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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Closing Plenary Session "Towards a Community of Democracies" Conference
Warsaw, Poland, June 27, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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[As Prepared for Delivery]

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Foreign Minister Geremek, fellow Ministers, Excellencies, delegation members, and special guests, good morning.

I want to begin by saying "thank you" to the government and people of Poland for convening this conference and for serving as our most gracious hosts.

I especially want to pay tribute to Foreign Minister Geremek, for it is fitting that this democratic conference has been led by a true democratic hero.

Professor Geremek's courage in the past helped tear down the Berlin Wall. His vision now is helping us to build something entirely different--a global democratic community designed not to divide, but to unite; not to imprison, but to free.

He wanted this city--his city--to be known for something other than the Warsaw Pact; the Warsaw Declaration will be stronger and last longer as a tribute to this great democrat.

We arrived in this city from every conceivable spot on the map. We speak different languages. We have different cultures, histories, faiths, worries and dreams.

But we are a Community because we each believe that democracy is a fundamental and universal human right; because we want our own citizens to enjoy this right; and because we are committed to helping others strengthen and sustain it.

We have come to Warsaw because democratic growth has made global cooperation possible--and because democratic vulnerability has made it essential. Because we are dealing here with two paradoxes.

In the long run, democracy is the most stable form of government; but in the short run, it is among the most fragile. And the more democracy spreads, the more at risk it is in more places.

Today, a variety of threats are slowing and endangering democratic transitions. It is both right and smart that we offer our help through a variety of tools.

The first Ministerial Panel, which I had the honor to chair, examined one such tool by considering ways we could better promote democracy through the regional and global institutions to which we belong.

One important point made by several delegations during our discussion is that when democratic institutions are threatened, international organizations not only have the right to act, they will often have the responsibility to act in appropriate ways to support democracy. This is particularly the case with regional bodies. Among recent examples we discussed were actions by the OSCE, the OAS, and the OAU.

Of course, international organizations are also playing an increasing role in building and supporting democracy on a day-to-day basis through the provision of technical assistance and assessing whether democratic standards are being met.

There was, however, a consensus in our group that more can be done. We agreed that we should create a democratic caucus within the UN and other appropriate institutions for the purpose of improving the effectiveness of their pro-democracy activities.

Indeed, many favored the idea of establishing such a group at this fall's UN General Assembly in order to support Romania's planned democracy resolution.

There was also agreement in our group to encourage international financial and economic institutions to give full consideration to the connections between development and the essential elements of democracy, such as accountability, transparency and respect for the rule of law.

This is complicated, however, by globalization which, while helping to integrate the world, also threatens to divide it more sharply between the "haves" and the "have nots." This has severe implications for democracy because, as my colleague from Malawi noted, free institutions have little chance to survive if they are not associated with a better quality of life.

Many in our group voiced their support for debt relief for the most heavily indebted countries, and for international institutions to place the highest possible priority on alleviating poverty.

Our discussions also focused on another aspect of globalization, which is the potential for information technology to aid democratic development. The Internet, for example, is making it far easier for people to reach out to one another, both domestically and across borders, to build coalitions and press for change.

The new technologies also make it harder for authoritarian governments to control the flow of information. As Aung San Suu Kyi demonstrated yesterday so powerfully, some democrats even in authoritarian countries now have access to media through which they may address and seek support from the world.

Those in our group also agreed, in general terms, to support the more open operation of our international institutions, including enhanced consultations with NGOs. Better coordination with grassroots groups can help our organizations play a more relevant and effective role in support of democracy.

My colleagues, we did not come to Warsaw to create a new organization with its own building and bureaucracy. The Democratic Community we are determined to forge will not be comprised of mortar and steel; but of principle and conscience.

We did not come to Warsaw to impose democracy--for that is a contradiction in terms. Dictators impose; democracy is chosen. Nor is democracy a religion, but it is a faith that has lifted the lives of people in every corner of the globe.

We leave Warsaw, understanding that the task we have set for ourselves has just begun.

But we have made a good start by endorsing the Warsaw Declaration, and thereby reaffirming the fundamental principles of democracy, and pledging ourselves to their fuller realization within each of our lands.

We have strengthened our partnership with civil society, which has become increasingly both the trailblazer and the bellwether of democratic progress.

We have moved decisively from the stage of celebrating democratic gains to their consolidation by addressing in concrete ways the full spectrum of problems that democratic governments face.

We have agreed on fresh ideas for coordinating assistance to the benefit of democracies old and new.

And we have already begun to plan for how we can build steadily on the achievements of this conference.

Half a century ago, after two world wars, leaders from around the globe came together to forge institutions designed to preserve peace, build prosperity and enhance human rights. Their efforts were far-reaching and helped us to survive decades of Cold War division.

Now, at the start of a new century, we have come together here in Poland, to pledge our cooperation in promoting and strengthening democracy.

In so doing, we understand that the struggle for freedom is never easy and never over.

But as we embark on this new leg of our journey, we should draw strength from the knowledge that our destination is not the product of some abstract theory, or some mechanistic interpretation of history, or some attempt to place the rights and aspirations of one nation or group ahead of another's.

It is, instead, to fulfill the potential of a philosophy that reflects every person's desire to be free and values the dignity and worth of every child, woman and man.

That is why democracy is the one road we can all walk down together.

A road whose new beginning we have found this week in Warsaw.

A road that leads toward a true Community of Democracies, and to a future--we are determined--of greater security, prosperity and freedom for all people.

Thank you very much.

[End of Document]
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