Home .Governing globalization Clinton on democracy in Asia
Clinton on democracy in Asia
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 20:28

There is no better person than Hillary Clinton to remind us of the importance of democracy in Asia.

Here are some extracts from her three recent speeches in Mongolia.  Let's hope that China reads them.

"...it is important we dispel the myth that democracy is somehow antithetical to Asian values and Asian experience and Asian history and Asian aspirations. People everywhere want a voice and a vote in the decisions that affect their lives, and they deserve governments that protect their rights and respect their dignity."

"During the past five years, Asia has been the only region in the world to achieve steady gains in political rights and civil liberties, according to the nongovernmental organization Freedom House."

"Consider Thailand, which has overcome sharp political differences and military rule to restore democratic governance. The people of Taiwan recently held vigorous but peaceful presidential elections. And Timor-Leste, Asia’s youngest democracy, held parliamentary elections just this weekend. The Philippines held elections that were widely praised as a significant improvement over previous ones, and also they launched a concerted effort to fight corruption and increase transparency in government. In India, the world’s largest democracy, more than 1 million women have served in local elected offices in villages and cities across the country, working every day, and producing results that improve the lives of citizens."

"And consider all that has been achieved in Burma. After decades of military rule, the government there released political prisoners, passed laws allowing the formation and operation of political parties, taken steps to protect the freedom of expression, and has begun to make efforts to heal bitter ethnic divisions. And Aung San Suu Kyi, who for decades was the imprisoned conscience of her nation, is now able to speak freely and take her rightful place serving in parliament."

"These and other achievements across the region show what is possible. And they stand in stark contrast to those governments that continue to resist reforms, that work around the clock to restrict people’s access to ideas and information, to imprison them for expressing their views, to usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders, to govern without accountability, to corrupt the economic progress of the country and take the riches onto themselves."

"Those who oppose democracy rely on a few arguments, which we must counter at every turn."

"Their first argument is that democracy threatens stability. But in fact, democracy fosters stability. It is true that clamping down on political expression or maintaining a tight grip on what people read or say or see can create the illusion of security, but illusions fade because people’s yearning for liberty do not. By contrast, democracy provides a critical safety valve for society. It allows people to select their leaders, it gives those leaders legitimacy to make difficult but necessary decisions for the national good, and it lets those in the minority express their views peacefully, and that helps ensure stability and continuity through political transitions."

"Another argument we sometimes hear is that democracy is a privilege belonging to wealthy countries, that developing economies need to put economic growth first and worry about democracy later. Now Asia does have several examples of countries that have achieved initial economic successes without meaningful political reform, but that too is a shortsighted and ultimately unsustainable bargain. You cannot over the long run have economic liberalization without political liberalization. Countries that want to be open for business but closed to free expression will find the approach comes with a cost. It kills innovation, discourages entrepreneurship which are vital for sustainable growth. Without the rule of law, people with a good business idea or money to invest cannot trust that contracts will be respected and corruption punished, or that regulations will be transparent and disputes resolved fairly, and many will end up looking for opportunities elsewhere."

"Countries that deny their workers their universal rights, including the right to unionize, pay a cost in lost productivity and greater labor unrest. And furthermore, it’s a losing battle because when economic empowerment finally takes root, when a middle class is formed, popular demands grow for a say in politics and governance. Anyone who doubts that political openness and prosperity go hand-in-hand only have to look to South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan – democratic societies that have delivered tremendous economic benefits. Or look right here in Mongolia, where gross domestic product is growing by double digits. And we’ve seen very clearly that parliamentary elections go hand-in-hand with greater economic opportunity."

"Advancing democracy ... is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing as well. Democracies are more stable, more capable partners with vibrant open economies that can foster innovation and new ideas, and the world needs more of that. And although every country’s democratic journey is unique, there are universal principles we share and that’s what I think brings us together – to support each and to help emerging democracies succeed."

"If there is one characteristic that every strong democracy in the world shares, it is that they are fully open to all of their citizens – men and women – and a democracy without the participation of women is a contradiction in terms."

"This is the right time to be reminding ourselves about the importance of democracy in Asia as many countries grapple with the question of which model of governance best suits their societies and circumstances, because the path they choose will shape the lives of billions of people of the region and beyond."

These are most certainly great thoughts and words. 


US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia July 9, 2012
Remarks to the Launch of Leaders Engaged in New Democracies Network
Remarks at the Community of Democracies Governing Council.  
Remarks to the International Women's Leadership Forum 

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