Statement by Secretary General Thomas E. Garrett on the anniversary of the Warsaw Declaration

June 27, 2023 

Today, the Member States of the Community of Democracies (CoD) celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the CoD and its founding document, the Warsaw Declaration.

The Warsaw Declaration speaks to all people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and sets out 19 key principles for the effective functioning of democracy. Among these are human rights-based principles such as freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of the press; equal right to education; or freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. Equally important, the Warsaw Declaration defines the essential standards of democratic governance, including free and fair elections; the right of the elected to form a government; civilian, democratic control over the military; and the obligation of an elected government to refrain from extra-constitutional actions.

A different reality exists in autocratic and hybrid regimes, where citizens’ protests are met with harsh repressions, arbitrary detentions are a grim reality for those who dare to criticize a government, and winning elections does not equal assuming office. In functioning democracies, where free elections are held regularly, citizens express grievances through peaceful protests, and journalists report without the fear of being persecuted for holding the government accountable, some may take democracy for granted. But as history teaches, no democracy is entirely immune to backsliding.

In 2023, when democratic values and institutions are often challenged and undermined by internal and external factors, the Warsaw Declaration principles remain timely and relevant. Enhanced protection and promotion of these shared values are critical to make established democracies stronger and more resilient and to support people’s desire for freedom in transitioning or non-democratic countries.