07 September 2007
The Community of Democracies is a coalition of countries with the common goal of strengthening democratic institutions and values. Since April 2005, Mali has been chairing the Community of Democracies. In order to support Mali's chairmanship the International Executive Secretariat of the Non Governmental Process of the Community of Democracies (the Secretariat) was established by a coalition of ten local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This initiative, supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund, involves the active participation of youth associations, the Women Federation Association, journalists, along with think tanks such as the organization for the Consolidation of Democracy in Mali (CRI 2002) and the Center of Studies and Research for Democracy, Economics and Social Development (CERDES).
UNDEF and UNDP Mali, supporting this two-year project, have been focusing on empowering CSOs through training sessions and encouraging their participation in meetings and conferences. Initial and significant steps have already been completed, in particular the organization of the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies entitled "Democracy and Development" which will take place in Bamako (14-17 November 2007).
At the international level, several regional Roundtables were arranged to provide opportunities for discussions on various thematic issues related to democracy building. The first of such regional Roundtables was launched with the Fourth Assembly of World Movement for Democracy in Turkey (April 2006) and continued with the Bamako Roundtable in September 2006.
During Bamako Roundtable, (September 2006), following subjects were discussed: gender equality; advancing press freedom; poverty, development and democracy; education for democracy; rule of law, improving standards for the conduct of elections; threats against democracy ; the right to free association; the role of political parties, free enterprise and democracy; UN Reform and the UN Democracy Caucus; the role of the African Democracy Forum in the Community of Democracies; and the role of the International Centre for Democratic Transitions (ICDT) in assisting Africa.
At the New York Roundtable (September 2006), recommendations and conclusions were read at the margins of the 62nd General Assembly. The Asian Roundtables took place in Taipei on "Democracy in Asia" (January 2007) and in New Delhi (May 2007) discussing the establishment of a foundation for democracy. The European Roundtable was held in Budapest on "European support of global democracy" (June 2007), and a Roundtable on "Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa" was held in Amman (June 2007).
In addition, the Secretariat took part in Programmatic Working Groups. The Malian Executive Secretary of the National High Council of the Fight against AIDS participated in the Liberian Conference on Women's Participation in Public Affairs; the Secretariat also took part in the South African Forum on AIDS and Governance organized by a UNDEF partner, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA).
At the domestic level, a series of 'Training of Trainers" (TOTs) were organized on democratic values and principles throughout the District of Bamako and in eight administrative regions of Mali (July and August 2007). Participants of these workshops included parliamentarians, national trade unions leaders, the youth National Council leaders, the Women Federation Association, representatives of organizations for the printed media and TV journalists, the High Council of Local Government Institutions and local CSOs. These TOTs have contributed to the dissemination of the main principles and values of democracy and encouraged a diverse audience with various backgrounds to discuss the twelve subjects presented during the Roundtable held in Bamako. In the eight regions of Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Segou, Mopti, Tombouctou, Gao and Kidal, civil society groups demonstrated their keen interests in democracy building. Despite the bad winter weather and exhausting journeys they participated in the training sessions. Mr Sidi Mohamed Ould Yaya, a representative of local traders from Tombouctou, highlighted the mutually reinforcing relationships between democracy and development by saying: "Please, as you bring Democracy, bring also Development!"
The evaluation of training sessions reveals usefulness of such outreach activities: 54 percent of participants responded that they have not heard about the Community of Democracies before the training and 70 percent of participants didn't even know that Mali is chairing the Community of Democracies. For further information, please visit the website address of the Executive Secretariat of the Non Governmental Process of the Community of Democracies, www.codes-mali.org.