In late July, the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies unanimously endorsed the United States to serve as president for the next two years. The United States welcomes the opportunity to lead this important organization in its work of strengthening democratic values around the world.
Speaking at the recent meeting of the Community of Democracies in El Salvador, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, warned that “democracy faces greater challenges today than at any point in recent memory.”
“The challenge,” he said, “comes not just from old fashioned methods like putting dissidents in jail.” It is also evident in the spread of laws designed to make those methods appear legitimate -- laws that prevent NGOs from seeking friends and funders abroad that smother civil society beneath mountains of bureaucracy, and that criminalize dissent in the guise of fighting terrorism.
As the U.S. assumes the presidency, “one of our goals,” said Assistant Secretary Malinowski, “should be to work in concert through this Community to roll back the proliferation of restrictions being placed on civil society. ... Democratic countries don't fear open debate and critical voices; we know they make us stronger. That's why President Obama has asked his diplomats to stand with civil society all over the world, especially where it is under pressure. This will be a core principle of our presidency of the Community of Democracies.”
The U.S. will look to the Community to support civil society at the UN through its NGO accreditation process and to oppose reprisals against civil society activists whose only “crime” is speaking to a UN official. All Community countries should identify resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly that they can work together to support, to uphold principles of freedom of expression and association.
In that spirit, the United States is proud to take the chair of the Community. “We are on a new leg of the journey that started in Warsaw 15 years ago,” said Assistant Secretary Malinowski. “We continue to draw strength from the knowledge that our destination holds the highest values and most noble hopes for humanity at its core.”