A brief note about the Community of Democracies


Introduction

In January 1999, Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s Secretary of State, told the Los Angeles Times that her highest priority before leaving office was to create a global community of democracies. That objective became a reality in June 25-27, 2000 when 106 nations, meeting in Warsaw, Poland, launched the Community of Democracies (CD) and committed to the principles of democracy and human rights embodied in that body’s Warsaw Declaration. With this declaration the nations agreed “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.

The initiative was started by the U.S. and six other co-conveners, including the governments of Poland, Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, and the Republic of Korea. In September 2000 the Convening group was extended to 10 countries with the participation of Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, and at its third Conference in Santiago, Chile, April 2005, the Convening Gorup was enlarged to 16 Countries, including also the, the Philippines, Mongolia, Morocco, El Salvador, Cape Verde, and Italy. In the last Ministerial meeting of the Community of Democracies, in Bamako last November, a decision was taken to establish a permanent Secretariat in Warsaw.

The CD has both a governmental component made up by government representatives, and a non-governmental component comprised of civil society organizations who also meet as a group at biennial ministerial conferences. The Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (Radical Party) is one of the promoters and member of the International Steering Committee of NGOs for the Community of Democracies.

The Tirana Congress and the involvement of the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty

In the second session of its 38th Congress, held in Tirana from 31 October to 3 November 2002, the Radical Party adopted a general motion aimed at promoting the creation of a World Organization of Democracy and Democracies, whose mandate would be to promote the respect by States of the norms and principles contained in the international treaties, conventions and pacts that they have ratified and that form the foundation of the democratic institutions.

In Tirana, the Radical Party proposed to the Community of Democracies to formally establish a permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies and setting up of "Democracy Caucuses", i.e. groups of democratic countries, within the United Nations system and other international regional organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States. Moreover, it was proposed the tabling, both within the UN Commission on Human Rights and within the General Assembly, of resolutions aiming at establishing a Preparatory Committee whose duty is to present proposals for a new segment of international law able to lead to the birth of the World Organization of Democracy; and the promotion of UN initiatives that - through resolutions adopted by the General Assembly - recognize the Security Council's competence in situations where the systematic violation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law is considered a threat to peace and international security.

Meetings of the CD
Since the original conference in Warsaw, the chairmanship of the CoD has been held by South Korea, Chile and Mali which hosted the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Ministerial conferences in Seoul (November 2002), Santiago (April 2005) and Bamako (November 2007) respectively. After the Bamako meeting the Chairmanship has been entrusted to Portugal. In the course of this Ministerial Conference, attended by a delegation from the Radical Party, the 97 participating countries adopted a Plan of Action which, in addition to confirming the points set out in Warsaw, stated that “the Convening Group will continue to meet periodically and will encourage the formation, among other things, of coalitions and caucuses for the promotion of international resolutions and other activities regarding democracy”.
In Santiago, Chile, in April of 2005, the Community of Democracies met for the third time. The final document approved by the Governments included a commitment to “cooperate for democracy” and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms to foster the empowerment of a vital civil society and the elimination of all forms of discrimination and intolerance”. Moreover, it reiterated its commitment to strengthen the United Nations Democracy Caucus as a key forum for democratic governments to coordinate common positions on democracy and human rights issues before UN bodies. At the meeting the Radical Party proposed also to establish a permanent Secretariat and this was partially endorsed by the so-called “Santiago commitment” which set up a Governmental task force with this objective.
In November 2007 Community of Democracies Conference met in Bamako, Mali. The Nonviolent Radical Party was present to that meeting and it was decided to establish a Permanent Secretariat in Poland.
The Criteria for Participation
The Final Warsaw Declaration provided some criteria for participation in the CoD, which should reflect a clear linkage between participation and the observance of internationally accepted fundamental democratic principles, values and standards in the countries concerned. For the purpose of determining which states to invite to the second ministerial, the Convening Group in Seoul 2002 relied on a “Criteria for Participation” paper and created a new category of “observer” states. In this sense, States willing to participate in the Community of Democracies should respect democratic standards as follows:
- Free, fair and periodic elections, multi-party system, the rule of law, separation of powers, ensuring that the military remains accountable to democratically elected civilian government, the respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of the human being.
The Convening Group drafts the list of participants and observers on a state's adherence to main requisites. In subsequent years the CG reviewed each participant's, observer's, and non-participant's compliance with the requisites to determine participation. The observercountries in Bamako in 2007 were mostly African States like for example Egypt, Algeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone or East European States like Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.
The Democracy Caucus
The Community of Democracies and the UN Democracy Caucus are complementary associations of democratic states working to promote the values of democracy and human rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Warsaw Declaration. The CD countries have committed to strengthen democratic values and institutions at home and abroad.
Already in October 2000, the first effort was made at the UN to convene a gathering of states participating in the Community of Democracies (CD) process. Some sixty states sent representatives to the meeting. Later that year, with the active support of those states, the UN General Assembly approved a Resolution on Promoting and Consolidating Democracy (Res. A/55/96).
Building on this momentum, a coalition of NGOs convened by the Radical Party, the Democracy Coalition Project and Freedom House began to urge the formal creation of a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations. Through direct appeals to the Community of Democracies Convening Group and other official bodies, as well as outreach to other interested civil society groups, parliamentarians and the media, the Campaign for a UN Democracy Caucus made progress toward its goals. Notably, in September 2004, the first formal meeting of the Democracy Caucus’s Foreign Ministers, chaired by Chile, was held at the UN General Assembly, followed by first-ever meetings at the permanent representative and expert staff levels.
The UN Democracy Caucus was particularly focused on the composition and activities of the UN Commission on Human Rights, later replaced by the UN Human rights Council, and the Economic and Social Council, as well as decisions made by the UN General Assembly and Security Council.
The Radical Party proposed to undertake the following initiatives:

  • As regards the work of the UN Human Rights Council, the NRP called on democratic states to fulfill their promise to actively work to make the new UN Human Rights Council a credible body. The statement reminds democratic states that the new Human Rights Council has the potential to strengthening the international human rights regime only if democratic governments seize the initiative in his inaugural year.

  • It is necessary to further increase the involvement of the Member States of the European Union, and of the European Union as such, in the activities of the Community of Democracies.

The Ministerial Conference in Bamako
The final document approved by the official delegations, named the “Bamako Consensus”, includes a number of statements with the commitment to promote a community of democracies as affirmed in the previous meetings, which basically reiterated positions and commitments already made at the international level in several forum. The countries emphasized that democracy, development and human rights are mutually reinforcing and decided to support the integration of development and democratization internally, as well to seek to assist potential participant countries in the Community in their efforts to promote democracy and development.
Another decision taken was to create a permanent Secretariat in Warsaw, approved by the Conference, though initially the organization will be run by a small. No specific proposals to implement such commitments were made, and a very low level representation of the Governments present was noted, compared to the previous Ministerial Conferences.