The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has urged Asia Pacific countries to consolidate the gains from democratization as the region has shown a remarkable prospect for democracy to flourish in recent years.
“Democracy is a work in progress and we need to consolidate the gains we have achieved from democratization during the past five years,” Yudhoyono said in his opening remarks at the fifth Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Thursday.
The development of democracy in Asia and the Pacific has been evident in several countries. “India and Indonesia continue to be the largest democracies in the region and in the world. An impressive democratic transformation is now unfolding in Myanmar. In Mongolia and in many countries of Central Asia, democracy is thriving, and the Arab Spring continues to evolve,” he said.
However, he insisted that democracy should deliver tangible outcomes for citizens so that “people can fully enjoy economic benefits, political rights and shared ownership of governance,” he said.
The BDF is an annual event for government representatives in Asia and the Pacific to share their respective countries’ latest democratic developments. From the beginning, the forum has aimed at being a venue for sharing experiences, ideas and best practices, not to issue concrete solutions to specific problems.
There are 80 countries and international organizations represented with 11 heads of government attending this year’s forum. “I believe such growing participation shows that the Bali Democracy Forum is serving its purpose,” Yudhoyono said, comparing the first forum in 2008, when representatives from 40 countries and international organizations with three leaders attended.
Yudhoyono is co-chairing the two-day forum with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Leaders have claimed that the forum has made a positive contribution to advancing democratic values and principles in the region. This year’s forum seeks to find ways to effectively implement democratic principles at a global level.
Noting the prospects for democracy in Asia in the 21st century, Lee said that Asia was making vigorous progress toward building more mature democracies. He cited the Freedom in the World Report 2012 that showed Asia and the Pacific was the only region in the world to witness a steady rise in political rights and civil liberties over the past five years.
Gillard acknowledged that many democratic success stories had occurred in Asia. “There are many records of the practice of pluralism, consultation, tolerance, consensus building, mutual accommodation, egalitarianism and protection of minority rights throughout Asia.”
She said that Australia was ready to offer practical support and encouragement to countries showing positive steps toward a democratic future.
Political expert Yudi Latief commented that the BDF could be a “lesson-learned” forum for countries in the region to compare, exchange and absorb appropriate models of democracy suitable to each country’s social, political and historical contexts. “There is no single model for democracy,” he said.
He stressed that Indonesia itself could not be a preacher for democracy since it had much to learn to improve its implementation of democratic values and principles.