Call to ‘strengthen and sustain’ Community of Democracies



U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that North Korea’s continuing missile tests threaten the entire world and stressed the United States was working closely with regional allies Japan and South Korea on the problem, Reuters reports.

“In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive and isolated regime in North Korea threatens democracies in South Korea, Japan, and more importantly, and more recently, has expanded those threats to the United States, endangering the entire world,” Tillerson said to a gathering of the Community of Democracies.

“We first look to our regional allies South Korea and Japan. By working with them and other democratic partners, we continue to build consensus at the United Nations Security Council to create a united international front that upholds our values and strives to make us safer,” he told the meeting, held on the International Day of Democracy.

Tillerson called on member states to strengthen and sustain their commitment to democratic values and practices.

“Democracy is the only political system that contains an institutional capacity for self-correction, one that grants its citizens the right to participate in how and by whom they are governed,” he said. “And that is why we support the expansion of freedom and democracy throughout the world.”

“At a time of growing efforts to undermine democracy, it is all the more critical that we work together to bolster and promote this form of governance,” he added. “So despite the challenges of our day, now is not the time to step back from our democratic commitments. Now is the time to strengthen and sustain them.”

The CD is committed to three priorities, said Thomas Garrett (left), the group’s new role secretary-general: the correlation between democracy and security; democracy and development; and strengthening civic space.

“One of the things we have learned in the CoD over 17 years and, that I’ve seen in my other work, is that democracy is never a finished product, there is never going to be a day that we say ‘our democracy is complete,’” he said.

“Democracies are always evolving and changing. We don’t have one standard that would say ‘this is what a democracy is. We understand that democracies have various forms,” said Garrett, formerly with the International Republican Institute, a core affiliate of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The Ninth Community of Democracies (CD) Governing Council Ministerial convened the CD’s 30-member Governing Council, participating states, and civil society.

Many of the CD participants “come from countries where activists have risked violence or imprisonment to promote democracy within their countries,” said House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer.

“Yesterday, I met with several dissidents from Russia who are struggling to promote democracy amid the Putin regime’s crackdown on basic freedoms,’ he added. “They reminded me that American support for democracy abroad is not something that gets in the way of our foreign policy but a core component of it.

The United States and Poland founded the Community of Democracies in June 2000 as a vehicle to build a global network of governments and civil society to strengthen security, prosperity, and respect for human rights around the world, the State Department notes, adding that the event marks the culmination of the two-year U.S. presidency of the Community of Democracies.

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