At a meeting of the Community of Democracies, FM Livni repeated her call for a universal set of standards for participation in genuine democratic elections.

Remarks by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
at UN meeting – Community of Democracies
New York

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

At the outset, I would like to express our appreciation to you and the Government of Mali for convening this meeting and for its leadership of the Community of Democracies. We look forward to participating in the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Bamako.

Democratic values are an inherent part of our Jewish tradition, and the basis upon which the State of Israel was founded. We believe deeply that democracy offers an extraordinary double promise: of liberty within states and peace between them.

Almost every democracy emerged from a struggle for a better future, and we are here because we know that democracy is precious and deserves to be protected. Today, in the Middle East and elsewhere, the tools of democracy are being abused by extremists to destroy democratic values from within. Radical groups and armed militia are entering the democratic process not to abandon their violent agenda but to advance it. The media and the internet – critical tools for the free expression of ideas – are too often breeding grounds for extremism rather than tolerance. And in too many classrooms and houses of prayer young minds are being closed by hate, rather than opened by opportunity.

The Community of Democracies can harness the power of our shared values in order to confront these challenges. We can give a voice to the millions who cannot be heard. We can present a clear moral choice to extremists and dictators between the path of violence and oppression and the path of legitimacy. We can work to create a new multilateralism – in institutions like the UN – where voting patterns can be driven more by moral conviction than by political convenience. And we can work for a genuine and non-partisan Human Rights Council that is a shield for the victims of human rights, not a weapon for its abusers.

I also believe, Mr. Chairman, that the CD has an important role to play in ensuring that democratic elections respect not just the process of democracy but its values as well.

As I discussed today before the General Assembly, I believe that it is time to develop a universal set of standards for participation in genuine democratic elections. Democratic nations know that while we must promote genuine multi-party elections and the free expression of views, we must also protect democracy from those who use it to destroy freedom from within. This principle is not new – no true democracy allows armed militia or groups with racist and violent agendas to participate in elections. But we need to make clear at the global level what democracies accept at the national one – that participation in the democratic process is not just a right, it is also a responsibility.

We can insist that those who seek the legitimacy of the democratic process, earn it, by committing to such principles as state monopoly of the lawful use of force, the rejection of racism and violence, and the protection of the rights of others. In so doing, we can empower those that respect democratic substance not just those who exploit democratic form. And we can help genuine democracy take root in fragile nations and developing ones. 

Mr. Chairman,

For these reasons and others, Israel is a strong supporter of the CD and its potential as an agent of positive change, and a proud contributor to the Democracy Fund. We are gratified by the establishment of the CD Secretariat, to be hosted by Holland, that can give new focus and effectiveness to our work. And we look forward to actively participating in the CD working groups in Bamako – and to working together in a spirit of cooperation and shared purpose – to discuss these and other ideas and advance our common agenda.

Thank you.