Invitations for Global Club of Democracies Deemed “Largely Credible”, Freedom House, 6 Sept 2007

The Community of Democracies, a global club for the world’s old and new democracies, has decided which governments merit invitation to its meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for November in Bamako, Mali. The end result, after months of deliberations, is “largely credible,” according to a consortium of groups monitoring the process.

The final list of 126 participating and 20 observer states, issued by the Government of Mali as chair of the body’s steering committee, follows recommendations made in February by an independent panel of high-level experts, with some notable exceptions.

The diverse group of 16 governments that make up the Community of Democracies Convening Group, which is responsible for issuing invitations to the club’s fourth ministerial meeting, decided not to invite Thailand, Fiji, Singapore, Qatar, Venezuela, Bangladesh and Tunisia, all of whom had participated in or observed the last meeting held in Santiago in 2005. Their exclusion is consistent with the recommendations of the experts panel and underscores the Convening Group’s determination to keep out those governments which have failed to uphold the democracy and human rights commitments of the group.

Notably, the Convening Group decided to downgrade both Russia and Nigeria from participant to observer status for the upcoming Bamako meeting. Given the high profile of these two countries, this decision sends a clear signal to the international community that current trends of respect for democracy and human rights in both countries are on the decline.

To be credible, the Community of Democracies must hold all states to the same universal standards of democracy and human rights adopted by the Community itself. In this light, the Convening Group has not strictly upheld the association’s criteria for participation in its decision to invite both Afghanistan and Iraq as full participants. The experts panel had recommended Afghanistan be invited as an observer due to persistent governmental instability and its effect on advancing human rights; it advised that Iraq not be invited at all due to the continuing inability to establish an accountable state there.

Several other country invitations demonstrate that there is still further work to be done to ensure that all states are held to the same standards for future meetings. The Convening Group was lenient, for example, with regard to keeping some countries, such as Bahrain, Jordan, Malaysia and Yemen, as participants despite a downward trend in democratic standards and human rights. They also maintained several questionable countries in the observer category (Egypt, Oman, Burkina Faso and Azerbaijan) despite recommendations by the experts panel to not invite, and moved several new countries that are not making sufficient progress (Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, and Uganda) to the observer category for the Bamako meeting.

The independent experts panel, composed of over a dozen former heads of state, parliamentarians, human rights experts and academics from around the world, delivered recommendations based on a comprehensive assessment of how well governments are meeting the club’s standards of democracy and human rights. The panel was formed on the belief that the value of the Community of Democracies rests largely on the character of its membership. By requiring a regular review of democratic principles and practices, the Community of Democracies process acknowledges that democracy is not an end-state but a process in which states may advance on or fall away from the path of democracy.

The experts panel, known as the International Advisory Committee (IAC), welcomes the Convening Group’s invitation to continue the fruitful relationship that has formed, and looks forward to continued collaboration to ensure that the invitations process for the Community of Democracies is transparent, credible, and legitimate.

The International Advisory Committee was supported by research and analysis conducted by a Secretariat composed of the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany), the Center for Democratic Development (Ghana), the Democracy Coalition Project (USA) and Freedom House (USA).

The Community of Democracies, a global grouping of democratic and democratizing states, was launched in Warsaw in 2000 as a forum for strengthening international cooperation for democracy and human rights promotion. Its participants also have established a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations for the purpose of coordinating common positions on democracy and human rights at the world body.

A chart comparing the Community of Democracies invitation status of all UN member states since the first meeting in Warsaw in 2000 can be found below. (Click here)

To read the International Advisory Committee’s recommendations, click here.

Click here for the PDF version of this press release

Click here for the International Advisory Committee country report on Singapore