11.11.2005

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

Here is a recent policy watch of the U.S. efforts, stances and statements concerning democracy promotion worldwide:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)

U.S. Aid Agency Names 23 Countries Eligible for FY 2006 Funding

Millennium Challenge Corporation bases decision on countries' policies

By Kathryn McConnell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States' Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has named 23 countries eligible to apply for funding during the fiscal year that began October 1 (fiscal year 2006).

The selected countries from the “low income” category are: Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, East Timor, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Vanuatu.
The MCC Board also selected three countries as eligible for the new “lower middle income” category. Two of the countries, El Salvador and Namibia, are new to MCC projects. The third country, Cape Verde, previously was selected as MCA-eligible in the low-income category and currently is implementing a compact with the MCC.

The announcement followed a November 8 meeting of the MCC board of directors in Washington, according to an MCC press release.

THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE INITIATIVE

MCC administers the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), President Bush's initiative that promotes democratic change and sound economic policies in developing countries by linking additional U.S. aid to reforms designed to combat corruption and stimulate growth.

The secretary of state chairs the MCC board, an independent U.S. agency. The board includes the secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and representatives of the private sector.

The countries selected met or exceeded national governance performance measures, developed using data supplied by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the research organization Freedom House and other internationally recognized groups. The measures -- indicators -- demonstrate a county's commitment to ruling justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom.

Eligible countries for 2006 funding could not exceed $1,575 in per capita gross domestic income if considered "low income," or $3,255 if considered lower-middle income.

For additional information, see Millennium Challenge Account.

ELIGIBILITY AND DEVELOPING A COMPACT

Once certified as eligible, the MCC works with the country to develop a compact -- or formal agreement -- setting forth a commitment between the United States and the country to meet agreed performance benchmarks. Countries identify their highest priorities for achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, in recognition that economic growth largely is driven by their own policy decisions.

The measures used to determine eligibility include:

·Political Rights -- the prevalence of free and fair elections of officials with real power; ability of citizens to form political parties that may compete fairly in elections; freedom from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies and economic oligarchies; and political rights of minority groups.

·Voice and Accountability -- the ability of institutions to protect civil liberties, the extent to which citizens are able to participate in the selection of governments; independence of the media.

·Government Effectiveness -- the quality of public service provision, civil services’ competency and independence from political pressures; government’s ability to plan and implement sound policies.

·Rule of Law – the extent to which the public has confidence in and abides by rules of society, the incidence of violent and nonviolent crime, effectiveness and predictability of the judiciary, and the enforceability of contracts.

·Control of Corruption -- the frequency of "additional payments to get things done," effects of corruption on the business environment, "grand corruption” in the political arena, tendency of elites to engage in “state capture.”

·Encouraging Economic Freedom -- the regulations that affect business investment, such as the cost of starting a new business as a percentage of per capita income.

·Inflation – the most recent 12-month change in consumer prices as reported by the IMF or in another public forum by the relevant national monetary authorities.

·Fiscal Policy: overall budget deficit divided by gross domestic products (GDP), averaged over a three-year period.

·Days to Start a Business: how many days it takes to open a new business.

·Trade Policy -- openness to international trade based on average tariff rates and nontariff barriers to trade.

·Regulatory Quality -- burden of regulations on business, price controls, the government’s role in the economy, foreign investment regulation and many others.

·Public Expenditure on Health -- expenditures by the government at all levels on health divided by gross domestic product (GDP).

·Immunization: Average DPT3 (diphtheria, pertussis -- whooping cough -- and tetanus) and measles immunization rates for the most recent year available.

·Total Public Expenditure on Primary Education -- total expenditures by government at all levels on primary education divided by GDP.

·Girls’ Primary Completion Rate -- number of female students completing primary education divided by the population in the relevant age cohort.

The House of Representatives November 4 passed the final version of a $20.9 billion foreign spending bill that would provide $1.8 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) for FY06.

The press release about the eligible countries is available on the MCC Web site.
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United States Releases 2005 International Religious Freedom Report

"Countries of Particular Concern" include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan

By Alexandra AbboudWashington File Staff Writer

The U.S. Department of State released the seventh annual International Religious Freedom Report, which examines the status of religious freedom around the world.

The annual report to Congress, released November 8, is mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and seeks to examine barriers to religious freedom in 197 countries and territories. The report also notes countries in which conditions have improved and outlines U.S. actions to promote international religious freedom.

The 2005 report redesignates Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom. The same countries were listed as CPCs in the 2004 report.

The report reviews countries’ commitments to religious freedom and examines barriers to the free practice of religion in several countries, including CPCs.

According to the report, Georgia, India, Turkmenistan and United Arab Emirates have showed “significant improvement” in the protection and promotion of religious freedom through modification of legal and social barriers.

Some countries cited in the report curtail religious freedom by controlling religious expression and practice. These countries “regard some or all religious groups as enemies of the state because of their religious beliefs or their independence from central authority.”

Other countries named in the report allow the free practice of religion for established, majority religions but curtail religious freedom of “minority or non-approved” religions. These governments are “hostile and oppressive” toward minority religions and implement policies that “demand adherents to recant their faith, cause religious group members to flee the country, or intimidate and harass certain religious groups, or have as their principal effect the intimidation and harassment of certain religious groups,” according to the report.

The report also identifies countries that restrict religious freedom through state neglect or discrimination against or persecution of minority religions, discriminatory legislation or policies prejudicial to certain religious practices and denunciations of certain religions by affiliating them with dangerous "cults" or "sects."

The report concludes with an overview of U.S. efforts to promote and support international religious freedom through public advocacy and support of active monitoring of religious freedom conditions.

“The pursuit of religious liberty supports other freedoms, including speech, assembly, and conscience,” according to the report. “When the cause of religious freedom is furthered, so is the pursuit of democracy.”

The full text of the 2005 report and previous reports are available on the State Department Web site.
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Rule of Law Is Key to Advancing Democracy, Rice Says

United States will continue to aid countries in strengthening rule of law
Governments must support and promote the rule of law in their countries if democracy and freedom are to take hold, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“The advance of freedom and the success of democracy and the flourishing of human potential all depend on governments that honor and enforce the rule of law,” Rice said in her address to the American Bar Association’s International Rule of Law Symposium on November 9.

Rice outlined challenges and successes in the development of the rule of law, including what she called the biggest challenge facing the global community today: problems in individual states where governments are “unable or unwilling” to do what is necessary to foster the rule of law.

“In a world where threats pass even through the most fortified boundaries, weak and poorly governed states enable disease to spread undetected and corruption to multiply unchecked and hateful ideologies to grow more violent and more vengeful,” she said.

Rice outlined U.S. efforts to empower new democracies seeking to uphold the rule of law, including the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan. In those countries, the U.S. government has worked to train new police forces, build courthouses and train judges.

Rice said that the United States also is working to stop government corruption with financial incentives for transparency and fairness, and by helping citizens through international tribunals and special courts to bring to justice those guilty of crimes against their own citizens.

“Where weak governments possess the will but the lack of means to enforce the rule of law, we must empower them with the strength of our partnership,” she said.
The transcript of Secretary Rice’s remarks at the American Bar Association Rule of Law Symposium.
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State's Hughes Outlines Public Diplomacy Vision

Under secretary explains strategic pillars to women's foreign policy group

By Michael Jay Friedman
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes expressed confidence November 4 that the ideals of freedom would prevail over extremists bent on cloaking the murder of innocents with the mantle of religion.

Hughes addressed a luncheon honoring the 10th anniversary of the Washington-based Women’s Foreign Policy Group (WFPG), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes global engagement and the leadership, visibility and participation of women in international affairs.

The under secretary described a three-point strategic vision for prevailing in the conflict. First is the communication of a "positive vision of hope rooted in our belief in freedom and opportunity for all."

Citing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s "very significant" June 20 address at American University, Cairo, Hughes asserted that never before have democracy and human rights been as central to U.S. diplomacy. (See related article.)

Acknowledging that the pace of change differs in each nation, the under secretary nevertheless discerned "fresh winds of reform and change" in nations as diverse as Morocco, Kuwait, Ukraine and Georgia, as well as Iraq, where citizens defied terrorist threats to cast their ballots in free elections.

"People everywhere want to be heard," said Hughes. "They want to have their opinions count. They want to participate in their society. They want to live in freedom."

The second facet of U.S. public diplomacy, said Hughes, is an effort to isolate and marginalize the extremists by exposing their efforts "to appropriate religion in the name of their violent agenda." Noting that terrorists and insurgents in Iraq indiscriminately kill their fellow Muslims, Hughes declared that the murder of innocents never is justified.

The third strategic pillar, the under secretary said, is to foster "a sense of common interest and common purpose between Americans and people of different countries, cultures and faiths throughout the world."

People the world over, she asserted, want a quality education, economic opportunity and a better life for their children.

Creating such a sense of common interests and value, Hughes said, requires a humble approach. Public diplomacy therefore must be as much about listening, she said, as speaking.

As part of listening to voices in other societies, Hughes has directed U.S. embassies to set up meetings with citizens of other nations, young people especially. She said that what is heard will “help inform both our policy and the way we communicate our policy.”

The United States’ mission, Hughes said, is to create a climate in which the peoples of the world could give competing ideas a fair hearing and make a free choice. She expressed confidence they would choose freedom over tyranny, tolerance over extremism, diversity over rigid conformity and justice over injustice.

Hughes pledged to seek such a climate through what she called the “four E’s”: engage, exchange, educate and empower.

Engage, she said, calls for public diplomacy to advocate American ideas of freedom, and swift responses to disinformation in an age of Internet, satellite television and instant communication.
Exchange, the under secretary said, involves the international exchange programs that are the United States’ most successful public diplomacy tools. She promised to encourage more Americans to study and travel abroad and also to bring more people to the United States, where they can see a "generous and hard-working people who value family and faith."

Education, said Hughes, is the path to upward mobility for boys and girls the world over. She challenged Americans to become "better citizens of the world,” not least by mastering more languages as a tool to learn more about other countries and cultures. She praised Secretary Rice’s work toward formulating a strategic languages initiative to encourage American youth in this direction.

Empowerment, Hughes told her predominantly female audience, is of particular importance to women in the Arab world, whom a recent United Nations report depicted as “severely marginalized.” Societies that neglect the capabilities of their female population, the report said, cripple half their potential.

Hughes explained how empowering citizen ambassadors has proven particularly important in cases where the voices of American officials might not be effective and offered examples from her recent travels. She pledged to create a robust citizen ambassador program that will allow individual Americans to "share their unique stories and skills," and to help partner American women with women around the world.

President Bush, Hughes related, has expressed his belief that women will prove a great force for change in the Middle East.

Hughes promised to continue to build the “shared connections” that bring together people who want to live in peace and freedom.

Additional information is available on the Web site of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group.
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Iran North Korea Burma Worst Human Rights Abusers U.S. Says

U.N. General Assembly also discussing resolutions on Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

Washington -- Iran, North Korea, Burma, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Sudan have the worst human rights records in the world today and are the subjects of discussion in the General Assembly, U.S. human rights officials said November 9.

The 60th United Nations General Assembly's Third Committee currently is working on human rights issues and considering resolutions that deal with specific situations in several countries with serious human rights abuses. The United States is involved with several other countries in drafting and lobbying support for a series of resolutions on the worst cases in an effort to apply international pressure to change the situations.

IRAN

For the United States, the highest priority human-rights resolution in the General Assembly concerns the situation in Iran, according to Julieta Noyes of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The resolution is being sponsored by Canada, and the United States has joined as a co-sponsor.

"The Iranian government continues to deprive its people of the freedom that they seek and deserve through summary executions, disappearance, torture, restricted freedoms of speech, assembly and press," Noyes said November 9 during a press conference at the Foreign Press Center. "Women and minorities, including non-Muslims like the Baha'is, continue to be cruelly discriminated against."

Noyes pointed to the imprisonment by Tehran of Akbar Ganji, an advocate for representative and accountable government, as "a very serious violation" of human rights.

The Iranian Guardian Council of clerics, which is not elected, decided who could run in the last election, disqualifying more than a thousand candidates -- including all the women seeking office, she added. The elections failed to meet any international standards.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea, Noyes said, "remains the most oppressive in the world, denying its people the most basic freedoms of religion, conscience and speech, assembly and association …. People are totally barred from changing their government through elections and many people just choose to leave, become refugees in order to escape from the situation." (See U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.)

BURMA

Turning to Burma, Noyes said the already "very poor human rights situation in Burma is deteriorating." There are more than 1,000 political and religious prisoners, arrests of pro-democracy supporters continue and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is still in detention.

The goal of a European Union-sponsored resolution is to bring about "a meaningful, inclusive and credible dialogue about national reconciliation and democracy," Noyes said. (See U.S. Support for Democracy in Burma.)

TURKMENISTAN

Regarding Turkmenistan, Noyes said the United States has offered a resolution on the country, where the human rights situation is "extremely poor." (See related article.)

"Freedom of assembly, speech and the press are nonexistent" in Turkmenistan, she said. "Political opposition is strictly prohibited. The president, with a cult of personality, rules by decree" and none of the other government bodies has any real authority.

According to Noyes, the U.S.-sponsored resolution already has gained more than 25 co-sponsors.

UZBEKISTAN

The United States also is considering submitting a resolution demanding an independent, international investigation into the May events in Andijan, Uzbekistan, where government troops reportedly fired on and massacred hundreds of unarmed demonstrators and cracked down on journalists and human rights activists, Noyes said. (See related article.)

SUDAN

Another important human-rights resolution on Sudan is being sponsored by the European Union.

Khartoum's overall human rights record is extremely poor, but the January 9 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ending the 22-year-old civil war in the south offers the national unity government an opportunity to improve its human rights record throughout the country. The government can do so by establishing accountability for all the atrocities and reaching a political settlement in Darfur that would allow the refugees and displaced to return home with dignity, the State Department official said. (See Darfur Humanitarian Emergency.)

Noyes said that the international community is appalled by the continuing violence in Darfur and the grave humanitarian needs of more than 2 million people who have been displaced as a result of the violence in the province. "Government security forces there continue to be responsible for extra-judicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and they continue to act with impunity," she said.

CONGO

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the subject of another General Assembly resolution, there has been progress, Noyes also said.

A constitutional referendum is scheduled for December and general elections for next year, she pointed out. "This could be a turning point" for the DRC.

The United States hopes that the General Assembly will support efforts in the DRC to bring effective governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law to all the people in the DRC, Noyes said, and hopes that there will be no need for a DRC resolution next year.

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