Insight: Democracy should deliver results, better welfare

Through its democratic transformation; through the democratic milieu which its some 235 million people now enjoy, Indonesia is pleased to have contributed in tipping the balance in favor of democratic values in the world โ€” from the east to the west, and from the north to the south.

At the same time, we recognize that there can be no artificial arrival point for democracy. No one can pronounce that "it's done". It is, in fact, a constant journey. A process. Democratic values must be constantly nurtured if they are to flourish and democracy be made irreversible.

Hence, I thought it might be pertinent to share some thoughts, based on our own modest experience, on some of the conditions we deem conducive to the promotion and consolidation of democracy.

First, to be sustained, a democratic political system should ensure "democratic dividend". In short, democracy should deliver results. This means, for example, that democracy should result in the betterment of the people's economic welfare.

Good governance, determined efforts to overcome corruption, a people-centered or pro-poor economic model โ€” we call it growth with equity โ€” ensure that democracy is not only consistent with development, but that it also promotes development.

Democracy and development do go hand in hand. Without development, democracy can not achieve its goal of enhancing welfare. Democratic dividends, however, extends beyond economic development.

Equally important is proof that democracy should equip countries in addressing political and security challenges.

Second, a democratic political system should ensure a sense of common ownership.

Democracy signifies greater participation of all elements of the society, including those hitherto marginalized. And although the government undoubtedly has a major role in stimulating the growth of democracy, much needs to be taken up by other elements of the society in nurturing this growth. All stakeholders must do their part and play their own crucial role.

The government and civil society should be partners in strengthening democratic values and institutions. The government and the parliament should strengthen the check-and-balance system to ensure good governance and the rule of law. Hand in hand, the government, parliament, civil society and the media should all walk on the same path toward the goal of creating a democratic society.

Third, a democratic political system should encourage dialogue and experience sharing.

We believe that the basic principle of democracy is universal in nature. This is not in any way inconsistent with the fact that each nation has its own traditions and history of its own view of the world.

In this regard, dialogue and frank discussions become important. Especially among those who may not always see eye to eye. It is crucial to reach out to countries with different political systems in order to develop greater understanding of democracy as well as to promote the development of the values of democracy as a whole.

We must derive from practical insights and ideas from our own experience and from the experience and the best practices of other countries.

Fourth, to be sustained, capacity building in democratic institutions is key.

The gains and successes of democracy can never be taken for granted. Even in the most advanced democratic society, democracy continues to evolve in order to remain relevant in the face of new challenges.

Indeed, this ability to adapt and evolve is one of the strengths of a democratic system. In this regard, capacity building and strengthening democratic institutions is key.

Efforts that are being carried out at the national level should be supported by other democracies around the world. What we need is a sincere global partnership to ensure the growing tide of democracy around the world.

Fifth, the consolidation of democracy on the national level cannot be isolated from the wider region.

Indonesia's democratic transformation over the past decade has been largely reflected changes within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is not a coincidence โ€” for Indonesia believes that democracy on the national level can only be sustained if it finds a regional milieu that is conducive. Democratic capacity building should not be confined to domestic institutions only.

Many regions around the world are also investing in regional mechanisms to complement the strengthening of national democratic systems and to promote cooperation in democracy.

In this context, in Southeast Asia, we have strived to ensure that democratic norms and values are embedded into the various institutions of the ASEAN community, including in its charter.

To translate the commitment laid out in the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN has developed an ASEAN Political Security Community Blueprint which states that "ASEAN's cooperation in political development aims to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and individual freedoms".

While admittedly this region still faces many serious hurdles for the advancement of democracy, I firmly believe that the "democratic investment" in our regional mechanism has been well spent and can become a catalyst for a democratic transformation of the region.


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By: Marty M. Natalegawa, Krakow, Poland
When: 7/2/2014

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