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Growing democracy in our region

November 8, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Bob Carr hold a joint press conference at the Bali Democracy Forum on November 8, 2012 (Photograph: Josh Estey/AusAID)

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Bob Carr today announced Australia will support a program to help emerging leaders and officials put democratic ideas into practice.

Announced at the Bali Democracy Forum in Denpasar, the program includes training, visits and dialogue between Asia-Pacific nations. It also supports the independent non-profit Institute for Peace and Democracy which was launched by Indonesian President Yudhoyono in 2008.

It is fitting that the Institute, which promotes human rights, political party reform and the participation of women in politics, is located in Indonesia, now the world’s third largest democracy.

Promoting democracy helps to secure peace, prosperity and stability in our region.

Democracies respect human rights, allow ideas to be put forward and generate the trust in government that helps to achieve economic success.

Bali Democracy Forum, November 8, 2012 (Photograph: Josh Estey/AusAID)

Australia’s aid will continue the Institute’s Political Leadership Program, mentoring Asia’s young leaders and activists in shaping parties to be more democratic, representative and accountable.

Mentors have previously worked with 15 young political party leaders and activists from countries including Afghanistan, Fiji, Iraq, Pakistan and Solomon Islands in areas including increasing women’s political participation in conflict areas and party reform.

Australia’s support will also enable the design of a program of activities to increase women’s engagement in politics and expand the successful dialogue between Egypt’s emerging democratic leaders and the leaders of Indonesia’s Reformasi movement to include Tunisia.

Australia provided approximately $800,000 to the Institute from 2008-2012 and has supported the placements of an Australian Business Volunteer and a staff member of the Centre for Democratic Institutions from the Australian National University to the Institute. Australia will provide $1.75 million to the Institute from 2013 to 2015.

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One Comment
  1. Ralf Kluin permalink
    November 10, 2012 2:42 am

    Hi Bob,

    I’ve always been deeply interested in peoples ideas on democracy as they use the philosophy practically applied to governance in many parts of our world. As many people know, the origins of democratic ideas lie in ancient Greek political thought. Greek philosophers classified governments according to the number of citizens involved in the process. Imagine a continuum running from rule by one person, through rule by a few, to rule by many. At one extreme is an autocracy, in which one individual has the power to make all important decisions. The concentration of power in the hands of one person was a more common form of government in earlier historical periods, although I would also argue that humanity has suffered greatly by leaders ruling autocratically to this day.

    Oligarchy places government power in the hands of ” the few.” There are many example in history, even now, in some places, where it is common for the nobility or the major landowners to rule as an aristocracy. Today, military leaders are often the rulers in countries governed by an oligarchy.

    At the other extreme of the continuum is democracy, which means “authority in, or rule by, the people.” Many people believe that nations like Australia, United States of America, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, India, Indonesia and other countries are or are moving rapidly to embrace genuine democracy. Some people who dissent contend that some of these countries appear to be democracies because they hold free elections, but that they actually are run by wealthy business elites for their own benefit. In Australia we’ve had ongoing argument about the level of taxation that some people who have a specific license to do things, ought to pay. In our democracy, each vote is counted equally, whether a person is rich or only has their labour to sell. The AustralianParliament and Government are respected because laws are applied equally for all and if questions arise we have a very robust legal system to guide all the people.

    Bob, as a citizen with one vote, I fully support the good works you and Prime Minister Gillard are doing, building a just Australian society.

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