Speaking points by Hon. Emma Bonino - 1-3 October 2005
Excellences, Mesdames et messieurs,
Tout dâ€™abord, permettez-moi de vous dire combien je suis contente, mĂŞme Ă©muĂ©e dâ€™ĂŞtre Ă Rabat, Ă ce colloque, pour parler de dĂ©mocratie et dialogueâ€¦ en effet le Maroc a Ă©tĂ© pour moi une Ă©cole de dialogue, de ses difficultĂ©s, mais aussi de son importance comme mĂ¨thode notamment sur des dossiers difficiles. Câ€™Ă©tait il y a dix ans: jâ€™Ă©tais commissaire, entre autre, Ă la pĂŞche, un dossier Â«Â mineurÂ Â» , on mâ€™avait dit, mais combien difficile, passionnant et Ă©motionnel. Les amis Marocains sâ€™en souviendront certainement...on a dialoguĂ© tout lâ€™Ă©tĂ© 1995, sur un accord de pĂŞche, avec des crispations importantes: je ne sais plus combien de thĂ¨ jâ€™ai bu. Combien de cacahouettes, de dattes et dâ€™amandes jâ€™ai avalĂ©. Et pourtant aprĂ¨s trois mois, on Ă©tait encore Ă lâ€™article 1...mais Ă la fin on a rĂ©ussi, et ce stage accelerĂ© de negociations et dialogue, avec ses moments pĂ©nibles, cette UniversitĂ© dâ€™Ă©tĂ© avec ses moments joyeux, a laissĂ¨ en moi un souvenir positif important.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by saying not only what is expected, but what I feel sincerely, to express my thanks to the organisers of this Colloquium, the Governments of Morocco and Italy and their NGO partners from each country, No Peace Without Justice and Maroc 2020, in cooperation with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and the Italian Cooperation.
This International Colloquium forms an integral part of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, which â€“ as you know â€“ comes within the framework of the Forum for the Future, whose first meeting was held here in Rabat just under a year ago.
The Forum for the Future deals with many significant programs,: notably microfinance â€“led by Jordan and yemen- education (Jordan), literacy (Afganistan and Algeria), vocational training (Japan).
One of these programmes is the Democracy assistant dialogue, but in my opinion is one of the most critical: its about democracy and how the power of dialogue can be harnessed to achieve and maintain democracy. This is important: I believe, as many others do, that democracy and the rule of law is the â€śleast worst system in order to promote human and economic developmentâ€ť. So any tool we can use to achieve democracy should be exploited to its fullest potential.
I have to admit that nearly two years ago, when I had the privilege of addressing delegates at the Sanaâ€™a Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court, I was almost overcome. Words really could not express my feelings. It seemed to me an extraordinary and exciting thing that governments of the region had come together to discuss such complex and sensitive issues. Not only that, but they were willing to discuss these issues with civil society and, furthermore, to undertake the important commitments in the Sanaâ€™a Declaration in front of non-state actors from their own countries.
This in itself â€“ and particularly at that time â€“ was such a unique experience, such a tremendous experience, it would have been easy to say we have achieved the goal. But we in No Peace Without Justice and in the Transnational Radical Party share one very important characteristic with all of you: we are never satisfied with less than the best.
The principle we reaffirm today, recognising that consultation is a mutually enriching process that is not only desirable but necessary for democratic reform, will serve us well in the future. The thing we all have to remember is that democracy is a fragile system, an evolving process that needs monitoring and care to help it take root and flourish. Its hard to win, too easy to erode, but worth every minute of the constant vigilance it needs from all actors, both state and non-state. And that process is so much easier and is so much more likely to succeed and reach a better result when people come together, like you have today, to enter into dialogue. To talk together, on the basis of a mutual recognition as legitimate counterparts in the democracy-building and â€“tending process.
But what does it mean, this democracy weâ€™re all talking about, because as we all know, words can sometimes have two meanings. What do we think democracy is: is it elections? Institutions? The process? What does it need to make it work? How can it promote human development? Since democracy is all about governance by the will and consent of the governed, many of these answers can only be found through a home-grown process. Only you can provide the specifics to make democracy work in your own situations, your own countries.
Letâ€™s talk about the vote. Itâ€™s a basic building block of any democratic process, a critical way for the people to express their will and consent to be governed and by whom. So the first question is whether people have the right to vote and under what conditions. In this weâ€™ve seen some progress, a growing call through the region, with elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, in Iraq and in Egypt. The next question that will almost inevitably be faced by any democracy is what do you do when the people donâ€™t exercise their right to vote? Unfortunately and in other â€śwell-establishedâ€ť democracies, we know this only too well and to be frank with you, I would like to hear your ideas on how to engage an apathetic electorate, how to make them engaged and how to involve them in their electoral systems. These are current and critical issues, not only in the region but virtually everywhere: the specific solutions may not be the same, but the problem is a common one.
Letâ€™s talk about political parties. Through the vote, political parties can be an effective vehicle to allow the electorate to have a real choice about how they are governed and by whom. But what characteristics or rules are needed to help them play that role? Some ideas are that they should have internal democracy, transparency, a clear and defined political platform and systems to allow representation of the under-represented. So how can this be achieved? For example, quotas can be an effective system for political parties to achieve this last goal, for example to ensure a certain percentage of women are on the party lists. Of course, political quotas for party lists are one thing, but quotas for other things, like Parliaments, are quite different: let no-one say that a competent and capable Parliamentarian is only in the chamber because of gender, not because she won her seat on merit.
Letâ€™s talk about the media. I donâ€™t want to talk about freedom of the media as a human right, although it is a human right. Letâ€™s talk about it as a means to achieve something else. Education. Information. Choice. Arming the public, the people, with the tools they need to play their part in the democratic process and in public life. Because, it seems to me, an uninformed public with the vote is almost as undesirable a situation as an informed public without the vote. How can we address this? Democratic education should begin in schools, to prepare the next generation to take an active and informed interest in politics and in public life. But over the next few days, letâ€™s explore the role that the media can play in informing the current generation, to help people now to become active participants in the democratic life of their country.
These are some of the core common issues that we have opportunity to discuss over the next day and a half. There are many others. What problems do you face, nationally and regionally, in the expression of democracy? How does the status of political parties affect their ability to participate in public life and be an effective vehicle to represent the will of the people? What does the media need to function effectively and play its part in maintaining a democratic system? What are the problems that you can solve, that we can solve, with common approaches?
Let me say it again: a common approach. In reality, the best solutions, the solutions that will lead to democratic reform, are found through consultation and dialogue, government and non-state actors working together. So I have a small suggestion that I hope will facilitate finding this common approach. My friends in government, donâ€™t fear the views you will hear expressed over the next couple of days; listen with an open mind and remember that non-state actors are a constituency that have proved to be constructive in reform in other areas, like environmental protection, to name but one. They can give the same constructive and productive input here, on issues of democratic reform. To the non-state actors here, dear friends, the same suggestion. Listen with an open mind, and donâ€™t ask for the moon: grasp this opportunity you have to discuss these critical issues with your government counterparts and use this opportunity to work together, to listen to each other and find common solutions. We are intending to bring the results of this Colloquium to the next meeting of the Forum for the Future in Manama in November, so help us present your perspective, your common goals and aspirations, during that meeting.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, friends, I would like most of all to thank you all for coming here to this beautiful city to devote your thoughts, time and energy to the critical issues we have come together to discuss. In the spirit of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, I will conclude by reminding you that the role you are playing here over the next day and a half is an important step towards ensuring that dialogue can assist democracy to enrich the lives of all of us.