The World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) welcomes the first commemoration of International Democracy Day today, noting that 15 September is also the anniversary of the opening of the first WFDA Biennial Meeting in Taipei in 2005. The designation of this day by the United Nations (UN) is a useful recognition of the importance of democracy, which although clearly enunciated in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (Article 21), has long been given short shrift in the international efforts to promote human rights.
We believe strongly that democracy is a universal aspiration of all peoples. In all parts of Asia, peoples have time and again placed their hopes in democracy to bring progress to their societies. We note the resilience of Indian and Japanese democracy, the amazing progress in Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and recent positive developments in Nepal, Afghanistan, and Malaysia.
Unfortunately, even today authoritarians and their apologists continue to try to argue that Asians are somehow unsuited or unready for democracy. Sadly, these arguments are not confined to countries such as Burma, China, North Korea, Vietnam or Singapore. They have also recently been advanced in Thailand to justify the current backsliding of democracy there. At the same time, several Asian countries are still suffering from internal conflicts which severely weaken their democracies, notably Pakistan, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. This reminds us that just as democracy is never perfect, it is never completely secure. It requires continual vigilance as well as periodic reform and renewal.
Therefore, we appeal to all democrats in the region, as well as our friends around the world, for redoubled solidarity for all the peoples of Asia. We hope that the commemoration of International Democracy Day will help to dispel the arguments against democracy, and lead to more proactive promotion efforts by the UN and other international organizations.