Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks to the National Democratic Institute International Leaders Forum
Pasadena, California, August 13, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Thank you very much, Ken, it is always fabulous to be introduced by a good friend and I'm very grateful to Ken for having invited me and I'm very pleased to be with all of you this afternoon. Excellencies from the diplomatic corps, other distinguished international visitors, guests and friends, I am very, very pleased to be here and I hope that you are, too. American political conventions only occur once every four years. Although serious business is conducted, they also are a lot of fun.
For example, at the 1948 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, the organizers wanted to release a flock of doves in order to dramatize the party's commitment to peace. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any doves and settled for pigeons.
This marred the symbolism and also, for many, their clothes. The pigeons became quite excited upon their release and did what pigeons so often do--all over the delegates. What's more, the next day's newspapers carried a photograph of a bird proudly perched atop the head of the Convention chairman. So you have a lot to look forward to this week.
I cannot participate in the Convention myself, because of the tradition that American foreign policy should be above domestic politics. As a result, when I became Secretary of State, I had all my partisan instincts surgically removed. But I did attend conventions earlier in my career, and I always came away very impressed.
Because the delegates arriving here from across the country are people who take very seriously the responsibility of living in a democratic society. They care deeply about public policy and are willing to work hard to persuade others to share their beliefs.
These are the kinds of citizens who make democracy function. Of course, the same should be said about the organization sponsoring this event. The National Democratic Institute is a truly effective champion of human freedom. Its leaders, Paul Kirk, Ken Wollack, and Jean Dunn, are outstanding; its staff is exceptional; its accomplishments legion; and its purpose as compelling as any possibly could be.
As Ken has mentioned, my history goes back to the founding of NDI and so I have a very special fondness for this organization. And I am so proud as I travel around the world now that the initials NDI are part of our international acronyms and that people know what tremendous work this organization does. Having started with just a handful of staffers, they have spread out all over the world. I am very, very proud of everybody associated with this organization.
Other groups help people preserve the environment, and build housing, and learn skills or grow food. NDI reinforces all of these worthy endeavors by helping people to grow democracy.
It does so by focusing on the nuts and bolts of building democratic institutions. And by designing programs that enable democratic advocates in different countries to learn from one another.
This process of sharing experiences was on display last year at NDI's Emerging Democracies Forum in Yemen, where international leaders and democratic reformers came together to compare notes, forge friendships and strengthen the world's framework for freedom.
Because it is active in so many places, the events that NDI sponsors attract diverse groups of people. In this audience today are diplomats, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, politicians and activists from nations at every stage in the development of democracy.
And you will have a chance this week to hear from a full spectrum of those who participate in America's version of that system, up to and including the Vice President and the President of the United States.
Today, I would like to use my time to discuss the effect of being a democracy on the foreign policy of free nations, and the importance of sustaining democratic momentum on the future of us all.
More than two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison -- by the way, I still find it hard to believe that I have Thomas Jefferson's job --
-- they reasoned that if people were perfect, we would not need government; and that if those who governed were perfect, we would not need democracy.
Since neither proposition is valid, America's founders designed a system in which government would be able to exercise control without itself being free from control. This balance is what democracy is all about--and it helps define the difference between a democratic foreign policy and an undemocratic one.
In a dictatorship, foreign policy is designed and directed from the top by a small group. This certainly simplifies decisionmaking but it weakens accountability. In such a system, policies may be dangerous because there are no brakes on the excesses which can take place.
In a democracy, leaders have a responsibility not only to point the way, but also to persuade their constituents to follow. Otherwise, their policies cannot be sustained. This requires frequent speeches, exchanges with the public, legislative consultations, and dialogues with the press.
Succeeding in this process has become harder because of the development of new communications technologies. Almost everywhere, it seems, people rely less and less on what governments tell them and more and more on what they say to each other. Now that basically should be good. Unfortunately though, sometimes they exchange information without the benefit of facts.
In light of this, President Clinton and Vice President Gore deserve particular credit for their efforts to gain and maintain public support for U.S. policies in Bosnia and Kosovo. In both cases, they responded to widespread questioning and did the right thing in the right way; with the result that America helped end a war, reverse ethnic cleansing, and foster the growth of democracy in a region where freedom has been a stranger for far too long.
Another example of strong democratic leadership under fire is currently on display in Israel where Prime Minister Barak has shown a fierce commitment to Israeli interests and peace in the midst of parliamentary turmoil and clamorous public debate.
A third example is in South Korea, where President Kim Dae-jung's courageous sunshine policy toward the North has defied the predictions of critics and begun to yield important dividends.
Democratic officials must cope with many pressures from which dictators are shielded, but such leaders often emerge sounder and stronger. Their commitments can be relied upon, because they result from a process in which the public has been heard. And the risks they are taking are likely to be the right ones, because they reflect democratic values.
That is why the spread of freedom is vital to international peace and law. And why the fundamental direction of American foreign policy has remained largely constant through Democratic and Republican Administrations alike.
Of course, another constant in American foreign policy is the need to obtain funding to carry it out. Here, parliamentary democracies have an advantage because the party controlling the executive and legislative branches is by definition the same. In America, however, for most of the past 30 years, one party has controlled the White House, while the other has held sway on Capitol Hill.
This has made bipartisanship in foreign policy even more important. And one of my major frustrations has been the lack of a bipartisan consensus for a far more substantial commitment of funds to support American diplomacy overseas.
The next President and Congress would serve our nation well by expanding dramatically our investment in such priorities as international peacekeeping and nonproliferation, environmental protection and fighting HIV/AIDS.
To some, these may seem like nontraditional foreign policy concerns. They are people issues, not ideological ones. But they reflect challenges that cross all international borders, and affect the quality of our lives. I believe they will become an integral part of the foreign policy of every country as the 21st Century proceeds.
I also believe that leading nations, including the United States, should devote significantly more funds to assisting democratic transitions; because nothing would do more for our collective future than to ensure that the democratic tide remains a rising tide around the globe.
I am confident that when the history of the 1990's is written, the growth of democracy will be its dominant theme. From Central America to Central Europe, and from Indonesia to Nigeria, democratic transitions are underway. This is very good news.
Unfortunately, not all of these democratic gains have been consolidated. Many new democracies are struggling because of the burdens they inherited and the ongoing challenges they face--such as debt and disease, crime and corruption, too much strife and not enough skills.
Many of the new democracies have failed to deliver on the promise of a better standard of living for their people, and risk a loss of public confidence.
And quite a number have leaders who are far more eager to be called democrats than to embrace democratic standards.
All this has caused critics to suggest that some countries are so poor, divided and unused to freedom that they are just not ready for democracy. But in my view, no country has ever truly been ready for anything else.
Democratic elections don't always produce good leaders, efficient governments or prosperous societies. On the contrary, democracy can be frustrating, messy and as flawed as human character, upon which it ultimately depends.
But experience tells us that democracy is more likely to produce prosperity and peace than any other system.
By giving everyone a voice, it is more likely to bridge ethnic, religious and other internal divisions.
By ensuring accountability, it creates a powerful incentive for governments to respond to popular needs.
By providing from within the means for change, it is better able to correct mistakes and adapt to new realities.
And by embracing the principle that each individual counts, it creates a climate in which human rights and the rule of law are more likely to be respected.
Moreover, democracy is the one road we can all walk down together. It embraces all who embrace it-rich and poor, young and old, people of all cultures, colors and faiths.
It is no wonder that those who support Democracy know that it is not merely an institution, nor simply a concept, but a profound structure of faith. This past June, the belief in democracy brought representatives from more than 100 nations to Warsaw for the first-ever Community of Democracies conference. The United States was proud to join Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, the Republic of Korea and our Polish hosts as co-convenors of that Conference.
The purpose of our gathering was to move beyond the stage of celebrating democratic gains to their consolidation by addressing in concrete ways the full spectrum of problems that democratic governments face.
The Warsaw Declaration we approved makes it clear what democracy requires and of what it consists. Advocates can use the document as a yardstick, measuring both what has been achieved in their countries, and what remains to be done.
Moreover, the nations represented in Warsaw left there determined to work together closely to strengthen democratic institutions, build civil society and counter threats to freedom.
We also pledged to do a better job of cooperating in international organizations such as the United Nations, where we intend to develop a "democracy caucus" at the General Assembly this fall.
And we will continue strengthening the global democratic network between now and the next Conference, to be held in Seoul in two years time.
In the meantime, we will also be focusing our attention in practical ways on some of the most significant ongoing democratic tests.
For example, the entire international community has a stake in helping Colombian President Pastrana rescue his citizens--and thereby help to rescue ours-from the scourge of cocaine.
And Nigeria's future development will determine whether it is a source of chaos and corruption or a driving force for democratic progress throughout West Africa.
President Clinton intends to visit both countries later this month, and he has asked our Congress to support significant investments in these and other key democracies. Support for freedom is in the best American tradition. And we will be working hard to get the resources we need when Congress reconvenes.
I want to highlight, in closing, my belief that those who value democracy in their own lands should also support, in appropriate ways, the establishment of democracy in other countries where people are struggling to be free.
I know there are some who say that such support only leads to trouble. I say that trouble is what leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro and the military authorities in Burma deserve.
Moreover, Vaclav Havel has told me how important it was for dissidents during the Cold War to know that there were many outside who supported their cause. And Nelson Mandela has expressed gratitude for the international sanctions and other expressions of condemnation which helped bring apartheid to an end.
It is true that, as active advocates of democratic principles, we are sometimes accused of trying to impose our values on others. But I think that is false and a 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.
History has taught us that the struggle for liberty is never-ending, because threats to liberty will never cease to appear. And that if we who love freedom grow weary, those who love only power one day will sweep us away.
Democracy is not the answer to every human problem. But it is the best system of government humans have devised. And the only system that values and respects the rights of all.
That is why so many brave men and women from so many countries have sacrificed their lives and pledged their honor in freedom's name. That is why the struggle to defend and strengthen democracy is as important as any we could wage. And that is why the mission of the National Democratic Institute is so vital.
I hope you enjoy the Convention here in Los Angeles this week.
And I look forward, in years to come, to visiting many of you in your own countries, as you work to build strong and vibrant democracies, and thereby make the 21st Century a time of democratic growth, and by definition tolerance, around the equator and from pole to pole.
To this mission, I pledge my own best efforts, not only as long as I am in office, but as long as I am alive.
Thank you all very much.
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