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Is the Community of Democracies Coming of Age?

Posted on the 28 November 2011 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal
Is the Community of Democracies Coming of Age?


That was the question tackled by a panel of experts at last week’s event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and moderated by Thomas Carothers, Carnegie’s Vice President for Studies. Community of Democracies (CoD) was founded in 2000 in Warsaw through the initiative of the then Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bronisław Geremek, and the former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. The idea was to create a global intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries meant to promote democratic rules and strengthen democratic norms and institutions around the world.

During the first decade of its existence, the CoD went through a good deal of growing pains. A lot of time and effort were spent on arguing which countries qualify as democracies and who should be invited to the next ministerial meeting, not enough on defining actionable goals and ways for the members to work together. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm for the CoD project gradually diminished. But that has recently changed and today the organization is undergoing a crucial revival.

The Arab Spring was a wake-up call for democracies around the world and a perfect opportunity for CoD members to come together and aid the emerging democracies of the MENA region. The CoD also came up with new practical initiatives such as Corporate Democracy Forum to advise the Community on issues and activities that promote democracy from a business perspective and facilitate partnership between businesses and business associations in the democratic process.

The organization also improved its internal governance to become more effective in fulfilling its role. Earlier this year, the Governing Council was established as CoD’s new governing body. The Council consists of a small group of countries willing to “do heavy lifting” as one of the speakers, Tomicah Tillemann, Senior Adviser for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies at the U.S. Department of State put it. Those countries committed to concrete actions aimed at strengthening civil society in non-democratic countries and supporting democratic transitions.

Samantha Power from the Executive Office of the President noted that this change allowed CoD to transform from an aspirational forum to an operational platform for democracies to get things done through sharing lessons learned, coalition building, and providing technical assistance. Another important change has also taken place as CoD expanded over time. Evaldas Ignatavicius, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, emphasized that it is no longer a club of Western democracies but a much more inclusive organization. The best illustration of that was the presence at the event of Suren Badral, Ambassador-at-Large to the Community of Democracies for Mongolia, a country that currently serves as CD’s Chair.

So is the Community of Democracy coming of age? Finally, yes.

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