- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

President Bush’s 2006 NationalSecurity Strategy reaffirms the link between democracy promotion and the advancement of global stability and prosperity. Consistent with this bold vision, across Africa, and throughout the world, the United States is promoting democracy and development.

Significantly, our pro-democracy strategy is carried out with strong support from African partners. A recent poll found that nearly 70 percent of those surveyed in 15 African countries endorse democracy. This pro-democracy spirit is visible in Mali, the current chair of the Community of Democracies (CD), a coalition of over 100 nations committed to strengthening democracy worldwide, and Cape Verde, which participated in a 2004 multination CD mission to help consolidate democratic institutions in East Timor.

Democracy yields a range of tangible benefits to the people of Africa by fostering stability and good governance which are essential for economic prosperity. These are the principles that the Millennium Challenge Corporation promotes. Through the MCC, we are granting poverty alleviation assistance to countries that rule justly, invest in people, and foster economic freedom.

Three of the eight MCC-approved compacts are in Africa (Madagascar, Cape Verde and Benin), as are three of the five approved threshold programs (Ghana, Mali, Lesotho), for a total of $573 million in assistance. Additional African compacts, totaling almost $2.7 billion, are pending. Meanwhile, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act provides significant trade benefits, particularly in the chemical and agricultural sectors, to countries that are making progress toward establishing democracy and a fair investment environment.

We are advancing democracy in Africa with programs to encourage a representative political process; to empower women; to strengthen civil society, democratic institutions, and the rule of law; and to help decentralize government functions and improve transparency and accountability.Through USAID, we spent $137 million, a 30 percent increase in spending last year, to implement African good governance programs. These include supporting free and fair electoral processes in Angola, Liberia, Burundi, and Sierra Leone, building the civil-society capacity in Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and providing leadership training to women in Mali.

In the last three years, the United States has also spent over $36 million to combat trafficking in persons in Africa. Working with governments and NGOs, we have rescued children trafficked into forced labor or sexual exploitation in Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso; strengthened the ability of police in Senegal and Guinea to arrest and prosecute human traffickers; and funded trafficking prevention campaigns in South Africa and Benin. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s election in Liberia — as Africa’s first woman head of State — was a powerful reminder of women’s critical democratization role — for half a democracy is no democracy at all.

Working with our African partners, we are fostering the next generation of women leaders through scholarships from the Africa Education Initiative: By the end of this decade, we will have given scholarships to 550,000 girls as part of this $600 million multi- year program. We are supporting women’s justice and empowerment in Africa through a $55 million initiative to assist four African countries (Benin, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia) to enact new laws on sexual offenses, to enforce higher penalties for sexually violent crimes, and to give women equality in property and inheritance matters. As these programs mature, their successes will produce a ripple effect through other African countries. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg concluded that sustainable development can be best achieved through dynamic partnerships between governments and the private sector. The U.S. government supports public-private partnerships, and they are delivering concrete results. Through one partnership, 48 Sub-Saharan African countries eliminated lead in gasoline by the end of 2004, boosting the health of their 733 million people. Through another alliance — the Global Village Energy Partnership — over 12.9 million people have increased access to modern energy services.

We recognize that, for all the progress, considerable challenges lie ahead on the road to democracy and prosperity in Africa. Repression and intimidation continue in Zimbabwe. Darfur still suffers the horrors of genocide. Countries emerging from devastating conflicts face massive challenges in infrastructure, employment and basic human needs. Food insecurity, famine, HIV/AIDS, infectious diseases, infant mortality, displacement of communities, and sexual violence continue at an unacceptable rate.

Despite these problems, there is reason to be hopeful. Democracy is taking hold in many parts of Africa, and, with its spread, citizens are being empowered, the rule of law strengthened, the chances of conflict reduced and the pace of sustainable development increased. The United States will remain steadfast with our African partners in this process, as we work together toward a better future for all Africans.

Paula J. Dobriansky is Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

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