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Mission statement

Why DPC?

The new millennium has seen some spectacular democratic breakthroughs – the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, the "Rose Revolution” in Georgia, the "Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, the "Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon, the successful democratic elections in Liberia, and last year’s breakthrough in Nepal. But much of the world’s population still lives under dictatorial rule. While many of these dictatorships regularly find themselves in the news – think of Burma, China, North Korea, Belarus, Sudan, and Iran – others rarely face exposure in the mainstream press. Relapses into authoritarianism also threaten states undergoing democratization. Established democracies have an obligation to actively counter the efforts of dictatorships to support each other in the collaborative oppression of their populations – a worrying trend especially pronounced in Russia’s "near abroad” of Central Asia, where China is also increasingly engaged. China’s increasingly important role in support of African dictatorships is most blatant in the case of Sudan and Zimbabwe, but is by no means limited to these dire regimes.

The democracies of the world have long talked about promoting peaceful democratic change, but their actual policies only occasionally employ a strategic, coordinated approach to that end; whatever coordination there is tends to be ad hoc. And since the adoption of the "freedom agenda” by the Bush administration following the launch of the war in Iraq, the environment for democracy promotion has become more fraught and contentious.

The retrospective use of the democratization agenda to legitimize U.S.-led engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan has created a situation where many, especially in Europe but elsewhere as well, recoil from the promotion of democratic change, associating it with these wars and seeing it as a front for the projection of American power. The "outposts of tyranny” listed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, and Belarus – all deserved the label; but it did not escape notice that none of these countries had a good working relationship with the United States. By contrast, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and (until 2005) Uzbekistan did, and none of them made the list. The systematic soft-pedaling of criticism of "friendly” dictators – by no means a preserve of the U.S. – has only deepened the factual basis for cynicism about democratization. Democratization is now dividing the democracies.

Yet to allow democratization policy to become a mere political prop ignores the genuine democratic aspirations of broad swathes of humanity still suffering under dictatorship. The outrage professed by European policy-makers and opinion leaders over the U.S./U.K.-led invasion of Iraq, often phrased in terms of international law and human rights, is diminished by European coziness with autocrats around the world. European capitals shared with Washington for most of this decade a weakness for the evolving dictatorship of Vladimir Putin in Russia (a romance that finally seems to have cooled) and for oil-rich dictatorships from Kazakhstan to Libya to Gabon. The European Union, while a proven engine for consolidating democratic change in post-socialist Eastern and Central Europe, has yet to develop a credible democracy promotion strategy beyond its borders as part of its Common Foreign and Security Policy. The mercantilist and amoral policies that thrive in this policy vacuum, and the perception that the EU is weak on democratization, have further undermined its authority vis-à-vis dictatorial governments.

Where Europe and the United States have supported democratization efforts together, for example in Belarus, Ukraine, the Balkans, and West Africa, lessons have yet to be learned from successes and failures. Promoting and assisting peaceful democratic change requires carefully calibrated implementation. If the effort to assist in the establishment of democracy is to succeed, it will require an understanding of local contexts, lessons from other contexts, and policy-making processes in Europe and the United States.

What is the Democratization Policy Council?

The Democratization Policy Council (DPC) aims to address these issues through research, analysis, and advocacy, promoting a democratization agenda that can be adopted and employed in a coordinated manner by a critical mass of established democracies. DPC’s founders believe that through a coordinated and strategic approach, the world’s existing democracies can assist in the acceleration of the trend for peaceful democratic change, and that they have a responsibility and interest to do so.

In pursuit of these goals, DPC intends to:
• advocate that all democratic states adopt foreign policies to facilitate and actively assist the spread of liberal democracy, and that these polices be coordinated through mechanisms including the Democracy Caucus at the UN and the Community of Democracies;
• shame ostensible proponents of democratization when they fail to conform their policies to their rhetoric, and point to realistic alternatives that address competing policy goals;
• give a new voice to local democracy activists in countries affected by the policies of established democracies, especially the U.S. and EU members;
• develop constructive policy recommendations for country-specific democratization initiatives; and
• advocate implementation of such policies by the EU, the United States, and other established democracies.