Indonesia Hosts Bali Democracy Forum
December 6, 2012
By: Ryan Mulvenna | Printer Friendly
On November 8, Indonesia hosted the fifth annual Bali Democracy Forum in Nusa Dua, Bali. The forum brought together heads of state from across Asia and around the world, as well as representatives of international organizations and United Nations (UN) agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pallay. Other heads of state in attendance included South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Among the topics discussed, the situation in Syria took center stage. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that the UN needs to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis. Yudhoyono noted that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians from atrocities. However, he acknowledged that any protection measures should take into account the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian state. Yudhoyono also lamented the gridlock in the UN Security Council and suggested that a more inclusive, multilateral approach was needed to properly address the conflict.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also participated in the forum. However, Ahmadinejad was criticized for using his participation as an opportunity to demonize Western democratic practices in an attempt to legitimize his own regime. He claimed that elections are little more than a competition between elites that fails to take into account what the people actually want. Critics noted that Iran’s own election in 2009 was widely perceived as fraudulent.
The forum also sparked debate among Indonesians about what democracy should look like in their country. Ignas Kleden, chairman of the Indonesian Community for Democracy, noted that the Bali Democracy Forum does not generally include much input from civil society, despite the fact that many democratization programs are implemented by civil society organizations, not government agencies. Kleden writes that “it is the people who on a day-to-day basis manage to tinker with the solutions of democratic dilemmas in their communities. It is the people who keep on experimenting with new possibilities to appropriate democratic values while remaining rooted in their own local cultural systems.” He emphasized the need for governments to engage with civil society to find solutions to the challenges of engendering democratic values at the grassroots level. Kleden also noted that, in many parts of the world, the link between democracy and religion plays a significant role in the success of democratic institutions. Such a link is especially important in democratizing states where previously marginalized religious parties are beginning to find their political voice.
France 24 – Ahmadinejad to Join Leaders at Bali Democracy Forum
Jakarta Post – Insight: Bali Democracy Forum: Whose Event Is It?
Voice of America – Heads of State Gather in Bali to Discuss Global Democracy