The CoD Civil Society Pillar Annual Meeting STATEMENT FOR THE GOVERNING COUNCIL
From 31st July to 1st August, 21 representatives of the Civil Society Pillar (CSP) members, from 20 countries, participated in the annual meeting held in Panama, in a hybrid format.
Countries such as: Taiwan, Korea, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States, Gambia, Morocco, North Macedonia, India, Panamá and Colombia were represented in person. And we virtually work with people from the Philippines, Lebanon, the Arab world and Nigeria.
The CSP is an integral part of the Community of Democracies (CoD), providing advice and engaging in diplomatic dialogue with member governments around the world.
While the Pillar does not have a formal vote, we do represent the voices of many democracy and human rights focused organisations and activists worldwide. It is our own commitment to search for a strengthening democracy in the world, through our advocacy actions but also by joining forces through dialogue between the private sector, academia, governments and other interested stakeholders to build consensus in order to find solutions to the most pressing issues.
We seek to work collaboratively with member states of the Executive Council and Governing Council in an effort to advance democratic norms and values globally; to uphold the principles of the Warsaw Declaration and to take them seriously, we must all share a keen desire to support democracy and promote human rights. This entails addressing the shortcomings of current member countries, ensuring that aspiring members meet the minimum requirements, and encouraging non-member countries to join. It is imperative that we revive the notion of strong democracies supporting weaker ones with a genuine commitment to progress.
It is our value, and we hope that the governments represented in the Community honour this and increasingly recognize not only the value of the inputs of the pillar, but also the relevance that the CoD decisions also represent the citizens and CS of member countries.The CSP has demonstrated its deep commitment to the Warsaw Declaration, and has been an important actor with respect to civil society organisations, governments, and a welcome contributor in CoD Working Groups.
We call on member countries to dedicate significant resources to strengthen the Community. Being a member of the CoD should imply: i) dedicating sufficient time and effort from the highest-level government representatives to bolster the CoD’s political relevance whether at major governing bodies, working groups or the Renewal Process ii) Committing sufficient financial resources to undertake concrete actions to broaden and advance the CoD’s work to strengthen democracy at a pivotal time when so many countries across the world are backsliding and democracy champions are under ever increasing threat; and iii) devoting adequate political will to strengthen CoD actions: dialogue is essential, but dialogue without action only leaves democracy more unprotected and at the mercy of increasingly debilitating attacks.
Regarding the CoD’s main processes, the CSP recommends:
- Creating greater coordination among all members and stakeholders involved and strategies of the CoD so its actions are aimed at responding more quickly and effectively to the challenges facing democracy.
- Resume holding high-level ministerial meetings and reinforce the commitment of member governments to seriously consider taking on the presidency or creating and leading working groups.
- The Working Group (WG) on governance and effectiveness needs to be reactivated in order to contribute to the development of new standards, procedures and working methods for the effectiveness of CoD actions, including the renewal process and the election of the new Permanent Secretariat (PS).
- Strengthen the CoD’s engagement with the United Nations (UN) and the global development agenda, including supporting the creation of a Rapporteurship on Democracy.
- With regard to the strategic plan, which comes to an end this year, the CSP recognizes its important contributions following proposed objectives that are necessary, but it did not fully achieve.
- The CSP recognizes the relevance of the Working Groups (WGs) and its products but recommends the following: increasing the opportunities for Civil Society’s active participation, engaging Governing Council (GC) members in meaningful dialogues, and creating better and more efficient channels to disseminate its products so they can be used by international organisations, governments, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders. In addition, the WGs need to brief GC, ministerial, and renewal process meetings.
- In relation to the still-to-be new strategic plan, the CSP humbly reminds the CoD of the importance of i) creating a plan that goes beyond dialogue and focuses on action, ii) highlighting the prominent role that civil society should play in all CoD processes, from discussion to implementation stages, putting forward and helping prioritise the focus of the CoD’s actions. Thus, GC members, the PS and CSP need to join efforts and work in a more collaborative and coordinated way.
- The selection of the new Permanent Secretariat of the CoD needs to be transparent, open and inclusive. The CSP should take part in the whole process.
- The renewal process needs to be rethought but must not be watered down. National and international communities need to be included in the visits, and CSP focal points should in all cases be invited to the government’s meetings. A peer review to establish paths of reform or improvements, should be included, but only aligned with the renewal process not as a replacement of it.
- While celebrating the CoD’s welcome efforts to involve youth more intentionally and actively, we recommend refining the way in which the YouthLeads and the Global Democracy Youth Network are envisioned so as not to create duplication of efforts with CSP actions.
Also, the CSP commits to:
- Create a process for following up member governments’ decisions at the GC, ministerial and working group meetings, among others.
- Have the most active role possible assuming available resources, and the real possibility of deeper and more productive participation.
- Strengthen CSP action, by implementing a bottom-up strategy, bolstering and supporting the work of each of the focal points, and developing new and effective actions in close alliance with regional and global networks.
- Create a list of basic requirements for the new Permanent Secretariat, study the candidates, observe the entire selection process, and generate serious dialogue with candidates and Pillar members.
Thanks to CSP chair Enrique de Obarrio, the CSP met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama and Thomas Garret was able to meet with President Laurentino Cortizo. We hope that we will soon give an official welcome to Panamá as a Community of Democracies member. The CSP advocates for more democracies to be called to be part of the Community.