Text: Albright on Strengthening Democratic Societies
(Indonesia, Colombia, Nigeria, Ukraine targeted) (2550)
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says that during the next year the Clinton administration will be "focusing
particular attention and resources of bolstering progress in four key democracies: Colombia, Nigeria, Indonesia and
In a January 30 speech to a plenary session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Albright said that each
of these countries differs markedly but each "can be a major force for stability and progress in its region."
While noting that electoral democracy has not been accompanied by economic security in the former Soviet Union, Albright
challenged the notion that corruption is a byproduct of greater freedom and less centralized control.
"With its Party-based privileges, private dachas and stores reserved for the elite, Communism became a synonym for
corruption," she said. "And dictators from Marcos to Mobutu robbed their countries blind."
Albright took to task industrial countries that have shown half-hearted commitment to adopting anti-bribery laws as
called for under an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) convention.
She singled out Japan, the United Kingdom, and Italy, and added that legislative proposals are pending in France that
would "interpret the Convention as still permitting payment in the future of bribes promised in the past."
"It will be difficult to send a clear message against bribery if it appears that some countries take the path of
principle while others simply take the contracts," Albright said.
The 29 OECD countries plus five developing countries have signed the OECD convention that bans companies from paying
bribes to foreign government officials.
Following is the text of Albright's remarks:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Davos, Switzerland)
January 30, 2000
Address by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright to the World Economic Forum
Thank you, John, for that introduction and your kindness over the years. And all the good things that we have done
together and will continue to do. And really for your support of American foreign policy, you've been remarkable and we
are very grateful. President Klaus Schwab, Managing Director Smadja. And Secretary Summers, it is indeed a pleasure to
share this platform with you. We talk to each other practically every day but we don't often give speeches together. I
would love to acknowledge every prominent person here today. But that would become tiresome -- at least by the second
So let me just say that I have long wanted to come to Davos, for this is where trends are identified, ideas tested, and
hard problems thrashed out. Here the seeds of the Uruguay Round were sown; and the goals of German reunification, South
African reconciliation and Middle East peace were advanced.
In short, this is where people of good will and creative minds -- that's you -- gather to make a difference.
Yesterday, President Clinton discussed the need for nations to come together, in partnership with business, labor and
NGOs, to build a world economic system that is healthy and inclusive. Today, Secretary Summers will consider some of the
challenges the United States faces in working toward that end.
I will focus on a related political goal -- sustaining and strengthening the worldwide movement toward democracy. And
specifically, on what we can do together to help fledgling democracies become thriving democracies. For if we neglect
democracy in striving for prosperity, we will find progress in both areas hard to sustain.
Let me begin by responding to the words in our program inquiring about America's role in the world. To me, this is not
much of a mystery. The Pew Center recently asked Americans to rank the reasons for our country's success in the 20th
Century. Three factors topped the list: our Constitution; free elections; and the free enterprise system.
Clearly, America's global leadership cannot be divorced from the reasons our own people give for our country's
accomplishments. We are first and foremost a democracy. The fundamental message we convey to the world is that human
progress depends on human liberty -- on the ability of people to choose their own leaders, express their own thoughts,
be rewarded for their own efforts, and shape their own lives.
This is not a complicated message. But its power has transformed the world.
One hundred years ago, the number of countries with a government elected competitively and on the basis of universal
suffrage was zero. Today it is 120. Over the past half century, we have seen nation after nation gain its freedom: in
Asia and Africa, from colonialism; in Latin America from military dictators; in Central and Eastern Europe from
Communism; and in South Africa from apartheid.
Yet as we enter the new millennium, we are not complacent. For we understand that true democracy is never achieved; it
is always a pursuit. And we know that if we who love liberty grow weary, those who love only power will one day sweep
Moreover, we are concerned that in many countries, the arrival of electoral democracy has been accompanied by economic
expectations that are, as yet, unfulfilled. Over the past decade, for example, daily life has gotten harder, not easier,
for many people in the former Soviet Union. A majority of citizens in these countries have come to equate democracy with
inequality, insecurity and the unraveling of the social fabric.
Such frustrations raise the risk there and elsewhere that public confidence in elected government will erode -- and
support grow for failed remedies from the past, including protectionism and authoritarianism.
We can do much to meet this challenge by helping more people in more countries become full participants in the global
economy. And that is why the Clinton Administration has worked hard to expand trade and investment in Africa, the
Caribbean and Southeast Europe; to lift the crushing burden of debt that hangs over many poor countries; and to bring
new members into the WTO and help them acquire the expertise and technology needed to meet their commitments and take
advantage of liberalized trade.
But economic anxieties are far from the only source of strain in new democracies. In Africa, the Caucasus, Southeast
Asia and Southeast Europe, transitions have been retarded by ethnic strife. HIV/AIDS is a devastating threat in many
And quite a number of electoral democracies have either failed or fallen because their leaders are concentrating not on
self-government, but self-enrichment. As a result, corruption is viewed by some as democracy's evil twin -- a natural
byproduct of greater freedom and less centralized control.
To use a diplomatic term of art, that is balderdash. With its Party-based privileges, private dachas and stores reserved
for the elite, Communism became a synonym for corruption. And dictators from Marcos to Mobutu robbed their countries
Democratic elections provide no guarantee for honest government. But democratic institutions provide the tools by which,
over time, the habits of corruption can be curbed and its practitioners exposed.
And that's why one of the great challenges we face is to work within the democratic community to set and meet high
standards. In recent years, we have made considerable progress, but we still have far to go.
For example, an OECD convention entered into force last February, committing all signatories to adopt strong
anti-bribery laws. But to date, implementation by several key countries, including Japan, Britain and Italy, has been
anything but strong. And in France, there are legislative proposals which would -- in isolation -- interpret the
Convention as still permitting payment in the future of bribes promised in the past. It will be difficult to send a
clear message against bribery if it appears that some countries take the path of principle while others simply take the
But freedom from corruption is not the only area in which the private sector's commitment to best practices can make an
Many of the world's leading companies already recognize, as Vice President Al Gore has said, that a healthy natural
environment and a healthy business environment go hand in hand.
They also treat their workers as assets to be developed, not costs to be cut. For their aim is to succeed on the basis
of inspiration and perspiration, not exploitation.
Moreover, an increasing number of these companies are also recognizing that engagement on a broad range of social issues
such as human rights or the role of women in the economy is not only the business of the countries where they operate,
but very much their business -- and good for business.
I am pleased that the Department of State is developing partnerships with leading American companies to spur this
welcome trend. In the extractive sector, for example, such firms must pay special heed to environmental issues,
relations with local communities, and human rights.
And it is smart for the private sector to attend to such broader concerns. For when it comes to responsible globalism,
there is no necessary conflict between profit and principle.
In these and other ways, far-sighted companies are proving that often it is not governments, but the private sector,
that can best convey the standards and know-how that make the ground fertile for market democracy.
In December, I presented the first annual Department of State Awards for Corporate Excellence. One went to a Louisiana
sugar company, F.C. Schaffer, which has long provided the Ethiopian government with free technical assistance on the
workings of the free market.
Another winner was Xerox of Brazil, which we recognized for many reasons, one of which I want to single out here. In an
era when America is accused of cultural hegemony, Xerox has established a special library to publicize and preserve the
history of the Brazilian people.
And this leads me to a broader point. The United States has a strong interest in adding to the ranks of stable and
prosperous democracies. We have not the slightest interest in imposing our culture on others or turning foreign nations
into Xerox copies of ourselves.
To the contrary, I have directed our diplomats to work with all countries to respect and take into account their own
unique and cherished cultures. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all democracy.
At the same time, I stress that the fundamental principles of democracy are not solely American or solely Western. They
are universal. And that is recognized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and by democratic leaders from Nelson
Mandela and Kim Dae Jung to Vaclav Havel and Aung San Suu Kyi.
And that is why America has so many strong partners around the world who are committed to making the new century a time
of freedom and growth. In June, the Polish Government will host an unprecedented global gathering of countries whose
governments have expressed their commitment to democratic principles. This Community of Democracies initiative will
explore ways that we can cooperate more effectively in strengthening democratic societies and values.
And for our part, the United States in the year ahead will be focusing particular attention and resources on bolstering
progress in four key democracies: Colombia, Nigeria, Indonesia and Ukraine. Now these nations are not a group. They
differ markedly. But each can be a major force for stability and progress in its region. And each is at a critical point
along the democratic path.
Finally, in Kosovo and beyond, we are working hard with our European partners to ensure a future defined by democratic
integration rather than ethnic hatred. The Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe is a vital test of trans-Atlantic
resolve. In the former Yugoslavia and throughout the region, the international community must follow through on its
All of these challenges will receive substantial attention from me this year. And all are worth the effort. For nothing
would make a more lasting contribution to world peace and prosperity than extending democracy's reach across the globe.
That is why it is essential that we have the resources we need to promote democracy. Now many Americans are surprised
when I tell them that the amount we allocate to the entire spectrum of U.S. foreign affairs is only about one penny of
every Federal budget dollar. But that one percent makes a difference in the lives of a hundred percent of the American
people -- as well as billions of others around the world. I hope that every citizen who cares about democracy will give
our foreign affairs budget the support it deserves.
A century ago, the great debate in America was how to cope with technological change that was bringing our vast
continent together, creating huge new corporations and concentrating large amounts of capital in a small number of
hands. The turbulence created then for localities by a nationalizing economy was as deep and widespread as that
experienced now by nations trying to cope with a globalizing economy.
I don't want to overstate the parallels, but they are significant. Then, as now, concerns were expressed about the
exploitation of labor and harm to the environment. Disparities between rich and poor widened. And there were hard
feelings among ethnic groups competing for available jobs, and between regions striving to lure factories to their soil.
As resentments among those who felt locked out grew, democracy was called into action. The Populist, Progressive, and
Suffragist movements arose. The public agenda broadened. And the instruments of American government responded. The new
technologies were given plenty of room to thrive -- but new mechanisms were also created to regulate trusts, improve
working conditions, conserve the environment, and give women the vote.
As a result, forces that could have pulled our country apart gradually came together and it took time and there were
many rough spots along the way. But in the end, the democratic process worked -- so that all the key stakeholders felt
their concerns had been aired and the resulting compromises held something of value.
Now today, our challenge is similar in kind, but global in scope. Technology is creating both new opportunities and new
resentments; it divides us even as it links us together.
We cannot avoid the resulting debate. No single speech or initiative can work magic overnight. But the solution, I
believe, is to call upon democracy writ large, give all who deserve it a place at the table, and challenge our
institutions to create new solutions based on proven principles.
By its nature, that is no hegemon's goal, but a shared undertaking the United States seeks to pursue in concert with
others. It is also easier said than done. But as I look around this hall, all I see are doers, leaders, and innovators.
People who know how to make a difference -- and care enough to try.
History has given us the opportunity to enable people everywhere to share in the bounty of our global economy. If we
have faith in the democratic principles that were the dominant force for progress in the 20th Century -- and apply those
principles by pooling our strengths today -- we can create a world of deeper prosperity, greater freedom and broader
justice than humans have ever known.
Now that is a mighty tall order. But there is no better time than the start of a new century, a new millenium, to design
a great mission. And no better place than Davos to launch one.
Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)