The United States commitment to supporting democratic development abroad is
slipping under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, according
to a new survey of 40 member nations of the two-year-old Community of Democracies.
The survey, released in Washington Thursday -- 10 days before the opening of
the next ministerial meeting of the Community, November 10-12 in Seoul, South
Korea -- found that, of the 40 states reviewed, only three -- Canada, Netherlands,
and Sweden -- deserved a "very good" in defending democracies overseas.
And while Washington earned a "good" rating in assessing its record over the
past 10 years, recent trends in U.S. policy were "moving in the wrong direction,"
according to Morton Halperin, Washington director of the Open
Society Institute, which sponsored the study.
The U.S. "has lost some of its moral leadership by expressing support for
preferred candidates in close elections and by pursuing anti-terrorism strategies
at home and abroad that have emboldened authoritarian leaders intent on suppressing
internal dissent, thereby undermining fragile democratic processes," according
to the 243-page report, 'Defending Democracy.'
The report found that while recent trends were also negative in Thailand and
Venezuela, they have been moving in a more positive direction in many more countries,
notably, Ghana, India, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, and Spain.
The Community of Democracies, a multilateral group founded in 2000 as a major
political initiative of the administration of President Bill Clinton, held its
first ministerial meeting in Warsaw in June of that year. More than 100 countries
committed themselves at that meeting to supporting democracy and democratic movements
in other nations, as well as their own.
At the upcoming Seoul meeting, 117 countries have been invited as full participants
and another 20 as observers. Included in the latter category are a number of countries
that were full participants in Warsaw but whose democratic practices were considered
by a 10-nation convener group to be insufficient to warrant full membership.
The convener group comprises Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, Mexico,
Poland, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, and the U.S. The 11 countries that
were downgraded to observer status were Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia,
Haiti, Kenya, Kuwait, Qatar, Ukraine, and Yemen.
The new survey, which was carried out by the independent Democracy Coalition
Project, assessed the last decade's performance of 40 representative member-countries
according to four criteria: their response to the overthrow of foreign democratically-elected
governments; their response to manipulations of foreign electoral processes; the
degree to which they supported democracy and human rights in their foreign policy
or aid programs; and their policy toward entrenched foreign dictatorships. Each
surveyed state was given a "defending democracy" rating ranging from very good
The survey found that, while the gap between rhetoric and reality is closing,
promoting democracy abroad is not yet a central element of the foreign policy
of the world's democracies. Moreover, it found that when the defense of democratic
norms clashed with economic, military or other national interests, the vast majority
of surveyed states placed their interests over democratic values.
The study, which was compiled from the work of dozens of civil society leaders
and experts around the world, also found a positive correlation between a country's
internal democratic development and its support for democracy abroad. Thus, more
established democracies, such as those in North America or Western Europe, generally
scored higher than newer democracies in the developing world.
Still, there were important exceptions. Argentina, Brazil, and Chile--which
all suffered military dictatorships in the 1970s and into the 1980s--were given
a "good" alongside Australia, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and the U.S.
Several ex-Soviet bloc countries--the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland--also
fell into that category, beside three African countries - Botswana, Ghana, and
Senegal. South Korea was the sole Asian entry in the "good" category.
Other leading industrialized democracies, Japan and France, received only "fair"
ratings for their record in defending or supporting democracies abroad. In that
category they were joined by Benin, India, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines,
South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, and Russia were all given "poor"
Despite their relative poverty, some developing countries found in the "good"
and "fair" categories--notably Poland, Chile, the Czech Republic, South Korea,
Mexico, and Benin--have begun to promote democracy programs in foreign countries.
An important mechanism in bolstering democracies, according to the report,
are regional organizations, such as the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the
Organization of American States, which explicitly commits its members to defending
In its recommendations, the study called for increasing development aid to
countries engaged in democratization; creating a permanent Community secretariat
to better coordinate democracy-promoting positions and activities; and organizing
Community member-states into caucuses at various multilateral and regional organizations.
Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net