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Experts Issue Invitation List for Global Club of Democracies
An international panel of high-level experts today issued recommendations for which governments merit invitation to a global club of democracies meeting later this year in Bamako, Mali.
Based on a comprehensive assessment of how well governments from around the world are meeting the club’s standards of democracy and human rights, the group recommended a total of 100 governments for participation. Another 18 states were recommended for observer status, due to trends toward greater respect for democratic norms, while 54 states were rejected for admission, including Russia, Thailand and Iraq. The panel took no position regarding the 16 governments that make up the Community of Democracies Convening Group, which is responsible for issuing invitations to the club’s fourth ministerial meeting.
The experts panel called on the Convening Group to uphold strictly the association’s criteria for participation. “We believe the value of the Community of Democracies rests to a great extent on the character of its membership,” reads the statement issued by over a dozen former heads of state, politicians, human rights experts and academics.
The group, known as the International Advisory Committee for the Community of Democracies Invitations Process, expressed special concern regarding the situation in ten states. It concluded that the erosion of rights in Russia, the continuing inability to establish an accountable state in Iraq, and military takeovers in Thailand and Fiji should disqualify each of them from participation. The panel recommended withholding an invitation to Venezuela to allow further scrutiny in light of actions by the Chavez government to “undermine institutional checks and balances, restrict freedoms of expression and association and expand the role of the military in civilian affairs.” Other governments whose democratic credentials remain in doubt include Bahrain, Timor-Leste and Armenia. Nepal and Mauritania, given positive marks for making progress in their democratic transitions, were recommended as observers.
Ted Piccone, Executive Director of the Democracy Coalition Project and coordinator of the project, explained that “this initiative provides objective analysis of a broad cross-section of information relevant to the governments’ own criteria for participation. We hope it will help the Convening Group avoid relying on security or economic considerations when issuing invitations, as in the past.”
The Community of Democracies invitations process, he added, “offers a novel approach to democracy promotion because it applies the same universal standards to all countries, is carried out every two years through a de novo review of each country’s adherence to those standards and creates an incentive for governments to make the grade.”
The Convening Group, which is discussing the invitations process today in Bamako, is expected to make final decisions on invitations to the fourth Ministerial Meeting by June of this year.
The International Advisory Committee was supported by research and analysis conducted by a Secretariat composed of Freedom House (USA), the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany), the Center for Democratic Development (Ghana), and the Democracy Coalition Project (USA). These groups issued an accompanying 550-page volume of reports on the state of democracy and human rights in 46 countries considered deserving of closer scrutiny and analysis. These reports focus on areas needing greatest attention, ranging from freedom of the press to women’s rights, and include suggestions for how governments can improve their democracy and human rights records.
The Community of Democracies, a global grouping of democratic and democratizing states, was launched in Warsaw in 2000 as a forum for strengthening international cooperation for democracy and human rights promotion. Its participants also have established a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations for the purpose of coordinating common positions on democracy and human rights at the world body.
To read the International Advisory Committee’s statement and accompanying country reports, visit http://www.demcoalition.org/2005_html/commu_cdm07.html.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.