future work in relation to democracy to create the Global Democracy Work Plan, which will serve as an outline of the work to be conducted by the CD leading up to and beyond the Vilnius Ministerial in 2011.

 

Professor Larry Diamond, director of the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, made a speech to the Convening Group on the current state of democracy around the world and may be read here.

On July 1, the Council for a Community of Democracies convened a meeting of democracy activists and civil society leaders from around the world. To read a press release on the participation of civil society in this conference, please click here.

David Kilgour, a former Canadian Parliamentarian and one of the vice-presidents of the CD Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, addressed other parliementarians at the CD Conference in Krakow, whose remarks may be found here.

CCD also announced the creation of its Palmer Prize for Significant Contributions to the Advancement of Democracy by Diplomats in Krakow, which will be awarded at the Vilnius Ministerial in 2011.

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