Remarks by McHale at Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia
U.S. Department of State
Remarks by Judith A. McHale
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
December 9, 2010
Remarks at the Bali Democracy Forum
Thank you. I am honored to represent the United States at this important forum for advancing democracy in Asia. I
commend President Yudhoyono, the Foreign Minister, and the Indonesian Government for having the leadership and vision to
create this significant initiative, and President Lee Myung-Bak of the Republic of Korea for co-chairing this innovative
and unique event.
As President Obama noted in his recent visit to Indonesia, the world has watched with admiration as Indonesians embraced
the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of its leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your
elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil
society; political parties and labor unions; and engaged citizens who have ensured that there will be no turning back.
Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation in only 12 years - from
military-dominated authoritarianism to a vibrant, stable democracy, the third largest in the world. As it takes its
place among the G-20 and as a leader within ASEAN, Indonesia's strong economic progress also demonstrates that democracy
and development can reinforce one another.
The Bali Democracy Forum provides a unique, welcome opportunity for representatives of countries at different points in
their democratic evolution to share experiences and learn from one another. Despite reaching democracy at different
points in time, the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values, as vast and
diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and as countries that conduct free and fair elections and
guarantee other democratic freedoms.
America's Founding Fathers recognized that democracy was a continuing process. We have had our fair share of challenges,
from a civil war fought to free part of our population from slavery to a long political struggle to give women the right
to vote. Even today, our government and civil society strive to meet the expectations of all of our citizens. So, we are
here to listen and learn from the experiences of other countries.
We recognize and respect that there are many different ways to build a democracy and that change occurs from within a
society. But we believe there are values which are shared by all democracies: that all people are created equal and
should be guaranteed basic human rights; that the rule of law must prevail for societies and businesses to thrive; that
governments must respect, represent and respond to the will of the people.
These are not values unique to the United States. Respect for civil society and freedom of expression are values
Indonesians and Americans and many other countries hold dear. More countries are building systems based on these core
democratic principles; the number of established democracies has grown from 30 countries in 1974 to over 100 today. More
Asian citizens have been given a voice to choose their leaders and exercise basic human rights while respecting their
own local traditions and culture, showing us that democracy is not just a Western concept, it is a universal one.
Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton highlighted Asia's remarkable progress toward democracy during their recent
visits to this region. But in all democracies, including our own, there is always more that can be done to fully unleash
their full democratic potential.
As President Obama said: "It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power. Democracy is messy, but the
journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes open markets that allow individuals to succeed. It
takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It
takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice." The United States is committed to working
with all of our partners to build these institutions to promote stability and prosperity, and to tackle corruption --
from which no country, including the United States, is immune.
That is why it is important to have strong civil societies. Many NGOs in Indonesia and throughout the region have done
valuable work in building greater civic participation. We are pleased that we will deepen our civil society partnership
with Indonesia and the region through our recently launched Southeast Asia-U.S. Partnership: "Civil Societies Innovating
Together." We are working with Congress to provide $15 million over three years for Indonesian, U.S. and Asian civil
society organizations to cooperate on joint projects to promote democracy and good governance in the region.
The Bali Democracy Forum promotes peaceful transitions to democracy while respecting varied processes of
democratization. By giving a voice to Asian citizens and observers to talk honestly and respectfully about democracy's
challenges and success stories, it increases the likelihood of real progress.
For example, the Forum can be instrumental in encouraging democratic reform in places like Burma. The United States,
along with billions of people around the world, welcomed Burma's long-overdue release of Burmese democracy leader and
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from unjustified house arrest on November 13. We call on Burma's leaders to
ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi's release is unconditional; to release all of Burma's political prisoners; and to begin
We know that change will not come easily. Nevertheless, we hope that our direct bilateral dialogue with Burmese
authorities, Burma's desire for the removal of sanctions, and the engagement of Burma's neighbors through this Forum
will encourage Burma to create a more peaceful, prosperous, democratic future.
This Forum can also help Asia promote reform from within, by supporting people-to-people partnerships with the private
sector and civil society. During my visit to Jakarta last week, I met with a group of young Indonesians who are using
social media to improve their communities and advance social causes. I was impressed by their passion and energy to
create change, instead of waiting for someone else to do it. After a bombing at a local mall, one participant told me he
felt it was time for the citizens of Jakarta to react and make a collective stand against such violence. He launched a
social media movement to condemn violent radicalism. His efforts demonstrate the power of one individual to create
change in their community and the world.
The U.S. Government will energetically support the Bali Democracy Forum because we know that our collective future
depends on Asia's success in consolidating democratic gains, protecting human rights, and generating new economic
opportunities. We have before us a historic opportunity to learn from one another and build for our children a future of
hope and promise. Under the leadership of President Obama, America will do all it can to help turn our opportunity into
a reality, and I wish you great success in this conference and in the years ahead. Thank you.