U.S. and European Cooperation in Democracy Promotion, Human Rights, and Development
Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Remarks at at the European Institute’s Conference on The Strategic Use of Soft Power to Improve Global Stability, Security and Goodwill
November 21, 2006
Thank you, Jacqueline, for your introduction. I am delighted to be here speaking before the European Institute. I have taken part in several of the Institute’s programs, and find them to be important and stimulating. So thank you for welcoming me again. And I want to thank Jacqueline, and Julienne Nelson, for their efforts in organizing this event.
I am particularly pleased that this session focuses on the strategic use of soft power to improve stability, security, and goodwill. In my remarks, I will focus on how the United States and Europe can cooperate in combining hard and soft power to promote democracy, human rights, and development. That topic is, I think, both timely and essential.
One of my favorite professors from graduate school, Joseph Nye, pioneered the concept of soft power. In contrast to hard power, which is military and economic strength, he describes soft power as obtaining a result because of attraction rather than coercion. Soft power is when others admire a country& rsquo;s values, “emulat[e] its example, [and] aspir[e] to its level of prosperity and openness.”
In discussing how the United States and Europe can work together to promote democracy, human rights, and development, we should not lose sight of Joseph Nye’s statement that “[s]eduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy, human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive.” The values Nye singles out are indeed seductive, but they are more than that. They are universal. Democracy and human rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
They are the cornerstones and the promise of the United States, virtually every European nation, and the European Union. We agree that human rights and freedoms, including the right of the governed to have a say in the direction of their country, are both inalienable and imperative, applying not just to us but to all -- regardless of race, sex, religion, or nationality.
There has been discussion about the meaning and implications of promoting democracy, in particular. Let me describe what we mean by democracy. Democracy does not consist of just an election or two. It comprises an interrelated set of freedoms and responsibilities, such as the rule of law; accountability; participation; civil society; protection of minorities and women; and freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, in addition to regular and fair elections. While we in the United States are proud of our system, we do not wish to impose our precise model on other countries, but instead seek to share our experience. Democracy will and should reflect traditions and realities in each particular country. Yet, we must be forthright and steadfast in reaffirming that all people are entitled to be free, to be equal before the law, and to have a say in a representative, responsive government.
Democratic governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are closely related to long-term, healthy economic development. The UN World Summit in 2005 reaffirmed that sustained development requires “solid democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people,” and that economic development, freedom, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are “ essential and are mutually reinforcing.”
The U.S. government desires, earnestly and sincerely, to assist people worldwide in bettering their lives, improving their nations, and taking control of their own futures. We recognize that the instruments of hard power are not always the ones most conducive to helping foster democracy, human rights, and development. By its nature, promoting democracy and improving the lives of people around the world consists not of coercing others but, to the contrary, helping them to lift themselves up and fulfill their own rights and aspirations.
I highlight these points to make clear that our basic approach to promoting democracy, human rights, and development is similar to that of our friends in Europe. We will not of course, always agree on every point, but we must also be careful not to let semantics distract us from our fundamentally shared perspective and principles.
Today, challenges and threats emanate not from one source but from multiple sources, each of which flows across boundaries: radicalism and terrorism, disease, crime, humanitarian disaster. During the Cold War it was imperative that we cooperate closely. It is again today, more so than ever. The last few years have witnessed a robust debate about how best to promote democracy, human rights, and development. That process is still taking place, not just in Europe, within the central institutions and among member states, and here in the United States, but in any number of other friends and partners. We are seeing the emergence of similar views not just as to what the basic goals and approach should be, but also as to how we can deepen our cooperation, so as to harness global resources to meet global challenges. I& rsquo;d like to highlight some of those points.
The first is that both U.S. and European foreign assistance takes into account the reality that economic development and democracy are mutually reinforcing and go hand in hand. My colleague Rodney Bent of the Millennium Challenge Corporation spoke earlier in the day about the goals and work of the MCC. I want to underscore the importance of that initiative, through which we grant substantial poverty alleviation assistance to countries with sound policies in ruling justly, investing in people, and fostering economic freedom. The EU is also pursuing a number of development and governance initiatives that reward reform, transparency, and performance.
Programs like the MCC and the EU’s governance initiatives provide incentives for countries to take steps that serve both development and democracy aims. And in so doing, they help demonstrate the mutually reinforcing relationship between development and democracy, further encouraging good governance in the interest of economic growth. Those initiatives also have a soft power effect that reaches beyond the countries that receive the aid. We make clear to people around the world that we are taking measures to translate the principle of encouraging good governance into practice. And other countries will see from the example of the participating nations that democracy and development go hand in hand. We look forward to consultations with the European Commission, and member states, to share successful strategies and programs that build upon the connection between good governance and development, and to work creatively on new approaches.
The United States and the EU are the two biggest donors of official development assistance. The resources we deploy, especially when one considers both public and private-sector assistance, are tremendous. As a result, the scope for cooperation is considerable, as are the force-multiplier opportunities. Much of that starts with coordination at both the policy level and on the ground. We recognize that strategies for how to promote democracy and development should be tailored to the specific circumstances of each region or country. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Coordinating our policy with respect to a particular region or nation is critical to ensuring that we pursue democracy and development effectively, by avoiding duplication and applying the means best suited to the ends in each different context. U.S.-EU cooperation has already been close with respect to, for example, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia. In the past few years, we have developed an intensive dialogue.
The second step in better U.S.-EU cooperation in promoting democracy, human rights, and development is to broaden and deepen those ongoing consultations.
Coordinating policy and implementation helps us recognize and deploy strategically our comparative advantages. To take one example, countries that broke free from communism not long ago, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, have played valuable and leading roles in sharing their experiences to help those, like Cuba, who will one day also transition to freedom.
Third, while assistance -- whether specifically for democracy or development or both -- should be accountable and strategic, it should also be flexible. In that regard, the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is crucial. We should coordinate how best we can use our experiences and skills, and also how best we can work with NGOs. Supporting the work of NGOs, especially those engaged primarily in democracy promotion, will at times require us to back organizations and individuals that are not always welcomed by the country in question. We must do so prudently and sensibly, but we must do so. And we must work together to ensure that NGOs, which serve on the frontline of efforts to promote democracy, human rights, and development, are allowed space and freedom to conduct their critical work. For this reason, the emphasis of the new UN Democracy Fund on working through NGOs and building civil society adds a valuable new multilateral project.
Fourth, while we emphasize that some of our initiatives explicitly connect development assistance to good governance and democratization, we must continue to coordinate our humanitarian relief efforts to alleviate suffering. We engage in those efforts, of course, simply because it is the right thing to do. Yet effective humanitarian assistance in itself increases our combined soft power, as people both in and outside the affected areas observe and admire that generosity.
Fifth, the United States and European countries have increasingly joined forces with the private sector, including both NGOs and businesses, to pursue public-private partnerships in a wide range of areas. Those partnerships allow us to leverage different skills and links among nations and sectors to achieve far more than any of us could do alone. For example, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership brings together, among others, Belgium, Cameroon, the DRC, the European Commission, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as a variety of private organizations. It promotes economic development, poverty alleviation, and improved local governance through a focus on conservation and better resource management, including the control of illegal logging and wildlife poaching. And the Global Village Energy Initiative, in which the United States, a number of European countries, and other nations and private organizations participate, has helped 15 million people around the world receive increased access to modern energy sources.
Public-private partnerships both reflect and strengthen our ability to promote democracy and development not through coercion but through encouragement and empowerment. The participants in those efforts are literally partners, working together toward a common goal. Public-private partnerships also demonstrate that not just governments or NGOs, but private enterprise as well, can and does actively help people around the world take control of their futures.
The sixth area in which we can coordinate more closely is public diplomacy. We should start with the acknowledgment that we largely share the same objectives in promoting democracy, human rights, and development, and should convey that together we seek to help citizens in each country to improve their lives. While we tend to our broad public message, however, we must also remember the immense value that comes from person to person contacts and exchanges, and continue to strengthen programs that connect our citizens with people from countries that are trying to find their democratic way.
Seventh, we must cooperate in helping multilateral institutions serve the functions for which they were created, particularly in the area of human rights, where such organizations may be less effective than those that focus on humanitarian assistance. We want to see international institutions succeed in their missions. We hope the UN Human Rights Council will shift its early course and focus on advancing liberties and liberalization. We must support UN institutions that assist liberal governance -- from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to UNDP. And we hope to collaborate with the EU to build the work of the new UN Democracy Fund.
We also look forward to working with our European partners to strengthen new multinational organizations that can play important roles in democracy and development. The Community of Democracies is one of them. We are working closely with Italy, among others, in creating a secretariat for the CD, which would help bolster the Community’s capacity by serving as a locus for the implementation of its programs. Mali, which currently chairs the Community of Democracies, has chosen democracy and development as the theme of next year& rsquo;s CD Ministerial in Bamako. Mali itself has demonstrated well how a nation can maximize its assets and provide opportunities for its people, and we look forward to working with Mali and the CD as a whole to advance the democracy and development agenda.
We must remember that complementary gains in democracy and development rest on number of factors. One is the role of women in society. Countries in which women are not allowed to participate in the political sphere cannot reach their full potential as democracies, and countries in which 50% of their human capital is marginalized cannot thrive in a globalized economy. Both the United States and Europe sponsor a number of initiatives designed to help women flourish politically and economically.
Another foundation for democracy and development is health. The United States and Europe have shown great leadership and coordination in our efforts to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS in particular, to which we have pledged billions of dollars. We have also worked closely in fighting malaria and tuberculosis, and in preparing for avian influenza, and must continue those efforts.
I have outlined what I see as extensive common ground in our approaches to promoting democracy, human rights, and development, and have pointed to some areas where we might focus our future cooperation, while recognizing that the list is hardly exhaustive. While we are today looking chiefly at cooperation between the United States and Europe, we should leverage that cooperation to catalyze intensive engagement with others across the globe. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and recommendations, and to working closely with you. Thank you.
Released on December 8, 2006