Friday, June 22, 2007

How Not To Spread Democracy

The following passages have been excerpted from a speech delivered by Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, to Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Conference on Democracy in Contemporary Global Politics entitled "Hypocrisy, Democracy, War and Peace."

Evans describes some of the many flaws in our Western approach to spreading democracy, particularly hypocrisy:

"...what people most associate with politicians as a class, and most hate about them as a result, is hypocrisy, and all the familiar variations on that basic theme: double-standards, unprincipled inconsistency, saying one thing and doing another.

Hypocrisy and Democracy

"There are quite a few things we've learned about democracy promotion over the last few years, and most of them have emerged pretty clearly in course of discussion at this conference, so I will not labour too long over familiar ground.

"First, it is obvious now to just about everyone that democracy – or at least liberal democracy, the only kind that means anything – is about much more than holding elections. Protection of human rights, especially minority rights and those related to freedom of expression, and respect for the rule of law, are indispensable concomitants.

"Secondly, it is rather obvious now to everyone, except perhaps those most capable of doing it, that bombing for democracy – trying to deliver it on the tip of precision guided missiles, as my Crisis Group colleague Chris Patten puts it – is not, on the whole, a very good idea.

"Thirdly, and maybe not so obviously, democracy promotion can be rather bad news for democrats. I am thinking in particular of the cries of anguish we have been hearing recently from civil society and human rights activists in Iran, who have – following the US announcement that large dollops of democracy funding will be headed their way – been subjected to a rapid increase in state repression. the very least we should be asking first those in whose interests we are supposed to be acting. Fighting for our principles to the last drop of someone else's blood is never very edifying.

"The fourth big thing we should have learned about democracy promotion, is that inconsistency is totally counterproductive: it is wholly damaging to the cause to advocate the case for democracy only when you are sure the that democratic process will produce an outcome you like.

"It has not been a pretty sight in this respect to watch the almost universal Western disavowal of Hamas after it won the Palestinian election that the West had so enthusiastically supported. An International Crisis Group report shortly after that election argued strongly that the international community needed to focus on encouraging Hamas to govern responsibly, not to force it out of government or make the government unworkable by imposing conditions that nobody believed could be immediately met, and we summarised the Hamas response as we found it as 'let us govern or watch us fight'.

"Another less than edifying experience has been the constant wriggling of Western, and in particular U.S. policymakers, in the face of Pervez Musharaff's continuing authoritarian rule in Pakistan, and in particular the contempt that continues to be expressed by so many of them – more veiled in public, but often quite open in private – toward the democratic parties as they struggle, with signs of growing popular and elite support, to recover ground.

"Of course we have to face the prospect in the Islamic world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, that if full electoral democracy is introduced there is a prospect that Islamists will be elected – and a risk that cannot be ignored that the first such democratic election might be the last: Hitler was after all democratically elected. But it is absolutely critical to recognize that 'Islamism' or Islamic activism is not a single-stranded phenomenon, and that it is only a small minority of Islamists – which are in turn only a minority of Muslims – that would even be tempted to go down this absolutist path. "

The complete text of the speech can be found here:

1 comment:

Red Tory said...

Evans puts states the obvious in a very compelling way. The neo-conservative project has been a complete failure and yet... many still don't seem to get it. Sad really.