As President Bush has said: “Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied.” As long as men and women in countries around the globe cannot fully exercise their most fundamental freedoms of belief, speech, association and assembly, we who live in liberty must work to defend and advance human rights and other democratic values across the globe.
Pursuant to the Advancing Democratic Values Act of 2007, the Department of State has prepared this report on U.S. efforts to promote democracy and human rights in nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transitions worldwide. The Act further specifies that we continue our cooperation with nongovernmental groups and individuals to advance human rights and democratic principles. Indeed, partnerships with NGOs-–indigenous and international--are essential to the development and success of free societies and play a vital role in ensuring accountable government and democratic change.
Upon consultation with NGOs, and in keeping with the Act’s definition of nondemocratic and democratic transition countries, we have reported on our priority efforts in 106 countries. The specific activities we highlighted in this report--bilateral programs, public diplomacy, multilateral initiatives, cooperation with international and indigenous organizations, and assistance programs--are meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive, of the full range of U.S. undertakings in the human rights and democracy fields.
As the report shows, we have concentrated our efforts on practical ways to strengthen the core elements that must be present in countries around the globe if human rights and democratic principles are to be exercised and protected effectively: (1) free and fair electoral processes, with a level playing field to ensure genuine competition; (2) good governance, with representative, transparent, and accountable institutions operating under the rule of law, including independent legislatures and judiciaries; and (3) robust civil societies, including human rights and democracy defenders, independent media, and labor unions.
Our objective is to expand the circle of democratic, well governed states that enshrine liberty under the rule of law, respect the rights and provide for the needs of their people, and act responsibly in the international system. The United States cannot do this for other countries. Nor should we. It must be their choice and their initiative. We can help, however, and we must help. This is partnership, not paternalism. The partnerships for democratic change that we are forging with governments, NGOs, and courageous men and women across the globe are helping to build a freer, safer world for all.
With these thoughts, we hereby submit the Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report for May 2008.