VILNIUS, 1st July 2011 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – Governmental delegations from 100 democratic countries and over 120 civil society leaders and democracy activists from all over the world met together in Vilnius for the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies on 1st July 2011 to discuss strategies for strengthening democracy support worldwide. The Ministerial meeting was preceded by a Civil Society Forum, hosted by the Nongovernmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies, and a series of High Level Forums including the Youth Forum, the Parliamentary Forum, the Corporate Democracy Forum and Women Enhancing Democracy: Best Practices.
The Community of Democracies was founded in Warsaw in 2000. Ministerial meetings have been held by its rotating chairmanships in South Korea, Chile, Mali, Lisbon and Lithuania (the current chair of the Community of Democracies). The next meeting will be held in Mongolia.
Under the theme of “Empowering, Energizing, Engaging”, the Ministerial Meeting in Vilnius was opened by the Lithuanian President Mrs Dalia Grybauskaite and a panel including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU High representative for Foreign Affairs Baroness Catherine Ashton, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Jorge Sempaio and Moshen Marzouk, Secretary General of the Arab Democracy Foundation (Tunisia). In her opening remarks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the crucial role of civil society in the process of democratization: “We believe that established democracies have a special duty to help those that are emerging. We have to protect civil society. We think that engaging with civil society, as the US is doing with our new Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society helps us to know better about how to help them. They are the ones going to prison, they are the ones getting beaten up, they are the ones on the front line of democracy.”
Vo Van Ai (left) and civil society leaders at the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society hosted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (right).
Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam and also member of the Nongovernmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies (1), was invited to take part in this “Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society” hosted by Secretary Clinton and Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour on the margins of the Ministerial Meeting, along with civil society representatives from Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.
Mr. Ai warned the international community that despite Vietnam’s economic openings, it remains a one-party State where basic freedoms are denied and where “economic liberalization under Communist Party control has led to massive violations of political and social rights”. He stressed the key role of religious movements in the movement for democracy, and urged the international community to support the legalization of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and release its leader Thich Quang Do. Mr. Ai also urged the Community of Democracies and the international community to make a public gesture in support of thousands of young people who recently staged unprecedented demonstrations to protest China’s violations of Vietnamese sovereignty and incursions into Vietnamese waters and lands. Civil society leaders endorsed these concerns in a statement made public at the Ministerial Meeting today.
(1) The Nongovernmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies is a global network of civil society leaders committed to advancing democracy and human rights throughout the Community of Democracies. It is the voice of civil society in the framework of the Community of Democracies, advising governments on the actions needed to enable civil society tp work freely to strengthen democracy, rule of law and protection for fundamental rights described in the Warsaw Declaration.