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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2643

Restriction of NGOs Worldwide Democracy Promotion Condemned

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent for Asian Tribune

Washington, DC 9 June (Asiantribune.com): The World Movement for Democracy, a global network of democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and others engaged in the advancement of democracy worldwide, headquartered here in Washington, urges the UN Democracy Caucus, scheduled to meet in New York in September 2006, to adopt a resolution condemning several nations’ attempt to restrict the democracy promotion efforts of nongovernmental organizations.

The UN Democracy Caucus is also known as the Community of Democracies to which ministerial representatives are sent for the September summit.

The Steering Committee of the World Movement of Democracy urges the ministerial representatives of member countries of the Community of Democracies at its summit in September to adopt the following resolution as proposed by the Nongovernmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies:

“Recognizing that the Community of Democracies in its founding Warsaw Declaration affirmed its ‘determination to work together to promote and strengthen democracy,’ thereby acknowledging democracy promotion as an international norm:

“We express our concern over the growing number of countries that have enacted or introduced legislation designed to restrict the democracy promotion efforts of nongovernmental organizations, and toward that end we call on all participants in the Community of Democracies to uphold the right of governments and nongovernmental organizations to provide material and technical assistance to support NGO efforts to promote and consolidate democracy. We express concern over efforts to suppress democracy promotion activities.

“We request that such efforts to repress democracy promotion activity should cease and that any existing legal restrictions toward that end be repealed.

“We further call on the members of the Community of Democracies to affirm in the strongest possible terms the rights of nongovernmental organizations to promote democracy in support of the rights defined in the Warsaw Declaration. Countries engaged in activities in violation of these rights and these internationally accepted norms should be excluded from participation in the Community of Democracies.”

In early March this year, Barry F. Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in an interview on eve of the release of US State Department Annual Report on Human Rights Worldwide made the following statement when asked about recent crackdown on NGO activity in Russia and how he thought these measures might have an impact on human rights:

“We are clearly discouraged by the new NGO law in Russia. We had expressed our reservations quietly during the drafting of it. It went through three votes in the Duma (Russian parliament) before President Putin signed it.

“The problem with the NGO law is it tries to do something that is antithetical to democracy. It’s democracy top-down. In essence what it says is that we at the highest levels of the government in Russia will decide what a good NGO is. We will have the right to examine your books and to tell you that you cannot fund a particular program, another NGO, or an individual.

“This sends a chilling message to the NGOs: You can be investigated at any time. It also outlines a fundamental misreading on the part of the Russian government in terms of what NGOs do and the important role they play in strengthening a democratic society.

“This is not a problem that we find only in Russia. It is in China. This is a growing trend, and a lot of countries feel that NGO activities need to be constrained or else NGOs would be a fundamental threat to their rule.”

The World Movement for Democracy is a global network of democrats, including activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, who have come together to cooperate in the promotion of democracy.

The Washington, DC-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) initiated this nongovernmental effort with a global assembly in New Delhi, India, in February 1999 to strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even when it is longstanding, and to bolster pro-democracy groups in countries that have not yet entered into a process of democratic transition.

With the support of the NED, in cooperation with two Indian partner organizations (the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Centre for Policy Research, both based in New Delhi), brought together leading democratic activists and thinkers from every region of the world. The 400 participants from more than 80 countries who gathered in New Delhi represented nongovernmental organizations, civic education groups, business associations, trade unions, political parties, democracy think tanks, and democracy-support foundations to inaugurate the World Movement of Democracy to engage in the advancement of democracy.

- Asian Tribune -

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