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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal logo Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary of State
For Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Address at the Fourth International Conference
of New or Restored Democracies
Cotonou, Benin, December 4, 2000
Blue Bar rule

Democracy and Globalization

I am honored to represent the United States of America at this, the Fourth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies. This gathering will join the three previous conferences in Manila, Managua, and Bucharest as important landmarks in the history of the global movement for democracy.

On behalf of President Clinton and Secretary Albright, let me pay special tribute to President Kerekou, his colleagues in the Government of Benin, officials of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the hundreds of other governmental and non-governmental representatives who have worked so hard to organize this gathering. As Secretary Albright makes clear in her congratulatory message, Benin's role as host of this conference reflects the great strides it has made in the last decade since choosing the democratic path. During that time, this country has emerged as one of Africa's most successful democracies, and as a country that has confronted the hard challenges of implementing economic reforms and ensuring a peaceful and orderly transfer of political power.

Benin's experience illuminates both the opportunities and the challenges faced by all new and restored democracies in this era of globalization. We live in remarkable times, marked by the rapid globalization of communications, transport, commerce, technology, and ideas. But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of this globalization has been the phenomenal growth of human freedom throughout the world -- the globalization of democracy and human rights -- that marks perhaps the most profound social revolution of our time.

Today, more people, and a larger percentage of the world's population, live under self-government than at any time in human history. Just 30 years ago, there were fewer than thirty established democracies on this planet. Today, some 120 of the more than 190 countries in the world have publicly stated commitments to the preservation of freedom and democratic self-governance. This is change on a global scale, and compelling proof that the idea of democracy has genuinely universal appeal.

As this gathering demonstrates, countries in every region, and representing every culture, historical experience, and level of development have pledged to abide by core principles of democracy. While no single model of democracy applies to every country, a clear international consensus now exists regarding the laws, institutions, and practices that are essential to an effective, functioning democracy. That consensus is embodied in such international instruments as the United Nations Charter; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Community of Democracies' Warsaw Declaration that was adopted this past June; the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Promoting and Consolidating Democracy that passed this fall; two successive resolutions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission recognizing democracy as a human right, and a variety of statutes and resolutions created by regional and international organizations. These instruments confirm that democracy is not the construct of any particular country or region, but rather, the universal right of all peoples everywhere.

This universal right recognizes that democracy, by its nature, cannot be imposed from above. Democracy flows from the will of the people. The fundamental attributes of democracy include transparent government institutions accountable to the citizenry, respect for the rule of law, open access to information, a vibrant civil society, and wide citizen participation in every walk of life.

In the last decade, the gains from this globalization of human freedom have been felt everywhere: in the collapse of the Iron Curtain, in the decline of dictatorship in Latin America, and in the rise of participatory government throughout Africa and Asia. The new global freedom has given millions the right to vote, to form political parties and non-governmental organizations, to worship according to their beliefs, and to express more fully their cultural heritage. At the same time, this new climate of freedom has encouraged the development of new markets, new technologies and transportation and information links that are expanding human opportunities in ways we never dreamed possible. In the new millennium, there are now at least three universal "languages:" the languages of money, the Internet, and democracy and human rights.

But at the same time, we must honestly recognize that globalization has its discontents. For many of the countries represented here, changes of this magnitude have seemed like a double-edged sword. The same freedom that offers such new advantages has also facilitated trafficking in drugs and human beings, proliferation of weapons, the spread of disease, environmental damage, terrorism, and ethnic and communal violence.

To preserve global equality, we must work to make globalization a humane process. At the recent Millennium Summit, our leaders recognized this, when they declared: "We believe that the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people. For while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed. We recognize that developing countries and countries with economies in transition face special difficulties in responding to this central challenge. Thus, only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future, based upon our common humanity in all its diversity, can globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable."

What, then, should be the relationship between democratization and globalization? The U.S. Government believes that global democracy can solve global problems. Because globalization is a transnational phenomenon, its problems can be solved only through cooperation among nations. Fostering the global spread of democracy will help us all to address the difficult challenges that globalization poses. We must recognize the principles of democracy that I have mentioned -- transparency, accountability, the rule of law, freedom of information,and broad-based civic participation - not just as ends in themselves, but as powerful tools that can work for every country that confronts globalization's challenges. At the same time, the challenges of globalization must also be addressed through the strengthening of democratic institutions, processes, and culture within each of our societies. The remedy, in short, to globalization's ills, is not less democracy, but more. Let me prove this point by recalling the UNDP's excellent 1999 Human Development Report, entitled Globalization with a Human Face. That report noted that "in the globalizing world ... people are confronting new threats to human security," including economic, health, cultural, personal, environmental, and political insecurity. Yet upon reflection, the globalization of democracy can relieve each of these faces of global insecurity.

Let us first consider economic insecurity. The rapid spread and growth of global capital flows have created financial crises, which have caused bankruptcies, unemployment, and decreased budgets for social programs. Moreover, rapid economic globalization has at times led to economic and corporate restructuring and the dismantling of the institutions of social protection, which in turn have produced greater insecurity of jobs and income.

But if global economic instability creates problems, global democracy offers a cure. As Abraham Lincoln said, " Freedom is as necessary to the health and vigor of commerce, as it is to the health and vigor of citizenship." If we have learned one lesson from the recent Asian financial crisis, it is that economic development is not sustainable in the modern world absent the rule of law and transparent accountable governance. Transparency, accountability, the rule of law, freedom of information, and broad-based civic participation are indispensable if countries are to fight corruption and establish the open markets that encourage economic growth. Democracy increases the likelihood of sound legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to moderate the types of economic fluctuations and vulnerabilities brought on by economic globalization. As many of the countries represented here have learned from bitter experience, there are few countries as destitute as those controlled by dictators. Democratic processes, which must take the needs of the people into account, represent a critical check on bad macroeconomic policies.

In democracies, as the Nobel Economics Laureate Amartya Sen has demonstrated, famines do not happen. Democracies are more likely to comply with emerging global trade regimes and with the rule of domestic and international law. As important, democratic nations invest significantly more on average in education and human capital. By so doing, democracy empowers ordinary people and creates mechanisms whereby they can participate in and influence the economic decisions that affect their lives. Democracies show less tolerance for the kind of monopolies or social stratification that can strangle innovation and market growth. Adherence to democratic principles, by contrast, encourages local and foreign entrepreneurs to establish businesses that generate employment and add new resources to the community. Shifting power and budget resources away from the center and toward democratically-elected local governments that work in partnership with their communities has proven highly effective in encouraging local initiatives and reducing poverty. In short, democracy is not development's enemy; but rather, development's best partner.

Global democracy can similarly help cure a second kind of insecurity -- political insecurity -- the rise of social tensions that threaten political stability and community cohesion. Conflict and the resulting human rights abuse continue to plague of millions of people throughout the world. Of the 61 major armed conflicts fought between 1989 and 1998, only three were between states; the rest were civil. Feeding these conflicts is the global traffic in weapons and mercenaries. In most cases, these conflicts are generally caused by deeply-rooted religious, ethnic, regional, and political tensions, exacerbated by unfair competition for -- or exclusion from -- power, land, and economic benefits. Yet here too, developing open democratic systems can foster national reconciliation, political and social stability, and economic recovery. Democracy addresses the conditions that cause violent conflict by providing mechanisms to channel disputes, to ease tensions, to find public policy solutions, and to safeguard the rights of minorities.

Of course, transforming societies with long histories of violent ethnic and religious tensions cannot be accomplished overnight. But countries such as Mozambique, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nigeria, South Africa, and Chile show that progress can be made by instituting open democratic systems, which guarantee the rights of all citizens under the rule of law and empower them to participate fully in all aspects of a country's political, economic, social, and cultural life. Where freedom of assembly and expression are respected, people are freed to find innovative, workable solutions to political problems. We see this clearly in the recent exciting events in Serbia that brought down Milosevic without violence and that are working to restore full democracy to that country. Vibrant civil society organizations and independent media not only serve to increase governmental transparency and accountability, they keep citizens informed and channel their inputs into the social and political policy making process. This is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he defined democracy as "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Third and finally, the global spread of democracy is a critical antidote to what I shall call social insecurity: the insecurity that flows from the global spread of disease, environmental degradation, transnational crime, and cultural insecurity. The rapid increase in travel and migration has contributed to the frightening spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, especially in developing nations, where 95% of new HIV infections occur. Chronic environmental degradation has undercut the livelihoods of at least half a billion people in the developing world, depleting stocks, reducing biodiversity, and spoiling clean water and healthy forests. Personal insecurity has grown as criminals reap the benefits of globalization, using deregulated markets, modern information and communications technology, and cheaper transport to promote transnational flows of drugs, dirty money, weapons, and trafficked human beings. Finally, globalization has arguably fostered cultural insecurity, as the global spread of culture, ideas, and knowledge has threatened indigenous and national cultures.

Yet to each of these new kinds of social insecurity, the most promising solution is again, the global spread of democratic institutions. The best way to fight the global spread of HIV/AIDS is to educate ordinary citizens with more information about the disease. In democracies, governments can do more to safeguard the rights of those afflicted with the disease, and non-governmental organizations and citizens groups can press their governments to deliver better health care and public education. To combat environmental insecurity, democratic institutions not only educate, but also empower those affected by pollution, giving citizens a greater say in managing local resources and creating sustainable development strategies that better balance the preservation of natural resources and economic opportunities for the poor. Democracy also represents the best response to transnational crime and corruption, through effective law enforcement that respects the rights of criminally accused and fair administration of the rule of law through clear rules and an independent judiciary.

Finally, democracies create mechanisms to safeguard indigenous cultures and minority rights against global encroachment, while giving individuals and minority groups the tools to publicize human rights abuse. Moreover, the globalization of culture can promote human freedom. Just as the democracy movement brought down the Berlin Wall, which once stood as a physical barrier to movement and free expression, the global information revolution has perforated the electronic walls built by governments that abuse human rights in order to stop the free flow of information. E-mail, the Internet, cell phones, and other technologies have helped human rights activists from around the globe to connect with one another in ways that were impossible only 10 years ago.

In short, democracy helps nations to meet the many challenges of globalization. The strengthening of national democratic governance will better equip our societies to deal effectively and justly with economic, political, and social insecurity. The consolidation and expansion of the global democratic movement will, in turn, ensure that the international solutions to these same problems are equally democratic.

That is why cooperation among democratic governments in fora such as this and the Community of Democracies is so important. No democracy is perfect. None of us has a monopoly on virtue or wisdom. Established democracies like ours have just as much to learn from new ones, as vice versa. We in the United States must learn from the South Africans and the Indians how to improve our voter turnout. It is because we can all benefit from such dialogue that we have gathered here in Cotonou.

Let me say, in closing, that the world's democracies, including new and restored ones, have a great deal in common. But democracies need to talk to one another. If there are global organizations dedicated to promoting the interests of island states and land-locked countries, why not a global community of those nations who believe in promoting democratic governance? That is why the new and restored democracies have met four times. That was the goal of the more than 100 democracies who gathered this past June in Warsaw, and that is why the Community of Democracies will reconvene in Seoul in 2002. The world's democracies need more regular global dialogue By banding together more closely within existing international institutions-such as the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organization of American States (OAS), and Organization of African Unity (OAU) -- democracies can work together more closely to share the lessons we have learned. We can share best practices about promoting economic development and eradicating poverty and corruption. We can discuss how better to respond to threats to democracy -- such as coups and problematic elections -- and work more effectively to coordinate our assistance to countries undergoing democratic transitions and pursuing democratic consolidation. So let us use our time at this great gathering to rededicate ourselves to the universal principles of democratic governance. By working together, the family of the world's democracies can better focus our energies to win the global fight for freedom, prosperity, and security.

Thank you very much.

[end of document]

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