The Community of Democracies Concludes its Fifth Ministerial
Governments participating in the Fifth Ministerial of the Community of Democracies (CD) held in Lisbon on the 11th and 12th of July 2009 have released a Ministerial Declaration affirming a set of commitments by CD member nations aimed at strengthening democratic development worldwide. Hosted by the Portuguese Chair of the CD, representatives from over 100 governments met to discuss the theme of this biennial Ministerial was the "Impact of the Global Economic and Financial Crisis on Democratic Governance."
The declaration also pronounces the commitment of member states to “fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for and the observance and protection of all human rights.” It stresses the importance of free and fair elections as fundamental to the legitimacy of governments, the rights of peaceful assembly and association, and the promotion of human rights education and learning as fundamental tools for democratic development. In addition, recognition for the importance of reform of the United Nations, including the comprehensive reform of the Security Council, was emphasized.
The Community of Democracies was convened in 2000 by the governments of Poland, Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, the Republic of Korea, and the United States. The CD will celebrate its 10th Anniversary in the place of its inaugural birth, Warsaw, Poland, in 2010. However, the next and Sixth Ministerial Conference will not be held until 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania.
To see the official list of governments invited as participants to the Fifth Ministerial, please click here.
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CD Urges Respect for Democratic Order, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Honduras
During its Fifth Ministerial, the Community of Democracies issued a declaration on July 12th condemning the overthrow of the constitutionally elected President of the Republic of Honduras, Mr. Jose Manuel Zelaya.
President Manuel Zelaya was effectively ousted by the Honduran military on June 28th, 2009 when soldiers seized and exiled the President to Costa Rica. The pre-emptive move was made to prevent President Manuel Zelaya from convening a National Assembly for the purpose of rewriting the Constitution. While proponents of the overthrow assert that the President’s actions were illegal, article 102 of the Honduran constitution expressly prohibits the removal of a Honduran citizen from the country. Thus far, no foreign governments have recognized the new caretaker government and many have described the events as a coup d'état. The de facto government has since been accused of suspending civil liberties, detaining and expelling journalists critical of it, and, of what reporting remains within Honduras, restricting media coverage largely only to those who are supportive of the government.
The declaration calls on all relevant actors and institutions to refrain from violence and to strive to find a swift and peaceful solution to the current situation. In addition, it expressed its support for the mediation led by President Oscar Arias, as well as by the Organization of American States and other regional efforts, to reestablish internal democratic order.
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Civil society participants in Lisbon call upon Iranian authorities to respect the rights of its citizens
The International Steering Committee of the Nongovernmental Process of the Community of Democracies and civil society participants at the Fifth Ministerial Meeting in Lisbon released a statement on July 12th calling upon Iranian authorities to respect the rights of its citizens to practice fundamental freedoms as outlined in Iran’s constitution and international human rights law. The statement was initiated in response to recent attacks on Iranian civilians exercising peaceful protests against the contested re-election of hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Furthermore, the statement expresses concerns regarding the disruption of citizens’ right to access information freely and for the detainment of opposition figures, human rights defenders, journalists, and protestors. Moreover, signatories urged authorities to provide for independent monitoring of the election process.
Lastly, the civil society representatives expressed their support for “the Iranian people in their peaceful and nonviolent protests and pay[s] respect to those who have lost their lives in the struggle for democracy.”
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Members of Civil Society Express Concern over the Community of Democracies’ Invitation Process
Civil society participants of the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies, including the Democracy Coalition Project, released a statement on July 10th expressing concerns regarding the invitation process for the Lisbon Ministerial.
The International Advisory Committee (IAC), an independent committee of experts established in 2006 for the purpose of assessing the quality of democracy in countries participating in, or aspiring to participate in, the Community of Democracies, reviewed 34 countries in which respect for democratic principles and human rights appeared to have changed sufficiently over the last two years since the Fourth Ministerial gathering in Bamako, Mali. The Convening Group (CG), under the leadership of the Portuguese Chairmanship, requested that the IAC provide these recommendations, and after their review, subsequently issued official invitations to the Fifth Ministerial.
While participants commended the CG for its consideration of the recommendations, the group expressed disappointment in the large number of deviations from the IAC recommendations. A total of 28 decisions of the Convening Group went contrary to the IAC recommendations and deviated in the direction of granting a more favorable status to governments which did not meet the criteria for participation. The statement articulated apprehension that these decisions indicated a trend of declining standards in the invitation process.
IAC Reports Democratic Backsliding and Improvement in over a Dozen Countries
In March, the International Advisory Committee (IAC) for the Community of Democracies Invitations Process issued its recommendations on which governments merit invitation to the V Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies to be held in Portugal in July 2009. These recommendations were transmitted to the government of Portugal, the Chair of the Convening Group of the Community of Democracies (CD), in Lisbon in late March.
The IAC studied 34 countries in which the trend toward respect for democracy and human rights appeared to have changed significantly over the last two years since the Bamako Ministerial. The IAC noted democratic backsliding in Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela and recommended that these countries not be invited to the Lisbon Ministerial. The IAC noted improvements in democratic governance in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Pakistan, and Thailand and thus recommended that they be invited as observers to the upcoming Ministerial Meeting.
The IAC is an international, independent, high-level body of experts established to strengthen and improve the Community of Democracies by bringing credibility, legitimacy and transparency to its invitation process. To accomplish this goal, the IAC issues recommendations on which countries should be invited to participate in the CD's Ministerial Meetings based on the Criteria for Participation established by the CD. The final decision on invitations will be made by the Convening Group, a committee of 17 governments which govern the affairs of the association.
The IAC's work is supported by a Secretariat convened by the Democracy Coalition Project and including the Bertelsmann Stiftung, and Freedom House.
The Portuguese Chair of the Community of Democracies has announced that the 2009 Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies will take place in July in Lisbon, Portugal.