The United States thanks the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for hosting this discussion on the common challenges facing States in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law. We welcome collaborative dialogue on this critical issue.
Democracy does not belong to any single region, and although expressions of democracy may vary, the underlying principles are universal. The past three decades have borne that out: from East Asia to Latin America, democracy has taken root around the world. Over the last four years we have witnessed a historic moment of democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa. The United States has supported, and will continue to support, those who struggle to fulfill their democratic aspirations. We call upon all States to do the same.
We emphasize that democracy depends upon respect for human rights and the rule of law, and that they are mutually reinforcing. We welcome the report’s conclusions that a robust, well functioning civil society is essential to democracy and the rule of law. That is why the United States remains the leading contributor to the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), which empowers civil society organizations in communities around the world to build, support, and strengthen democracies. The success of this organization reflects that a strong civil society catalyzes and sustains democratization.
We are alarmed, however, by the trend of governments trying to restrict civil society through laws that constrain NGO registration and funding. Whether a country is deepening its commitment to democracy or navigating the challenges of a democratic transition, civil society must be strong, free and operate inclusively, empowering those voices that are sometimes excluded or marginalized. We encourage all governments, especially those working to secure democracy and rule of law from a human rights perspective, to find ways to strengthen civil society.
We commend the good work that is already being done, but reaffirm our belief that more needs to be done to counter growing restrictions on civil society worldwide.