Hillary Clinton announces new fund for democracy promotion

Singapore Democrats

John Tan with Lech Walesa (centre)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US will contribute $2 million to a new fund to support NGOs in their efforts to democratise their societies. She made this announcement at the recent High Level Meeting of the Community of Democracies in Krakow, Poland.

SDP’s John Tan, who attended the conference, reported this initiative which was welcomed by the delegates. The Community of Democracies, a global body made up of democratic states, meets once every two years to continue its efforts to promote democracy around the world.

In her address to delegates, Secretary Clinton said:

As part of that commitment, today I am announcing the creation of a new fund to support the work of embattled NGOs. We hope this fund will be used to provide legal representation, communication technology such as cell phone and Internet access, and other forms of quick support to NGOs that are under siege. The United States will be contributing $2 million to this effort, and we welcome participation and contribution from like-minded countries, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations.

In a separate incident, Mr Tan met former Polish President Lech Walesa who had aslo addressed conference delegates. Mr Walesa was a labour leader and chief dissident of the Solidarnosc movement in Poland in the 1980s. Through nonviolent action, he ended communist rule in Poland and brought about a democracy in the country.

“He is a very down-to-earth person, a leader genuinely beloved by his people,” Mr Tan said. “You could see that he was someone that the Polish people loved and not feared.”

Mr Tan also met with officials from the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, a US-based non-profit that focuses on using technology to promote sustainable economic development which, according to the organisation, necessarily includes the promotion of democracy and civil society.

Mr Tan discussed with Prometheus how it could be helpful to the situation in Singapore where the government bans technology use during elections. In the 2006 elections, podcasting and SMS messaging were disallowed.

The SDP leader also had a brief conversation with Thai foreign minister Kasit. The two had met even before Mr Kasit’s Democrat Party won power and he became foreign minister. Messrs kasit and Tan talked about the situation in Thailand which, although improving, remains tense.

A meeting with the US International Republican Insititute (IRI) led to the possibility of the Singapore Democrats being invited to observe and learn about how real elections are conducted in democratic systems.

Mr Tan returned to Singapore on Tuesday after a hectic schedule which included attending Philippines’ President Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration last week. He was representing Dr Chee Soon Juan at the High Level Meeting in Poland. Dr Chee is banned from travelling overseas.

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