Thank you. Thank you, President Elbegdorj, and it’s wonderful to be back here in Mongolia and see this young, vibrant democracy in action. And it’s a pleasure to be here with all of you this afternoon to help launch the LEND Network, a new tool that will help countries navigate the transition to sustainable democracy.
When my colleague Minister Urmas Paet and I first announced this initiative back in March, we had three principles in mind: First, new democracies can and should learn from those that have already made the transition, overcome some of the obstacles, and have matured. Over the past two decades, more than 40 countries became democracies, and that represents a wealth of hard-won knowledge that we need to capture and share. Second, the pace of political change is accelerating and we have to try to keep up. That’s why we think leaders in emerging democracies can benefit from having access to immediate, on-demand information. And third, this task is too big for governments alone. We believe we should tap into the expertise and resources of the private sector and civil society.
I want to thank my colleague from the State Department, Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, for his work as our Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, and also to thank Maria Leissner, the new Secretary General of the Community of Democracies.
Now you will see the principles that I outlined at work in the LEND Network. It employs the latest communications technology, including tablet computers and video conferencing, to create an online forum where leaders can exchange information on building their own democracies and answering questions. I was just walking and talking to the President, who was telling me that he had just been in Kyrgyzstan. And the former President of Kyrgyzstan is here talking about democracy and she was saying how important it was to have a president from a neighboring country come and validate what they are trying to do, and frankly also encourage leaders to make some of the hard decisions to keep going.
So the LEND Network is designed to give people the information they need when they need it. And in a minute, we’ll get to see the network in action when the Foreign Minister of Moldova conducts a live video chat with his former counterpart from Slovakia.
Now let me thank all of the partners who came together to launch this project, starting with the Community of Democracies. We have said that we want the Community of Democracies to be a forum for action, not just words, and this is exactly the kind of effort we have in mind. I also want to thank Estonia for co-chairing the LEND Working Group and particularly the Foreign Minister, also Sweden and Chile, for their invaluable support. And I applaud the emerging democracies that are joining the network and the volunteer advisors from over 20 countries. And I thank our private sector partners Google, OpenText, and Dialcom, as well as the Club of Madrid for their contributions. As you can see, it takes a lot of partners to launch a project as ambitious as this one, and I encourage other countries – emerging and established democracies alike – to join the LEND Network.
Now we are very much aware that no single project can solve every problem that emerging democracies encounter, but we truly believe that if we keep working together and sharing the lessons we learn, we can help more countries make a successful transition to democracy. And that in turn, we believe, makes the world safer and more prosperous for all of us. So I’m very excited about this initiative, and it’s now my great pleasure to introduce my friend and my colleague, the Foreign Minister of Estonia.