Season’s Greetings from the Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett

Dear Friends of the Community of Democracies,

We entered this year with expectations for a gathering of democracies in the Tenth Ministerial Conference, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Warsaw Declaration adopted by 106 countries in June 2000. Instead, 2020 brought a new challenge, one touching every person on earth and stretching democracies’ capacity. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing threats to fundamental freedoms as emergency measures to protect citizens were, in some cases, misused to restrict democracy and human rights.

The Tenth Ministerial was postponed until 2021, while the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Declaration took place, albeit online. The Governing Council took this unique opportunity to discuss the relevance of the Warsaw Declaration’s principles in today’s challenging times, and twenty-nine nations agreed that the cure for the pandemic should not be worse than the crisis itself. “Democracies should respond to the global pandemic through renewed adherence to democratic principles of the Warsaw Declaration,” stated the Bucharest Anniversary Statement, adopted at the CoD Anniversary Conference in June 2020. Our shared responsibility in 2021 will be turning the pledge of this Statement into true effect.

Throughout the year, the CoD held several digital events that brought together governments, civil society, youth networks, and the private sector from Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. A wide range of democracy-related issues was discussed, from the impact of COVID-19 to advancing women’s participation in public life, supporting youth empowerment, and embracing new technologies to support democratic governance. The events presented diverse views and perspectives and highlighted the belief that effective responses to the pandemic must be based on respect for human rights and democratic values. They also underlined that multilateralism and democratic solidarity is vital in responding to the pandemic and addressing shared challenges.

In December, we commemorated Human Rights Day, another opportunity in 2020 to assert that human rights must be central to recovery from the pandemic. Principle 19 of the Warsaw Declaration provided the core message of the Community of Democracies: “That all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social be promoted and protected as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to the CoD Presidency of Romania and His Excellency Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu for the Community of Democracies’ leadership. Also, I want to thank the Governing Council Member States for their contributions and fruitful cooperation, and my gratitude to the dedicated staff at the Permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies for their commitment and swift transition to work in a new reality.

As we approach the New Year of 2021, I wish you a healthy and peaceful holiday season.