The Community of Democracies (CD) is an intergovernmental organization of democracies and democratizing countries with a stated commitment to strengthening and deepening democratic norms and practices worldwide. The CD is composed of both a governmental component made up of government representatives, and the ISC/CD, a non-governmental component comprised of civil society organizations, and both components meet as a group at biennial ministerial conferences. In 2004, CD governments also organized themselves into a Democracy Caucus in the United Nations (U.N.).
The CD was inaugurated at its first biennial ministerial conference hosted by the government of Poland in Warsaw on June 25-27, 2000. The initiative was spearheaded by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, along with seven co-conveners, including the governments of Poland, Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, and the Republic of Korea.
At the close of the conference, the participating governments signed on to the “Warsaw Declaration” agreeing “to respect and uphold…core democratic principles and practices” including, among others, free and fair elections, freedom of speech and expression, equal access to education, rule of law, and freedom of peaceful assembly.
In closing remarks to the ministerial conference in Warsaw, the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan praised the Community of Democracies as a positive development toward global democracy, saying, “When the United Nations can truly call itself a community of democracies, the Charter's noble ideals of protecting human rights and promoting 'social progress in larger freedoms' will have been brought much closer.
In late 2007, it was announced that a Permanent Secretariat would be established in Warsaw. To date, a Convening Group (CG), composed primarily of governments that initiated the Warsaw Conference, has governed the CD movement. All decisions are made by consensus. The chairmanship of the CG rotates on a biennial basis, with the chairing government responsible for hosting the biennial ministerial conference, as well as carrying out other CD initiatives. In 2006, the convening group expanded to its current membership, which consists of Chile, India, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United States of America, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, Mongolia, Morocco, El Salvador, Cape Verde, and Italy. Lithuania was added in 2008 when it was chosen to succeed Portugal as Chair of the CD.
Membership in the CD is in theory reserved for governments that have shown a commitment to democratic governance as outlined in the Warsaw Declaration. However, the organization has yet to develop a definitive invitation process. The current invitation process has come under criticism as being too lax, undermining the credibility of the organization as an organization with a fully democratic membership.
Since the original conference in Warsaw, the chairmanship has been held by South Korea, Chile, Mali, and Portugal, and each chair country hosted additional ministerial conferences and issued ministerial declarations: Seoul in 2002 (Seoul Plan of Action), Santiago in 2005 (Santiago Commitment), Bamako in 2007 (Bamako Consensus), Lisbon in 2009 (Lisbon Declaration), Vilnius in 2011 (Vilnius Declaration), and Ulaanbaatar in 2013 (Ulaanbaatar Declaration). Following the Vilnius Ministerial in July 2011, Mongolia assumed the Chairmanship of the CD and will host the next Ministerial scheduled for 2013 in Ulaanbaatar.