Dialogue on Democracy:
Building Bridges Between Latin American and African Democracies
Paula J. Dobriansky
Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 8, 2003
you, Miguel, for that warm introduction. It is a pleasure to be here today and
to have the opportunity to share with you an exciting project that we are
working on. This project, called the Dialogue on Democracy, has been very well
received by many colleagues in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the
democracy promotion community. We are hopeful that this dialogue and others like
it will add to the momentum that is building to strengthen regional and
intra-regional coordination among democratic countries.
Community of Democracies is the foundation for this initiative. The Community of
Democracies -- or CD as it is called -- is a movement which brings together
democratic nations from around the globe. These democracies have committed
themselves to working together to strengthen their own democratic institutions
and to helping other countries in their democratic development. This is a unique
forum, as participation is not linked to geography, or religious or ethnic ties.
It is not predicated on economic or security interests, or opposition to a
specific group or issue. It is based on an affirmative political commitment to
building and maintaining democratic institutions. This group is bound by a
common commitment to a democratic agenda. They are willing to support the spread
of democracy worldwide.
the UN General Assembly, several foreign ministers, including Secretary Powell,
and other senior officials from the Convening Group of the Community of
Democracies -- which includes the United States, Mexico, Chile, South Africa,
Poland, Mali, Portugal, the Czech Republic, South Korea, and India -- committed
to working collectively within the UN and other multilateral for a to promote
democracy. Collective action can have international impact.
Community of Democracies first met in Warsaw in 2000 and supported the Warsaw
Declaration, a document which detailed those shared principles. In November
2002, the Community of Democracies, comprising over 130 nations, met again in
Seoul, South Korea. Out of that meeting came the Seoul Plan of Action, a
blueprint for action in six areas -- including responding to threats to
democracy, education for democracy, promoting stronger democracies through good
governance, strengthening civil society, and coordinating democracy assistance.
sixth element of this plan was the commitment to promote democracy through
regional cooperation. In fact, the Organization of American States’ Inter
American Democratic Charter was cited in the Plan as an excellent outcome of
a seminal document, which is a model for other regions, seeking to strengthen
their coordinated efforts and respond to threats to democracy in their
led to our holding a roundtable called “The Dialogue on Democracy.” And it was
just that, a dialogue among several democratic countries in our hemisphere and
Africa about effective regional cooperation in support of democracy. Ambassador
Terence Todman, one of our finest diplomats who has served as Ambassador in
Latin America and Africa, proposed the initiative. He understands the enormous
value of sharing the experiences and best practices of democrats from both
Consequently, we invited ministers, senior governmental officials, and leading
non-governmental representatives from seven African countries and seven Latin
American and Caribbean countries for this two-day seminar in Florida. The
participating countries were Cape Verde, Mali, Botswana, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana,
Mozambique, Jamaica, Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, and the
Dominican Republic. We also had representatives from the New Partnership for
Africa Development, the African Union, and the Organization for American States,
including the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy. We also invited a number of
American non-governmental activists who have been a driving force behind the
Community of Democracies.
quality of discussion, and the hunger for such an exchange, were striking.
Participants remarked about how they had not been brought together before for
such a dialogue.
roundtable began with two excellent presentations. The first was made by Amb.
Humberto de la Calle, former Colombian Vice President and Permanent
Representative to the OAS, followed by Amb. Said Djinnit, Africa Union Interim
Commissioner for Peace, Security and Political Affairs. Amb. de la Calle gave a
frank overview of the challenges faced by countries in our hemisphere and how
the OAS has changed over time. He was hopeful but tough about the challenges
confronting the OAS and its ability to continue to be relevant in this
hemisphere. Likewise, Amb. Djinnit detailed the many documents signed by African
nations to promote democracy and respect for human rights, and highlighted the
challenges faced in turning those into action.
opening speakers clearly described the role of regional organizations and the
evolution of regional democratic cooperation through the OAS and the AU, thus
laying an important foundation for our discussions. In the next session,
participants were candid and thoughtful in identifying multiple challenges to
promoting democracy, including weak political parties, poverty, exclusion of
women from the political process, and low trust in government. Participants
grappled with lessons learned over decades of democracy building on both
is something very powerful about a Mozambican minister, a Ghanaian NGO leader,
and Dominican Vice President discussing the paths they’ve taken to bring their
countries to their current state. The dialogue was as frank and cordial, as it
was hard hitting and pragmatic.
the first day, we divided into groups of 8-10 people for simulation sessions.
Each group had a fictitious scenario of a region in which a country -- we called
it Katakana -- was seriously backsliding in its democratic development. Katakana
was on the verge of national elections that many predicted would be flawed.
Tensions were rising, and civil society activists were calling for help.
Participants were to play the role of neighboring countries, and we challenged
them to identify what they would do to help Katakana. They were to make policy
recommendations to their president, who was both head of a stable democracy as
well as the chair of a regional organization.
participants returned to the plenary to share their recommendations, the
suggested actions were as diverse as the countries around the table. Their ideas
included postponing the elections, calling for immediate elections, sending a
delegation of elections experts to help, developing high-level emissaries to
engage the leadership, and requesting intervention by a regional or
international organization. There was, naturally, no right or wrong answer. What
was important was that participants discussed the range of options, grappled
with the challenges of such a realistic situation, and worked through various
the second day, we again broke into smaller sessions to debate specific elements
of democratization. Participants discussed Good Governance and Anti-corruption,
Elections and Political Parties, and Civil Society and Culture of Democracy. The
sessions were facilitated by democracy experts from the United States Government
and American NGO community. Throughout, however, American participants took a
highlight of the roundtable was the presentations made by three exceptional
leaders. The Prime Minister of Cape Verde, The Honorable Jose Maria Pereira
Neves, laid out what one participant called a “blueprint for democratic action.”
It was basically a how-to guide of the key elements of building and maintaining
a democracy. He said “…the greatest challenge lay(s) in the hands of African
elites: the fundamental impetus will certainly be the responsibility of leaders,
who, by assuming the values of democracy and ethics in governance, should, in
alliances with the more developed world, do everything to serve the cause of
human dignity.” Prime Minister Neves called for freedom of speech, an
independent judiciary, and a strong civil society. And he called on developed
countries to take action, saying that the “…(t)ime has come for international
cooperation aid to be directed to rewarding positive experiences of those
committed to good governance, in a framework of freedom and democracy.”
also heard from former Peruvian Prime Minister and President of the Council of
Ministers, Dr. Luis Solari de la Fuente. He highlighted Peru’s experience with
economic development, and spoke about the importance of respect for human
rights. Democratic ideals form the basis for economic growth.
Salvadoran President Francisco Flores gave a moving keynote speech about
democratic development in his country. In addition to providing personal
testimony about the impact that the war had directly on his family, he also
imparted wisdom and inspiration on how a country can overcome tremendous
hardship, including poverty, and walk confidently on the path toward democracy.
President Flores asserted that “…(t)he reality of development is strikingly
simple: the only real wealth of any nation is its people, and the true wealth of
the individual is his creativity. Only in freedom can an individual be creative
and productive. This is the secret to development. Democracy has been to El
Salvador both a life saver and a guarantee of prosperity.”
outcome of the roundtable was not to gain agreement among participants or to
release a major statement but rather to summarize the diverse, concrete ideas
shared over the two days. We captured these best practices in a concise one-page
summary document which was then shared with all of the participating officials.
It is available on our State Department website under the phrase [“Dialogue
on Democracy”]. Suggestions included strengthening the implementation
of democracy clauses in regional agreements, promoting democratic development
through sub-regional organizations, remediating existing laws to eradicate
impunity, encouraging democracies that are backsliding or fragile through
regional incentives and punitive measures, developing regional monitoring and
early warning systems, and initiating formal public education programs on
democracy. Participants called for integrating marginalized populations,
strengthening political parties, and using highest -- not lowest -- common
denominators for peer review mechanisms for democratic action.
conference was one concrete step toward strengthening democracy. While no one
size fits all, there are basic values that are common among countries that share
a commitment to democracy. The participation of African and Latin American
states in this conference has laid the groundwork for further steps along the
What’s next? We have encouraged the Organization of American States to work to
ensure continued engagement and coordination with African states. For example,
the OAS’s Democracy Unit could reach out to African embassies here in
Washington, invite African officials for visits, and facilitate NGO exchanges.
Likewise, African states who participated in the conference could host Latin
American and Caribbean officials and NGOs for consultations and exchanges on
Another opportunity to advance the dialogue on democracy will be at the World
Democracy Movement meeting in Durban in February. The World Democracy Movement,
like the Dialogue on Democracy, works to build ties among democracy advocates
across regions. Of all the units within the Movement, the Africa forum has been
the most active and outspoken. Next February’s meeting in Durban would be an
ideal venue for African and American democrats to renew and deepen
role of the United States in this process is to support the needs and ideas of
democrats. We hope that by facilitating cross-regional relationships among
countries with a commitment to democracy, we will all benefit. Together, we can
bring democratic principles and initiatives to the international arena.
Revista INTER-FORUM is affiliated with
Any reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the authors written authorization
October 21, 2003