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President Obama singles out support for UNDEF in speech to UN General Assembly

Sep 23, 2010

President Obama made special mention of the UN Democracy Fund in his address to the General Assembly on 23 September, saying "it’s time for every Member State... to increase the UN Democracy Fund". He spoke of democracy as the form of government that delivers most for citizens, and spoke of civil society -- the focus of UNDEF's work -- as the shapers of human progress and the conscience of communities."To put it simply: democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens. And that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred," President Obama told the opening of the General Debate, attended by all 192 UN Member States. "America is working to shape a world that fosters this openness, for the rot of a closed or corrupt economy must never eclipse the energy and innovation of human beings." Turning to civil society, he went on: "The arc of human progress has been shaped by individuals with the freedom to assemble; by organizations outside of government that insisted upon democratic change; and by free media that held the powerful accountable. We have seen that from the South Africans who stood up to apartheid, to the Poles of Solidarity, to the mothers of the disappeared who spoke out against the Dirty War, to Americans who marched for the rights of all races, including my own.

"Civil society is the conscience of our communities, and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government. We will call out those who suppress ideas, and serve as a voice for the voiceless. We will promote new tools of communication, so people are empowered to connect with one another – and, in repressive societies, to do so with security. We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds. And it’s time to embrace – and effectively monitor – norms that advance the rights of civil society, and guarantee its expansion within and across borders."

"This institution can still play an indispensable role in the advance of human rights, President Obama urged. "It’s time to welcome the efforts of UN Women to protect the rights of women around the globe. It’s time for every member state to open its elections to international monitors, and to increase the UN Democracy Fund. It’s time to reinvigorate UN peacekeeping, so that missions have the resources necessary to succeed, and so atrocities like sexual violence are prevented and justice is enforced – because neither dignity nor democracy can thrive without basic security. And it’s time to make this institution more accountable as well, because the challenges of a new century demand new ways of serving our common interests."

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