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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Opening Remarks at the Ministerial Panel on Democracy and International Organizations
Warsaw, Poland, June 26, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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[As Prepared for Delivery]

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Fellow ministers, Excellencies, delegation members, and special guests, welcome to this Ministerial session.

Our job this morning is to consider ways we can better support democracy through the global and regional institutions in which we participate.

I have already received many requests from delegations to speak, so after my opening remarks, I will open the floor to discussion based on the Background Paper sent to each of you a few weeks ago.

According to the schedule, we will break for lunch at 12:45 and resume our meeting from 3:00 until 6 p.m. I will report on the outcome of our discussions at the plenary session tomorrow morning.

And as I hope will be evident during our deliberations, we share a good deal of common ground. We are all supporters and practitioners of democracy. We all belong to organizations that are increasingly involved, in one way or another, in pro-democracy activities. And we would all like to see these organizations become more effective allies of freedom.

During the Cold War, our efforts to promote democracy through global institutions were limited because of the realities of the bipolar world. The reality now is that global institutions cannot fulfill their potential unless democracy is promoted.

For the traditional goals of most multilateral organizations include development, social progress and stability. Democracy contributes mightily to each of these lofty objectives, because it demands accountability, openness and respect for the rule of law.

It follows that we should be strengthening democratic values and supporting democratic practices through these institutions in every way we can as often as we can, and that we should coordinate our efforts whenever possible for this purpose.

In the UN and elsewhere, we often respond to issues with geographic or other group perspectives in mind. This is legitimate and no one would suggest that we stop. But on many matters it would be just as legitimate to act together--perhaps as a caucus--based on our common commitment to democracy.

It is true that, as active advocates of democratic principles, we are sometimes accused of trying to impose our values on others. But this is a false and self-serving argument.

The whole purpose of democracy is to enable people to shape their own destinies in accordance with their own values and views. It is dictators who impose. Democracy, by definition, offers a choice.

So it is encouraging that many international organizations have begun, especially over the past decade, to contribute substantially to our cause.

For example, since 1997, UN electoral units have conducted projects in 44 nations. The UN has endorsed a series of International Conferences of New or Restored Democracies, the next to be held in Benin later this year. Members of the EU responded to the so-called Freedom Party’s entry into the government of Austria by refusing to conduct business as usual.

Also within the past few months, the OAU invoked democratic criteria to deny a seat at its summit to a government imposed by coup in Cote d’Ivoire. The ILO voted to impose sanctions against Burma unless it ends its forced labor practices. And the OAS dispatched a mission to Peru with a mandate to help strengthen democracy.

These steps are important because they show a willingness to go beyond words to concrete actions. We should encourage this trend. But we also need to analyze what actions are appropriate, and which are not; what actions are effective and which are not; where we can do more and where we should not.

Because of their broad-base, international institutions are among the best and most credible instruments we have for supporting democratic growth in principle and in practice. They can provide incentives to comply with democratic norms, assess whether democratic standards have been met, assist democratic institutions, and call attention to abuses of civil liberties and human rights.

They can also help to affirm key principles. In each of the last two years, the UN Commission on Human Rights has approved landmark resolutions that affirm the right to democratic governance as a universal value. A similar resolution is likely to be considered by the UN General Assembly this fall.

This is just one of many areas where active coordination on our part can contribute to democratic gains.

Before concluding, I would like to offer a set of four questions, which I hope you will consider during our discussions.

First, should we create a formal or informal democracy caucus at the UN and other appropriate agencies in order to expand the scope and improve the effectiveness of their pro-democracy activities?

Second, how can we encourage international financial, trade and development institutions, as well as our own governments, to give full consideration to the benefits that democracy offers to development?

Third, in what ways can and should we enhance the openness of our multilateral institutions through such measures as increased NGO consultations and more transparent decision-making processes?

Finally, how can we improve the effectiveness of our pro-democracy activities, especially in situations where the democratic process in a country is facing severe threats? And in this connection, what can regional and global organizations learn from each other?

Fortunately for me, the job of the chair is to propose difficult and provocative questions for discussion. The answers to these and I am sure many other issues will be provided by our subsequent speakers, of whom I am pleased now to introduce the first, our colleague, the representative from Japan, Ambassador Arima--who will be followed by the representatives from Ukraine, Portugal, Brazil and then others. Ambassador Arima, the floor is yours.

[End of Document]
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