- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2001


The world's community of democracies has joined the United States in a commitment to promote and strengthen democracy throughout the world. The growing realization that democracy is the wave of the future provides a major opportunity for the new Bush administration. The visit of Republic of Korea President Kim Dae-jung to Washington this week can be the occasion for a first step.
The Korean president will see President George W. Bush and is expected to brief Mr. Bush on Korean plans to host the second international conference of the Community of Democracies in 2002.
The inaugural conference of the Community of Democracies took place in Warsaw, Poland on June 26-27, 2000. At a gathering of over 100 nations, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, a former leader of the Solidarity movement, pointed out that "modern history has to an immense degree been a history of advances in democracy but another lesson is that it is by no means a process that goes from triumph to triumph. It is not a linear process. The fight for freedom is not over yet."
The South Korean president, who suffered at the hands of earlier authoritarian regimes, speaks passionately about the need to support democracy. Others, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, the embattled Burmese political leader, echo the call for the struggle for democracy to continue. The promotion of freedom remains the central premise of American foreign policy and, as Secretary of State Colin Powell stated in his first public meeting in the State Department, "we should talk about advancing freedom throughout the world."
One specific program adopted at Warsaw has already been implemented with the creation of a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations; Polish representatives serve as the current coordinators of this caucus. The caucus has been supported fully by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Representatives from 16 regional and multilateral organizations have just completed a meeting in Washington convened by the Organization of American States (OAS) in response to the call from Warsaw. The response of the OAS to the recent political crisis in Peru was a focus of discussion.
At the concluding session, the Romanian delegate announced that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe would convene the next regional democracy support meeting in Bucharest in the fall of 2001. That organization derives from the principles adopted in 1975 by the Helsinki Conference on Human Rights and Security, which contributed to democratic development throughout Central and East Europe and, indirectly, to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A fourth international conference on new or restored democracies took place in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, in December 2000. The record of discussion at the conference international with an African emphasis underscores the transcendent character of the quest for democracy. Mr. Annan, who has himself developed a comprehensive U.N. strategy to promote and consolidate new and restored democracies, lauded the conference. The U.N. Development Program primarily funded the Cotonou conference.
U.S. leaders have always promoted the growth of democracy. President Ronald Reagan, in his seminal speech in London on June 8, 1982 declared: "What we have to consider is the establishment of conditions of freedom and democracy as rapidly as possible in all countries." His speech led directly to the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy, which, in collaboration with groups representing both political parties, labor and business, has played a critical role in moving the promotion of democracy from rhetoric to practice. Since then, for example, American foreign policy-makers have given increasing weight to the strength of the civil society of a country along with security and economic conditions. In this period, Slovakia, Serbia, Chile and the Philippines have provided dramatic examples of the power of civil society in effecting positive political change.
Official recognition of the reality of the Community of Democracies, beginning with the Warsaw conference, represents a major step toward practical cooperation among democratic governments in world affairs. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated at the Washington conference on Feb. 21, the "Community of Democracies initiative, and the Warsaw Declaration now endorsed by 110 countries are breaking new ground. They have created a model for cooperation among democratic nations and among all those sharing the democratic faith. Henceforth, we are pledged to help one another secure and deepen our freedoms."
Mr. Powell has emphasized that "this century should not be known as the American or Asian or anybody's, but as the century of democracy." His strong statements, starting with his response in Texas to his nomination as secretary, suggest that Washington will stay the course.
The tide of popular self-government throughout the world over the past quarter-century has enhanced the security of the United States and other democratic states. Continuing to strengthen the community of democracies and to provide nonviolent help to those who seek freedom provides an economical and effective approach to an increasingly peaceful environment.
The Bush administration can make its mark on history by making this the centerpiece of national security strategy.

Robert Hunter is the chairman of the Council for the Community of Democracies and former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Walter Raymond is president of the Council for the Community of Democracies and former special assistant to the president for national security affairs.


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