of Mr. Reaz Rahman, State Minister for Foreign Affairs
in Round Table-
II: Regional Cooperation to promote Democracy at
the Second Ministerial conference of the Community
of Democracy: Seoul, Republic of Korea 10-12 November
am honored to represent Bangladesh in this Second
Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracy
in Seoul. The success of democracy in South Korea
and its remarkable economic growth eminently qualifies
this capital as the venue for holding this Conference.
overall theme of the conference “ Investing
for Peace and Prosperity” is particularly
apt and forward-looking. It underscores the fact
that democracy like development is a process. It
must be sustained over time. It is not a static
but dynamic state that must be constantly renewed
take this opportunity to thank the co-chairs (Mexico
and South Africa) for their excellent discussion
paper that focus the basis for deliberations of
Round Table-II: Regional Cooperation to Promote
Democracy. They have posed 4 fundamental questions
to focus our attention viz:
(i) What are the objectives for promoting democracy
through regional cooperation agreements.
Can this succeed through creation and development
of regional cooperation Agreements.
What policies can be adopted to counter regional
threats to democracy and would a collective action
mechanism serve this purpose?
Should the Seoul Plan of Action include for further
discussion and adoption, regional agreements for
cooperating in this promotion of democracy.
It is now well-recognized that some regions especially
Europe, the Americas and Africa have forged ahead
successfully in promoting democracy through regional
cooperation. Asia, fro well-known reasons is still
searching for political system
is appropriate to their nations particular needs
while moving towards adjustment to western style,
At the core of the regional experience in the EU,
the Americas and Africa are 3 critical trends:-
Support for basic principle in foundation documents
i.e. to promote, protect, improve democracy and
the key elements of development, human rights and
legality in both internal and external relations.
These principles are considered pre-requisite for
membership in the organization.
Internally, these regions have incorporated some
form of punitive clauses including suspension. It
was considered that breach of democratic order in
member countries was an “insurmountable obstacle
for participation of a member State.”
These regions have fostered democracy through specific
cooperation agreements that encourage open dialogue
and have established specific regional cooperation
mechanisms for its promotion.
It is in the light of the above that turn to examine
our own experience in the South Asian context.
fully agree with the basic concepts outlined in
the discussion paper and the analysis that the starting
point for regional cooperation in promoting democracy
is a minimum consensus on these concepts. A key
factor to be underscored is a duty to promote democracy
individually and collectively. This has important
bearing on the rationale for regional cooperation.
Bangladesh we believe that democracy embraces certain
core elements-people-centered participation, peaceful
succession of governments, political legitimacy,
accountability and transparency. There is a growing
perception that problems of democracy call for more
democracy. Two factors are paramount. We believe
that the essence of democracy is peaceful change.
Democracy does not always choose the best government.
It’s strength lies in the fact that it can
remove a bad government peacefully. Dictators can
only be removed violently. A crucial concomitant
is legitimacy, which vests in the people. A responsible
government must carry out the mandate of the people.
second key element is that without democracy a people’s
potential for socio-economic growth cannot flower.
The fight against poverty and steps to unlock growth
is our foremost challenge. Our experience has exploded
the myth for us, that only an authoritarian government
could ensure efficiency and take decisive steps.
Without mass participation, responsibility, accountability
and transparency, which democracy stands for, economic
and core values of society cannot be realized. Prime
Minister Begum Khaleda Zia succinctly put it when
she said and I quote:
is not merely a system of governance. Democracy
is a social system-a social life style. The measure
of democracy is the measure of the freedom of its
humblest citizen. For strengthening the base of
democracy there is no alternative to the ameliorisation
of the conditions of the common man. People are
the main driving force of development.”
turn now to the second issue-promoting democracy
through creation and development of regional cooperation
agreements. The discussion paper has laid down a
useful road map. However, I would like to reorder
the priorities as follows:
Review the state of democracy in different regions.
Identify features and traits common to our region.
Initiate inter-regional dialogue on democratic principles
Identify what is distinctive of a given regions
situation or democratic institutions.
Seek institutionalization of regional cooperation
to promote democracy-mechanisms and instruments
for this purpose.
Identify best democratic practices-innovative problem-solving
to strengthen promotion of democratic institutions.
Increase public awareness at regional level of what
standard of performance people should expect from
Support democratically elected governments in consolidation
of their democratic process.
Find ways to avoid & resolve obstacles and threats
to democracy on a regular basis.
In South Asia the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation emerged in 1985 as a harmonizing force.
The promotion of democracy was not especially mentioned
as a charter objective. However, the key motif force
of its socio-economic mandate was improving visibly
the quality of life of the common people of South
Asia in an environment of peace. This was the guiding
vision of SAARC’s founding father, late President
Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh.
its inception, important forward movement has taken
place. Institutional structures have been established.
Regional identity and a sense of cooperation has
grown. The communication and information gap has
been closed. The Integrated Programme of Action
(IPA) has led to a web of inter-action over 18 areas
of cooperation. Many Conventions, Treaties and Agreements
have been reached. Meanwhile, the annual summits
have focused on key issues and forged cooperation
and understanding on such matters as poverty alleviation,
promotion of trade, eradication of diseases, empowerment
of women, spread of literacy, the fight against
relevant, in the context of this conference, was
the network of contacts established between people
to people and the policy makers and civil society.
They were able to share experiences “ on best
practices” and to form a regional pool of
knowledge. The Association of SAARC Speakers and
Parliamentarians held three meetings and forged
close understanding. Mean while, as the Representative
of Nepal has highlighted there were six meetings
between South Asian Chief Justices and nine meetings
of SARRC Law. All these constitute fertile ground
for enhancing democracy. Good prospects thus exist
for specifically discussing institutionalization
of democracy and developing regional cooperative
the third issue of countering regional threats to
democracy and creation of a collective action mechanism,
suffice it to say that in South Asia two factors
continue to have great influence:
Tolerance for differing political, economic and
social systems. This was a mainstay of NAM.
Our belief that democracy cannot be imposed. It
is only promoted through example and persuasion.
it is to be noted that five of seven countries of
South Asia belong to the Commonwealth, which has
the mechanism of the CMAG (Commonwealth Ministerial
Action Group) that monitors and seeks to preserve
democracy and its practices and principles and is
armed with punitive powers of suspension. Currently
the Foreign Ministers of both Bangladesh and India
are part of the 8 member Action Group.
conclusion, and as the fourth point, Bangladesh
is in emphatic agreement that the Seoul Action Plan
should include further discussion and adoption of
regional agreements for cooperation in the promotion