Freedom in the World Report: A Roadmap for the Democratic Journey

January 27, 2016

Remarks in Washington, DC, on January 27, 2016.


Freedom in the World Report: A Roadmap for the Democratic Journey
Ambassador Maria Leissner, Secretary General of the Community of Democracies:

"Thank you for inviting me to participate in this important event. Today is also the international Holocaust Remembrance Day. You could not have chosen a more appropriate moment for the presentation of the 2016 Freedom in the World report, reminding us that freedom is not guaranteed solely by elections, and that also political majorities must respect human rights for freedom to exist and civilization to survive.
The report shows that even though democracy comes in many shapes and forms, its foundational elements remain the same regardless of a country’s wealth, location or cultural heritage.
These global principles of democracy, reflected in the work of Freedom House, are spelled out as 19 core democratic principles in the Warsaw Declaration, which 106 countries committed to uphold when they first met in 2000. An increasing number of repressive regimes – including a few that signed the Warsaw Declaration – are now trying to restrict these basic rights. As this year’s report spells out, we can look back at a decade of democratic recession, where an authoritarian surge is complemented by a creeping deterioration of the quality of democracy in the free world.
I am very concerned about the ongoing global struggle with those regimes who capture states to satisfy their hunger for un-legitimized power, as the report puts it: "sacrifice citizens’ safety for regime security.” But I am perhaps even more concerned to see   fundamental democratic principles under threat in stable democracies. We can see the beginnings of an alarming discourse celebrating majority elections while arguing against human rights, openly embracing the idea of illiberal democracy. We know where that road has taken us in the past.
The Community of Democracies is committed to strengthening the democratic global voice in an increasingly hostile environment. If democracy is a journey, then the annual report on Freedom in the World is our roadmap. The uncompromising assessment of the experts at Freedom House is a good indicator of where there are concerns, and where there is hope.
Today, more than 2.5 billion people are represented through their elected governments on our Governing Council, not counting the hundreds of millions represented through governments invited to participate in our Ministerial meetings.
That’s half of the planet, but it’s not enough. I look forward to the day when we can say that everyone lives in a country where the core democratic principles enshrined in the Warsaw Declaration are respected. The Freedom of the World report is an indispensable tool for achieving that goal.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to participate in today’s event."