|TITLE: Community of Democracies|
The Bertelsmann Stiftung supports the work of the "International Advisory Committee" (IAC), an independent high-level body of government representatives, experts and former heads of state established for the purpose of assessing the quality of democracy in countries belonging or aspiring to belong to the Community of Democracies. Calling for more transparency and credibility, many civil society actors have insisted on a stricter application of the criteria for participation. Josef Janning, Senior Director of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, personally contributes his expertise on democratization and transformation processes as an IAC-member, together with representatives of other leading think tanks.
In December 2008, the IAC was asked by the Portuguese government, host to the "Community of Democracies"-meeting in July 2009, for advice on the quality of democratic governance. The IAC responded positively and again initiated reports on the state of democracy and human rights in 34 countries considered deserving of closer scrutiny and analysis. In cooperation with Freedom House and the Democracy Coalition Project , the BTI team measured the quality of democratic governance in these countries. This unique collaborative work, which followed a standardized set of criteria, ensured that the IAC had reliable country reports at their disposal. The assessment of these reports led to the "Statement and Recommendations on Government Invitations," which was issued in March 2009 and was presented to the Ambassadors of the Convening Group of sixteen countries (amongst others Chile, India, Italy, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea and the United States) on April 21 in Washington D.C.
The IAC recommended to grant only eight of the 34 countries under study full participant status to the next Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies. The other regimes under review were criticized for severe deficiencies in the areas of participation, rule of law and protection of human rights. Among the governments not to be considered for participation in Lisbon are those of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Russia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.
The Community of Democracies is an association of democratic states committed to supporting and strengthening democracy worldwide. It is the only global forum for democratic and democratizing states to coordinate common approaches to democratic development. It holds periodic Ministerial Meetings and other high-level conferences where Foreign Affairs Ministers, senior officials and civil society gather to discuss ways in which democracy can be enhanced and supported. Five Ministerial Meetings have been held to date (Warsaw 2000, Seoul 2002, Santiago 2005, Bamako 2007, Lisbon 2009). Participating governments pledge to follow a set of detailed democracy criteria, laid down in the "Criteria for Participation." The Ministerial Meetings are accompanied and observed by an independent civil society process aimed at improving dialogue and strategic advice between nongovernmental actors and democratic governments. The Community of Democracies has established a Democracy Caucus at the UN for the purpose of sharing information and coordinating common positions on matters relating to democracy and human rights.