Community of Democracies


Community of Democracies
Members of the Community of Democracies in blue and purple

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 a non-governmental component comprising civil society organizations who meet as a group at biennial ministerial conferences. In 2004, CD governments also organized themselves into a Democracy Caucus in the United Nations (UN).

Current chairmanship of the Community of Democracies is Mongolia[1][2].

Contents

Purpose and structure

According to the United States Department of State, "[t]he Community of Democracies initiative aims to forge international consensus among countries committed to the democratic path on ways they can better work together to support and deepen democracy where it exists, and to defend it where threatened."[3] A Convening Group (CG) composed primarily of governments which initiated the Warsaw Conference governs the organization. All decisions are made by consensus. The chairmanship of the CG rotates on a biennial basis. The chairing government is responsible for hosting the biennial ministerial conference, as well as carrying out other CD initiatives. As of 2006, the convening group has expanded and 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. As host for the next Ministerial, Portugal assumed chairmanship of the Convening Group in late 2007. In early 2008, the Convening Group members accepted Lithuania's proposal to host the Ministerial Meeting which will follow Portugal; as a result, Lithuania has now become the de facto 17th member of the CG.

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 and objective 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.

In late 2007, it was announced that a Permanent Secretariat would be established in Warsaw.

History

The CD was inaugurated at its first biennial ministerial conference hosted by the government of Poland in Warsaw on June 25–June 27, 2000. The initiative was spearheaded by Polish Foreign Minister Bronisław Geremek and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, along with six co-conveners: the governments of Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, Portugal and the Republic of Korea.

Bronisław Geremek, Foreign Minister of Poland, 1997–2000

At the close of the conference the participating governments signed onto 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.[4]

In closing remarks to the ministerial conference in Warsaw, the UN 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."[5]

Since the original conference in Warsaw, the chairmanship has been held by South Korea, Chile, and Mali, and each chair country hosted additional ministerial conferences: Seoul in 2002 (which produced the Seoul Plan of Action), Santiago in 2005 (which produced the Santiago Commitment), and Bamako in 2007 (which produced the Bamako Consensus). Following the Bamako Ministerial in November 2007, Portugal assumed Chairmanship of CD and will be the host of the next ministerial conference. João Gomes Cravinho, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, was named by Portugal to coordinate its Chairmanship of CD.

Non-governmental process

Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997–2001

During the initial CD meeting in Warsaw, Madeleine Albright spoke at a parallel meeting of civil society actors called the “World Forum on Democracy,” organized by U.S. based Freedom House and the Stefan Batory Foundation of Poland. Addressing the audience of over 300 NGO representatives, democracy promoters, and civil society leaders from 80 nations, Albright affirmed the need for governments to work together with civil society in support of democracy. In subsequent ministerial conferences, the civil society component of the CD was strengthened and further developed and emerged out of the preparations for the Santiago Ministerial Conference as the “non-governmental process of the Community of Democracies.”

The “non-governmental process” refers to the non-governmental members of the CD movement, including civil society organizations, foundations, academics, and experts devoted to promoting democracy. The non-governmental component of the CD serves mainly as a conduit for information and advice to the governments. An Executive Secretariat, composed of NGOs from the host country, coordinates the activities of the non-governmental process in preparation for the upcoming ministerial meeting. Leading up to the 2005 meeting in Santiago, the Chilean Executive Secretariat coordinated meetings of NGOs in six regions where civil society representatives met to discuss challenges and democracy deficits in their respective regions. The findings of the workshops were compiled and presented before government representatives at the Ministerial Conference in Santiago.

In addition to the Executive Secretariat, a “Global Issues Group” of non-state actors was formed to focus on proposals to strengthen the governmental process of the CD. The Global Issues Group, comprising various civil society organizations from around the world, among other proposals, sought to create objective criteria for CD membership based on the principles laid out in the Warsaw Declarations and reaffirmed by the convening group in Seoul. Based on these criteria, The Democracy Coalition Project and Freedom House presented a final report to the Convening Group governments, entitled “Country Assessments: Invitation Process for the Community of Democracies,” which examines 30 countries on their fitness to participate as full members in the Community of Democracies.[6]

While governments are not bound to adopt the proposals of the non-governmental process, the framework of the Community of Democracies provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience between governments and civil society actors.

The Global Issues Group became what is today, the “International Steering Committee” (ISC) of the non-governmental process. The ISC is made up of 20 representatives of civil society organizations, from five regions of the world and a representative of the Executive Secretariat. The Council for a Community of Democracies in Washington, D.C., serves as the secretariat for the ISC.

UN Democracy Caucus

In the original “Warsaw Declaration,” participating governments promised to “collaborate on democracy-related issues in existing international and regional institutions, forming coalitions and caucuses to support resolutions and other international activities aimed at the promotion of democratic governance.”[4]

Supported by many democracy promotion NGOs, a "Campaign for a UN Democracy Caucus" was and continues to be coordinated by the Democracy Coalition Project, Freedom House, and the Transnational Radical Party.[7]

On September 22, 2004, the Community of Democracies met for the first time as a “democracy caucus” in the UN More than 80 foreign ministers and UN permanent representatives attended. Since then the caucus has functioned under the leadership of the country chairing the Convening Group with a stated purpose to promote a democratic agenda in the UN

Future

A Concert of Democracies has been proposed by various international relations scholars.

See also

References

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ Boucher, Richard (2000-06-16). Toward a Community of Democracies (Speech). http://secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/statements/2000/ps000616c.html. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  4. ^ a bWarsaw Declaration: Toward a Community of Democracies”, Toward a Community of Democracies Ministerial Conference, Warsaw, Poland, 2000-06-27.
  5. ^ Annan, Kofi (2000-06-27) (PDF). UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Closing Remarks to the Ministerial (Speech). Warsaw, Poland. http://www.demcoalition.org/pdf/un_secertary_gen_kofi_annan.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  6. ^ Democracy Coalition Project (December 2004). "Country Assessments: Invitation Process for the Community of Democracies" (PDF). http://www.demcoalition.org/pdf/Country_Assessments_CoD_Invitation_Process.pdf. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  7. ^ Campaign for a UN Democracy Caucus

External links


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