During the Bali Democracy Forum in early December, Judith A. McHale, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, commended President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia for his leadership in establishing the Forum, and President Lee Myung-Bak of the Republic of Korea for co-chairing this year’s important gathering.
The Bali Democracy Forum promotes peaceful transitions to democracy, and respects different processes of democratization. By giving a venue to Asian-Pacific nations and observers to talk honestly and respectfully about democracy’s challenges and successes, the Forum increases the likelihood of genuine democratic progress.
Under Secretary McHale cited President Barack Obama’s remarks at the University of Indonesia on November 10th: "It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power," President Obama said, "Democracy is messy, but the journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes open markets that allow individuals to succeed. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice."
More countries are building systems based on these democratic principles. The number of established democracies has grown from 30 countries in 1974 to over 100 today. More Asian citizens have been given a voice to choose their leaders and exercise basic human rights while respecting their own local traditions and culture. They have shown to the world that democracy is not just a Western concept, it is a universal one.
"We recognize and respect that there are many different ways to build a democracy and that change occurs from within a society," Under Secretary McHale said, "but we believe there are values which are shared by democracies: that all people are created equal and should be guaranteed basic human rights; that the rule of law must prevail for societies and businesses to thrive; that governments must respect, represent and respond to the will of the people.”
"The U.S. government will energetically support the Bali Democracy Forum," Under Secretary McHale concluded, "because we know that our collective future depends on Asia’s success in consolidating democratic gains. . . . We have before us a historic opportunity to learn from one another and build for our children a future of hope and promise."