US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirmed on Wednesday that the US administration supports democratic change but recognizes that true democracy is far beyond holding elections.
“The United States supports democratic change. It is in line with our values and our interests. We support citizens working to make their governments more open, transparent and accountable”, said Clinton in the opening session of the dialogue with civil society representatives.
“We uphold the universal rights of every person to live freely, to have your voice heard and your vote count. And we want to work with all partners, governments, the private sector, civil society, the entire cross-section that gives us the chance to make real and lasting change”, she added.
Clinton addressed the recent developments in Tunis and Egypt saying “we have watched with great anticipation as they have stood up for their rights and aspirations”.
“If we are going to take advantage of this historic moment, we have to tap the expertise, experience and energy of civil society”, she added.
“Thousands of global civil society representatives are participating either by person at the State Department or via interactive video conferences at 50 of our embassies around the world,” she said.
Clinton noted that “across the Middle East today, we see people calling on governments to be more open, more accountable, more responsive. They want a stronger voice in their own affairs. They want to be treated fairly and with dignity”.
“It is in the interests of governments to answer these demands, to reflect the will of their own people. Countries with vibrant and representative institutions settle differences, not in the streets, but in city halls and parliament buildings”, she added.
Clinton affirmed that the US administration recognizes that “true and sustainable democracy is about far more than elections. Each society will work to realize its own democratic values and build its own democratic institutions in its own way, because we also recognize the uniqueness of culture and history and experience”.
“But let me be clear. Our support for democracy and human rights is not about siding for or against either governments or citizens. This is about standing up for universal principles and for those in and out of government who support them”, she concluded.