Bush Sees a Great Moment in the Cause of Freedom

Says building freedom-sustaining institutions should be work of democracy

By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

United Nations -- President Bush told the 60th U.N. General Assembly September 14 that this is a moment of great opportunity in the cause of freedom.

"Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before," Bush said. "In the last two years alone, tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine, and Georgia."

Bush said that through the establishment of the new U.N. Democracy Fund, the democratic members of the world body can work to help others who want to join the democratic world. He praised the leadership role taken by India, the world's largest democracy, in this effort, and noted that it has pledged $10 million to get the fund started.

The Democracy Fund's primary purpose is to promote democracy throughout the world by providing financial assistance for projects that consolidate and strengthen democratic institutions and facilitate democratic governance in new or restored democracies. The fund is designed to complement current U.N. efforts and to ensure an integrated, holistic, capacity-building and demand-driven approach.

Bush first proposed creation of the fund in his General Assembly speech a year ago at the same podium. But efforts this year are designed to get the fund started and funded. He attended a special launch of the fund with other world leaders. (See related fact sheet.)

"Every free nation has an interest in the success of this Fund - and every free nation has a responsibility in advancing the cause of liberty," he said.

Bush said the job of building democracy is larger than holding free elections; it also requires building institutions that can sustain freedom, he said.

"Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, [and] treat women and minorities as full citizens. Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression," Bush said. "Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people."

He also said democratic nations contribute to peace and stability and not the conquest of their neighbors.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that it is the world body's role to help those nations that are seeking democracy achieve it.

"We are working with countries emerging from a violent past to build democratic institutions and strengthen civil society. The United Nations assists one out of every three parliaments in developing countries. And on average, we support an election every two weeks somewhere around the world," Annan said during the launch of the fund at the 2005 summit.

The voluntary fund was established as a trust fund by the secretary-general under U.N. financial rules and regulations, but it will not support any single model of democracy. An advisory board from member nations has been established by Annan to oversee the fund and recommend proposals for funding, and all proposals will be considered, Annan said.

Since the fund's creation eight nations have pledged tens of millions of dollars to get it started. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joined Bush and Annan in the international launching of the Fund at the U.N. headquarters.

The United States declared its intention of being among the first donors, and Bush has requested $10 million for the initial contribution in his fiscal year 2006 budget request to Congress.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks to the General Assembly is available on the State Department Web site. For more information on U.S. activities at the United Nations, see The United Nations at 60.

Souece: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.

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