Asian Center for Democratic Governance
On January 7-8 in New Delhi, India, the Asian Center for Democratic Governance held its inaugural conference, entitled “Making Democracy Work: Accountability & Transparency.” The conference’s four sessions addressed the importance of good governance in democracies and the respective roles of the parliament, the judiciary, and the media in achieving this goal. The conference was attended by more than 90 participants from 14 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Speakers included India’s attorney general, Soli J. Sorabjee; U.S. ambassador to India Richard Celeste; Washington Post South Asia bureau chief Pamela Constable; and James McDermott, member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The conference was cosponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Confederation of Indian Industry, whose partnership in launching the Asian Center for Democratic Governance was announced by U.S. president Bill Clinton during his March 2000 visit to India. A final report on the January meeting will be available at www.ned.org.
Human Rights Conference in Russia
On January 20-21, more than 1,000 activists from throughout the Russian Federation came together for the All-Russian Extraordinary Congress in Defense of Human Rights, the largest gathering of its kind in the history of Russia. The event, responding to concerns that basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Russian constitution are under increasing threat, was organized by representatives of major Russian human rights organizations, including the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, [End Page 188] the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, the “Za Prava Cheloveka” Foundation, the Glasnost Public Foundation, and the Glasnost Defense Foundation. Attendees included such prominent figures as Sergei Kovalyov, member of the Duma and former human rights ombudsman; Oleg Mironov, current human rights ombudsman; and Grigory Yavlinsky, member of the Duma and chairman of the Yabloko party. The Congress received extensive coverage in the Russian press. Material on the Congress is available at www.hro.norg/ngo/congress.
Democracy Conference at OAS
On February 20-21, the Convening Group of the Community of Democracies, in conjunction with the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy of the Organization of American States (OAS), hosted a conference in Washington, D.C., on “The Role of Regional and Multilateral Organizations in the Defense and Promotion of Democracy.” (The Convening Group, whose members are Chile, the Czech Republic, India, Mali, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, and the United States, organized the inaugural conference of the Community of Democracies in Warsaw in June 2000.)
More than 120 participants representing governments, civil society, and regional and multilateral organizations took part in the meeting at the OAS, which was presided over by Secretary General César Gaviria and Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi. Among the speakers were former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright (now chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), Peruvian minister of justice Diego García Sayán, Korean deputy foreign minister Young-Jin Choi, Czech deputy foreign minister Martin Palouš, and Chilean UN ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés.
Participants discussed regional efforts at democracy promotion in three working groups: “Activities to Promote and Strengthen Democratic Values, Institutions, and Practices”; “Political and Juridical Instruments to Defend Democracy”; and “Efforts to Prevent the Interruption of Democracy.” The resulting proposals were presented and discussed at a plenary session.
The government of Romania, on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), announced that it would host the next conference of regional and multilateral organizations on democracy in the fall of 2001, in cooperation with the Community of Democracies Convening Group.
International Press Institute Award
The International Press Institute (IPI), in cooperation with the Freedom Forum, presented Malaysiakini with the 2001 Free Media Pioneer Award on January 29 at the IPI World Congress meeting in New Delhi. A Kuala Lumpur-based independent online newspaper written in both English and Malay, [End Page 189] Malaysiakini (Malaysia Now) was founded in 1996 by Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran. With its mix of unbiased news coverage, investigative journalism, and commentary, the publication has gained a wide following. Its declared aim is “to test and push the boundaries of free speech and press freedom in Malaysia by providing credible and up-to-date news and analysis” and “to counter the culture of self-censorship in the mainstream media.”
IPI, a global network of editors and media executives, established the Free Media Pioneer Award in 1996 to recognize individuals and organizations that have fought against great odds to ensure freer and more independent media in their countries. The award is cosponsored by the U.S.-based Freedom Forum, a foundation dedicated to promoting freedom of the press around the world. For more information, see the IPI website at www.freemedia.at.
North Korean Human Rights Conference
The Second International Conference on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees was held on December 8 at Yonsei University in Seoul. The day-long conference, entitled “Human Rights Light to North Korea,” was sponsored by the Citizen’s Alliance to Help Political Prisoners in North Korea and the Legal Science Institute of Ewha Womans University. It was supported by Chosun Ilbo, the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
The 200 participants included 20 international human rights experts and representatives from 17 foreign missions in Seoul. The keynote speech was given by NED president Carl Gershman. Other international speakers included Pierre Rigoulot (editor-in-chief, Les cahiers d’histoire sociale, France), Harald Maass (Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany), Alexander Epstein (barrister, Canada), and Jack Rendler (executive director, Aurora Foundation, United States). The meeting also featured the showing of a BBC documentary on the plight of orphans in North Korea entitled “Dispatches: Children of the Secret State.” More information is available at www.chosun.com.
Aung San Suu Kyi Wins Medal of Freedom
At a White House ceremony on December 6, U.S. president Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Burmese opposition leader and 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, stating, “No one has done more than she to teach us that the desire for liberty is universal, that it is a matter of conscience, not culture.” The Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, is bestowed upon individuals whose actions have been “especially meritorious to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
As the leader of the National [End Page 190] League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi has gained recognition for her peaceful opposition to Burma’s military government, which refused to recognize the NLD’s overwhelming victory in 1990 parliamentary elections. Although Aung San Suu Kyi has been under de facto house arrest since September 2000, news reports in early 2001 indicated that the first direct talks in more than six years had begun between Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s military regime.
Michel Oksenberg (1938-2001)
On February 24, Michel Oksenberg, a leading China scholar and key actor in the normalization of Sino-American relations, passed away at the age of 62. At his death, Oksenberg was a senior fellow at the Asia/Pacific Research Center of the Institute for International Studies (IIS) at Stanford University. With Terry Karl and Larry Diamond, he had been one of the organizers of the ongoing IIS seminar on democratization. During 1977-80, he served as senior staff member and Asia director on the U.S. National Security Council under President Carter.
Oksenberg was one of the keenest American observers of Chinese politics and was widely esteemed by scholars and policy makers in China as well as the United States. He was the author of many books and articles on China’s foreign policy and domestic affairs. His contribution to the January 1998 Journal of Democracy symposium “Will China Democratize?” argued that China’s leaders are likely to find a commitment “to the attainment of full democracy over a protracted period to be an increasingly attractive option.”
Report on NED’s International Forum
On March 2, the International Forum for Democratic Studies sponsored a luncheon seminar by Kayode Soremekun, visiting fellow at the International Forum and professor of international relations at Obafemi Awolowo University, in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Dr. Soremekun’s talk, entitled “Democratization in Kenya and Nigeria: The Washington Dimension,” examined U.S. efforts to promote democratization in the two African countries, focusing on both governmental and nongovernmental actors in the Washington community. Several additional luncheon seminars were scheduled for late March and early April: Svante E. Cornell on “Democracy and Institution-Building in the Caucasus” (March 20); Jacques Rupnik on Eastern Europe (April 5); and E. Gyimah-Boadi on Ghana (April 9).
On April 11, the Forum was scheduled to cosponsor a meeting at the Woodrow Wilson Center on “Political Reform in the Middle East: Opportunities and Constraints.”
A new Journal of Democracy book, The Global Divergence of Democracies, will be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in September 2001.
Copyright © 2001 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press