18 September 1997


(U.S. can play significant role in Asian democracy)  (4690)

Washington -- The United States can play a significant role in
promoting Asian democracy through diplomatic engagement and the use of
a wide range of foreign policy tools, including carefully tailored
democracy assistance programs, according to John Shattuck, assistant
secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

"Democracy in Asia is a reality in some countries and an opportunity
in many others," he said.

"In formulating our country strategies, we have many tools at our
disposal to support our diplomatic efforts, ranging from our
assistance programs to sanctions," Shattuck said in testimony before
the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
September 17. "Although I will be describing the positive measures we
use in democracy assistance programs, we also can and do use negative
measures where necessary, including restricting arms sales, opposing
loans from international financial institutions, and cutting off
bilateral and multilateral assistance."

U.S. democracy assistance programs are carried out by the State
Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and
the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), Shattuck said. "Although USAID
implements most of the programs, we work together closely in order to
ensure that our various programs are in harmony with each and in
support of our policy goals. We also make sure that our programs
dovetail with the excellent work of the Asia Foundation, the National
Endowment for Democracy, and Radio Free Asia."

Shattuck pointed out that U.S. democracy-promotion programs have four
main goals:

"-- enhancing respect for the rule of law and human rights;

"-- encouraging the development of a politically active civil society;

"-- promoting meaningful political competition through free and fair
electoral processes; and

"-- fostering transparent and accountable governance."

In Asia, he said, the United States currently conducts a range of
activities in pursuit of each of these goals.

Following is the text of Shattuck's statement to the committee:

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SEPTEMBER 17, 1997

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I thank you for the
opportunity to testify before you on the topic of U.S. democracy
promotion in Asia.

Mr. Chairman, in Asia as elsewhere, the Clinton Administration views
the promotion of human rights and democracy as one of the fundamental
goals of our foreign policy, in addition to preserving America's
security and fostering our prosperity. The spread of democracy is both
an end in itself -- for it vindicates the values that define our
republic -- and a means to out security and prosperity. History
clearly demonstrates that free nations are more reliable partners,
alike in maintaining peace and in conducting commerce.

At the same time, there have beep some in recent years -- both in Asia
and the United States -- who have warned that the future will be one
of inevitable conflict between East and West, a clash of
civilizations, a showdown between different cultures and values. At
this summer's annual Association of South East Asian Nations' Post
Ministerial Conference, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
declared that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a western
export and called for its revision. Secretary Albright immediately
responded that the concept of human rights reflects the very principle
of civilization itself.

To those who dismiss our efforts to promote human rights and democracy
as an expression of American imperialism, let us simply point to
figures like Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Corazon Aquino, Aung San
Suu Kyi, Wei Jingsheng, Martin Lee and millions of people around Asia
and the rest of the world who have voted, marched, worked, been beaten
and sometimes killed for their devotion to the universality of human
rights and democracy.

Considerable democratic progress has been made in Asia during the past
decade. Since 1986, the Philippines, south Korea, Thailand, Taiwan,
Mongolia, Cambodia, Nepal, and Bangladesh have re-entered or entered
for the first time the community of democratic nations. Moreover, in
many of the remaining authoritarian countries such as Indonesia,
Vietnam, and even China, the success of economic reforms has led to
some progress in strengthening the rule of law and in creating space
for a civil society.

Today I would like to discuss with you the diverse ways in which the
United States is helping Asia's new democracies to consolidate their
gains as well as how we are supporting progressive forces in the

Needless to say, Asia is a vast region encompassing a great diversity
of cultures, religions, ethnic groups, and political and economic
systems. Nevertheless, the Clinton Administration's strategy for
promoting democracy in Asia is founded on the belief that the legion's
spectacular economic growth of recent decades provides the basis for a
democratic future.

Simply put, economic development can gradually undermine
authoritarianism because it can create social forces that seek to
develop autonomy from the state. As Professor Gerald Curtis has
recently written, "A middle class grows that demands representation, a
working class emerges that sooner or later demands the right to
organize and engages in political action, and a business community
that may have been spawned by the state develops its own resources and
demands autonomy." In Asia, the relatively recent democratic
transitions in Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea all demonstrate this
basic point.

Mr. Chairman, let me be clear. I am not endorsing a theory of economic
determinism. Economic development facilitates but does not cause
democratization. I am arguing that in Asia the United States should
respond to the opportunities for political reform that have beep
created by widespread economic success. We must stand by those who are
struggling for human rights and democracy in these changing societies.
In the end, of course, we must tailor our democracy policies and
programs to the specific circumstances of each country.

In formulating our country strategies, we have many tools at our
disposal to support our diplomatic efforts, ranging from our
assistance programs to sanctions. Although I will be describing the
positive measures we use in democracy assistance programs, we also can
and do use negative measures where necessary, including restricting
arms sales, opposing loans from international financial institutions,
and cutting off bilateral and multilateral assistance.

Our democracy assistance programs are carried out by the State
Department, USAID and USIA. Although USAID implements most of the
programs, we work together closely in order to ensure that our various
programs are in harmony with each and in support of our policy goals.
We also make sure that our programs dovetail with the excellent work
of the Asia Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, and
Radio Free Asia.

Types of Democracy Assistance

Mr. Chairman, the democracy-promotion programs of the United States
have four main goals:

-- enhancing respect for the rule of law and human rights;

-- encouraging the development of a politically active civil society;

-- promoting meaningful political competition through free and fair
electoral processes; and

-- fostering transparent and accountable governance.

In Asia, we currently conduct a range of activities in pursuit of each
of these goals.

Rule of Law and Human Rights

Rule of law programs form a central part of our democracy promotion
strategy in Asia for several basic reasons. First, a democratic
society requires a legal framework that guarantees respect for human
rights and ensures a degree of regularity in public and private
affairs. Second, corruption and abuse of authority have an obvious
impact on both economic development and democratic institutions.
Finally, effective public administration is essential to enhancing
popular support for democracy.

In Mongolia, we are beginning new activities to follow up on our
earlier assistance to the new judicial system contained in the 1992
constitution. Our new program will promote the concept of judicial
independence both inside and outside the judiciary. It will educate
members of the judiciary on their role in the protection of civil
liberties. It will foster better communication between the parliament
and the judiciary as well as among the various courts of the
judiciary. And it will encourage the formulation and adoption of a
judicial code of ethics.

In Cambodia, we have been assisting since 1993 indigenous NGOs
involved in the promotion of human rights. None of this assistance is
channeled through the government. Despite the major setback for
democracy that occurred this September when Hun Sen seized power, we
continue to support human rights NGOs in Cambodia because they
represent the backbone of the democracy movement. Through our
assistance, we have helped to create a national network of human
rights organizations. Last year the major NGOs that we support
reported over 1,000 human rights violations. More recently, these NGOs
have courageously monitored the cases of those killed or missing as a
result of the violence this past July.

In the area of human rights, we are also supporting the Cambodia
Genocide Program. Conducted by Yale University, the program is
documenting the mass killings carried out by the Khmer Rouge between
1975 and 1979. The work of the program will be made available to the
public and will be used by any tribunal or truth commission that might
he established to investigate these crimes against humanity.

The United States has also been instrumental in establishing a
nationwide organization of public defenders, the Cambodian Public
Advocates (CPA). Formed in January 1996, the CPA defenders have
provided high-quality representation at all levels of the Cambodian
judicial system. Last year a full one-third of CPA clients received
reduced sentences or were acquitted. In the first nine months of 1996,
the courts referred 34 percent of all cases to public defenders (up
from 20 percent in 1995), reflecting the courts' increasing
recognition of the value of defenders. Similarly, earlier this year
the Minister of Justice approved the installation of public defender
desks in all courtrooms. Also through out assistance, the Cambodian
Bar Association has established a Legal Aid Department, with 30
lawyers volunteering time in collaboration with public defender

In Indonesia, our democracy assistance has also supported the
promotion of human rights and the expansion of legal aid. We are
assisting the major Indonesian human rights NGOs, which have increased
their monitoring of corruption and abuse of power. In addition, we
support the National Human Rights Commission, a quasi-independent body
that has begun to develop the means to expose human rights violations.
With our support, it opened a field office in East Timor and began a
human rights training program. In the area of legal aid, the
Indonesian Legal Aid Institute pursued in 1996 650 cases concerning
civil, political, land and labor rights.

In Sri Lanka, our rule of law assistance has targeted two areas: court
administration and alternative dispute resolution. In the former, we
have helped to automate the system for tracking cases in the Court of
Appeals, resulting in a dramatic shrinking of its backlog. In the
latter, our training has both increased the efficiency and expanded
the clientele of local mediation boards throughout the country. In
1996, over 200,000 Sri Lankans submitted disputes to these boards, and
three-fifths of the cases were resolved.

Finally, in Vietnam, we are now beginning a program to support the
reform of commercial law and trade policy, essential prerequisites for
the development of an open economy, transparency in government and
accountability of officials in economic ministries.

In addition to these country-specific rule of law programs, we have
also recently begun assisting the ASEAN Human Rights Working Group.
The concept of the working group originated at the 1993 ASEAN
Ministerial Conference, which committed ASEAN to the eventual
establishment of a mechanism for addressing human rights. However, it
was not until the 1996 Conference when the official human rights
bodies of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines formally urged ASEAN
to meet its earner commitment. The goal of the Working Group is to
encourage ASEAN member -- governments to incorporate human rights on
domestic as well as regional agendas.

We are also supporting two regional initiatives to strengthen women's
rights. The first is devoted to increasing regional cooperation in
combating the related problems of trafficking in women and girls and
the spread of HIV/AIDS. The initiative has brought together government
officials, NGO representatives, doctors, lawyers and human rights
activists from countries around the region -- including Thailand,
India and Nepal, where these problems are the most acute. The second
initiative is addressing the serious problems experienced by female
migrant workers. It is working with governments and NGOs in both home
and host countries to advance reforms that wail protect the rights of
these Asian women.

Civil Society

A strong civil society is an essential component of a democracy. The
concept of civil society, however, covers a broad swath. Therefore we
have designed our democracy programs in Asia to focus on support for
indigenous organizations that: engage in civic action to promote
democracy; encourage deliberation of public policy; monitor government
activities; and educate citizens about their rights and
responsibilities. This formulation includes public advocacy groups,
labor unions, independent media institutions, politically active
professional associations, human rights and good governance
organizations, and local associations that aggregate and articulate
the needs of their constituents.

In Mongolia, the United States has supported advocacy NGOs since the
beginning of our democracy assistance program in 1991. These NGOs have
played a critical role in Mongolia's successful democratic transition,
having been in the vanguard of civic education, women's empowerment
and elections monitoring. In January of this year, our assistance to
civil society culminated in the parliament's passage of a law
protecting NGOs. The law contained the two key provisions that the
NGOs wanted: tax-exempt status of NGOs and deductibility of donations.
Confirming the emergence of NGOs as a major force in Mongolian
politics, the law will contribute to the long-tern viability of civil

In Indonesia in recent years, we have also been important supporters
the country's increasingly influential advocacy NGOs. Indonesian civil
society has begun to speak out more effectively on a variety of
issues, and consequently the government has included NGOs in its
decision-making process. In particular, the government now sometimes
seeks the views of NGOs on draft laws, policies and regulations.
Moreover, there occurred in 1996 several important instances of NGO
influence: the government requested that the National Human Rights
Commission investigate the July 27th riot after the Indonesian Legal
Aid Institute investigated missing persons; it made lead-free gasoline
available to the public as a result of lobbying by an environmental
advocacy group; and it adopted a clearer policy and distributed human
rights handbooks to soldiers after abuses in Irian Jaya were reported
by NGOs.

In the Philippines, we have supported the formation of coalitions of
disadvantaged and under-represented groups to increase their
participation in the policy arena. This assistance rests on the belief
that a strong, civil society can ensure government policies and policy
implementation will benefit the many, not just the few. The coalition
model has shown that it can transform weak groups into strong
alliances and put their interests at the top of the policy agenda.

Indeed, the coalitions that we have assisted are making a considerable
impact on the government. The urban-poor coalition obtained
presidential support to repeal a Marcos-era law criminalizing
squatting. The fisherfolk coalition provided convincing testimony to
Congress, based on its independent evaluation of a $7-6 million
government fisheries project funded by the Asian Development Bank. And
while other NGOs walked out of local bearings on the Mining Act, a
coalition of indigenous peoples' groups that we sponsored used data
and analysis to influence the Act's implementing rules and

Electoral Processes

The initiation or conduct of an electoral process provides an
opportunity for democratic forces to organize and compete for
political power. That is why requests for assistance in support of an
electoral process deserve special consideration.

In Mongolia, we supported indigenous NGOs in conducting widespread
civic and voter education in preparation for the landmark
parliamentary elections of 1956. For example, one NGO carried out a
multifaceted program to inform voters on the differences among the
platforms of the political parties as well as on the background and
views of individual candidates. Another provided training to
journalists on media coverage for the elections. These activities
complemented the excellent party-training work undertaken by the
international Republican Institute.

In Cambodia, the United States provided substantial support to the
UN-sponsored elections in 1993, both in terms of electoral
administration and of training for political parties. Until the
suspension of our electoral assistance in the wake of last July's
violence, we bad prepared similar assistance for the national and
local elections planned for 1998. In particular, we assisted the
Ministry of Interior in drafting electoral laws that met international
standards and in planning for an effective voter registration.

Although our direct electoral assistance to the Cambodian government
remains suspended, important work in support of Cambodia's civil
society has not ceased. We continue to assist NGOs engaged in
democracy building and rule of law programs -- including the work of
Cambodian NGOs involved in voter education and the monitoring of
registration and elections. We will be looking carefully at the
possibility of providing electoral assistance beyond the modest
programs currently in place. Carefully calibrated assistance can be an
important confidence-building mechanism as Cambodia prepares for free
and fair elections. However, we do not intend to support an
undemocratic process.

In the Philippines, our assistance recently produced a consensus among
the president, legislators, the electoral commission and NGOs on an
electoral modernization bill for the 1998 elections. In addition, we
sponsored a regional workshop on elections that has led to the
creation of a regional center in Manila and to requests for technical
assistance from as far away as Mongolia.

In Bangladesh, we assisted many aspects of the important parliamentary
elections of June 1996. We helped the electoral commission train the
local officials responsible for running the polling stations. We
supported a large delegation of foreign electoral observers and
provided technical assistance to a coalition of 180 Bangladeshi NGOs
that fielded domestic observers in all 300 constituencies. Voter
education, which we assisted through NGOs, contributed to the largest
voter turnout in the country's history, 74% compared to 55% in the
parliamentary elections of 1991. Most of this increase was due to an
almost doubling of the female turnout, another tribute to the efficacy
of the voter education program.

Government Accountability

The promotion of good governance has become a major theme among all
donors supporting Asian democracy. In large measure, this reflects
recognition of the fact that corruption, mismanagement and government
inefficiency are inextricably linked with poor performance in
development. The challenge in to design good governance programs that
are consistent with the broader goal of promoting democratic
development. In this regard, U.S. programs focus on supporting
executive branch ministries to plan, execute and monitor budgets in a
transparent manner; strengthening legislative policy making, budget
and oversight capabilities; and decentralizing policy making by
working directly with local governments.

In Mongolia, we are starting a new program to build on our earlier
assistance to the parliament. We will help the parliament's majority
and minority caucuses professionalize their operations. We will assist
members of parliament in improving communications with their district
constituencies. And we will support each of Mongolia's three major
parties in developing a plan for their long-term development.

For the past decade, the United States has assisted the government of
the Philippines in formulating and implementing a revolutionary plan
for decentralizing political authority. Today, Manila no longer
monopolizes Philippine politics and government. Instead, provinces,
cities, towns and villages have significantly increased their power.
The central government's commitment to decentralization is reflected
in the growth of central revenues that are allocated to localities.
These revenues rose from $280 million in 1989 to $3 billion in 1996.
Moreover, local governments have made much progress in raising their
own funds through credit, bonds and taxation.

In Bangladesh, we are similarly helping to improve local governance.
We are assisting local NGOs to better identify the needs of their
communities and to bettor communicate these needs to the local
governments. In turn, we are helping to increase the capacity of local
governments to respond to their citizens. We are also working with
communities to increase the number of women candidates running for
seats on the local councils.


Mr. Chairman, authoritarian governments that oppose any political
reform obviously pose the greatest challenge for democracy promotion.
Burma is one such case. Our immediate goal in Burma is to start a
genuine dialogue between the SLORC and the democratic opposition led
by Aung San Suu Kyi and with representatives of the ethnic minorities.
Unfortunately, as recently as this week, the SLORC has rejected
dialogue with ASSK and the NLD. We have worked with our friends and
allies to isolate the SLORC internationally until it ends its
widespread repression of human rights and agrees to a meaningful
dialogue with the democratic opposition that won the 1990 elections
overturned by the SLORC.

To that end, we have employed a variety of means -- including the
withdrawal of our ambassador from Rangoon, restrictions on visas, the
cessation of assistance to the government, and most important our
opposition to international lending and our ban on new U.S.
investment. Many of our friends and allies have taken similar
measures. With the entry of Burma into ASEAN, we have also made it
clear that we expect ASEAN's other member governments to use their
influence to convince the SLORC to begin a dialogue with the
opposition. Working on multiple tracks, we have made certain that
Burma will not rejoin the international community until it starts
respecting the rights and votes of its people.

In addition, we are conducting a program of humanitarian assistance
and support for Burmese pro-democracy activities. In managing
earmarked funds for Burma, the State Department has awarded grants in
FY 96 and FY 97 to the National Endowment for Democracy totaling about
$2.2 million. We have also made grants to the International Rescue
Committee and World Concern Development Organization.

The Endowment uses these funds to train the future leaders of a
democratic Burma, to disseminate material supportive of democratic
development, to increase international awareness of conditions inside
of Burma, to strengthen the organizational and functional capacity of
pro-democratic groups, and to promote understanding and cooperation
among the various ethnic and religious groups of Burma in their
efforts to further the democratic cause.

Our assistance has helped the democratic opposition prepare for
eventual talks with the government. It has enabled Burmese economists
to work together on an economic plan for a future democratic Burma.
The Endowment has also facilitated discussions between the National
League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic groups on constitutional
proposals for tabling in eventual talks with the government. These
discussions and other negotiations within the democratic movement have
also given the opposition experience with democratic practices.
Without international assistance, the voices of opposition leaders
forced into exile would be weak and scattered, and pressure on the
government to enter into genuine talks lessened.

Our program has allowed organizations to document the human rights
abuses inside Burma. This documentation has been the crucially
important background for resolutions on Burma taken in UN Human Rights
Commission, a key element in forging international consensus on Burma.

Finally, U.S. assistance has kept open the flow of accurate
information to Burmese inside the country. The SLORC has attempted to
control all information available to Burmese, most significantly by
keeping the leader of the democratic opposition under virtual house
arrest. Such outlets for information as Radio Free Asia and the
Democratic Voice of Burma help break the isolation of Burmese from the
world and increase their understanding of the possibilities for a
democratic future.


Mr. Chairman, we are also planning, in consultation with the Congress,
to develop a democracy program in China that would seek to strengthen
both civil society and rule of law.

Despite the widespread and massive human rights abuses that we have
documented in our annual human rights report, some positive changes
have taken place in China. Chinese society has opened dramatically in
the last 20 years and continues to open. The average Chinese enjoys a
higher disposable income, looser economic controls, greater freedom of
movement, dramatically increased access to outside sources of
information, greater room for individual choice, and more diversity in
cultural life. Accordingly, new social groups with economic resources
at their disposal have also arisen and become increasingly vocal,
representing the first signs of a Chinese civil society.

Today, there are 1500 national level NGOs and 200,000 lower level NGOs
registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the number of
organizations and the scope of their activities are growing rapidly.
To a significant degree, these organizations are all subject to
control by the government. The best-known of these organizations are
those with well-defined professional, relief, charitable, and
educational missions. There are, however, growing numbers of
organizations being initiated at the grass-roots level by individuals,
communities, or enterprises interested in addressing problems of
social welfare, consumer or environmental affairs that are often
neglected by the government.

Although subject to broad government regulation, these groups are
increasingly able to develop their own agendas and many have support
from foreign secular and religions NGOs. Some seek advocacy roles in
public interest areas like women's issues, the environment, and
consumer rights. These organizations provide opportunities for the
United States and other countries to support the development of civil
society in China.

China has also made progress in strengthening the rule of law. Since
embarking on its policy of economic reform in the late 1970s, the
Chinese government has recognized the need to develop the country's
legal system. At the outset, Chinese leaders were principally
motivated by a desire to attract foreign investment and avoid a
repetition of the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. By the mid- to
late-1980s, authorities were stressing a broader role for law in
guiding the actions of economic entities and state regulators in a
market-oriented economy. Most recently, President Jiang Zemin elevated
the concept of "ruling according to law" to the level of one of the
Communist Party's "guiding principle" for managing state and society.

In the late 1970s, in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, China's
legal system was nearly nonexistent. In the late 1970s, China had two
law schools, approximately 3,000 lawyers for over one billion people,
no independent law firms, a rudimentary judicial system with poorly
trained judges and a system of outdated and unenforced laws.

With the help of foreign legal experts, much progress has been made in
recent years. Today in China there are over 100,000 lawyers and over a
hundred law schools. The courts and procuratorate (state prosecutor)
have established centers to provide in-service-training to the
expanding ranks of judges and prosecutors. Lawyers, who previously
were generalists serving as employees of state-run law offices, now
often specialize in particular subfields of law and practice in
essentially private law cooperatives and partnerships. And much new
legislation has been passed, including laws in areas with a direct
impact of human rights democracy -- e.g., the Administrative
Procedures Law, Lawyers Law, State Compensation Law, Prison Law, and
Criminal Procedure Law.

USIA exchange programs, NED, and NGO programs have already played a
role in promoting rule of law in China. There are, however, countless
opportunities for the United States and others to do much more.

Mr. Chairman, in the coming weeks, we would like to explore with you
and your colleagues our preliminary ideas for developing civil society
and rule of law programs for China.


Democracy in Asia is a reality in some countries and an opportunity in
many others. The United States can play a significant role in
promoting Asian democracy through diplomatic engagement and the use of
a wide range of foreign policy tools, including carefully tailored
democracy assistance programs.

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