Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Towards a Community of Democracies- June 26, 2000

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
June 26, 2000— Warsaw, Poland
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Mr. Chairman, Excellencies:

It is a singular honor for me to take part in this meeting of the community of democracies here in Poland and to be able to listen to the profound messages of H.E. Mr. Geremek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, and Nobel Prize Winner Madame Aung San Suu Kyi on democracy.

I wish to extend felicitations to H.E. Mr. Geremek, Chairman of this meeting, for his inspiring statement which set the tone for our meeting in this historic city of Warsaw and defined in concrete terms our work and expectations. Under his leadership, this meeting will undoubtedly come to a fruitful conclusion. We could not have chosen a better place than Poland as the venue for this conference. Poland's glorious struggle for democracy and human rights is an enduring inspiration for all freedomloving peoples of the world.

The messages, the venue, and the purpose of this conference are particularly meaningful to us as Filipinos, for we are proud to uphold our country as a vanguard of democracy. We are proud that in 1898 we established Asia's first democracy. And we are proud that not too long ago in 1986 at the peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution, we showed the modern world how to turn the tide against authoritarianism and oust a dictatorship.

Speaking as a woman, I can say that since the success of the EDSA revolution was inspired by a woman, Corazon Aquino, it is easy for many Filipinos to identify with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi today gave a powerful message: That her people would like to see action rather than words, that words need to be backed up by action, action that is united and focused on essentials.

This is the challenge to the community of democracies today: To explore what actions can be taken to better strengthen democratic institutions and processes.

On the part of the Philippines, our membership in the ASEAN gives us the opportunity to use the Asian way to help strengthen democratic institutions and processes within our neighborhood.

Our exploration begins with a recognition that we have come a long way in our common endeavor to promote a global democratic movement. Three meetings have already been convened to address issues relating to democracy. We are honored that the first of these meetings was held in Manila in 1989.

This current meeting of the community of democracies is particularly auspicious, for it is being held at the beginning of a new millennium. This meeting will be a test to our common resolve to meet the challenges to the democratic ideals in the 21st century and to turn them into opportunities to further and strengthen the institutions of democracy all over the world.

The 21st century is the century of global capital markets, the century of information technology, the century of communication technology, the century of the new economy. In this conference, let the community of democracies join hands in seeking ways to harness the new economy, so as to maximize the benefits of globalization, mitigate its adverse effects, and advance the cause of democracy.

The new economy has produced new tools of communication technology. In this regard, it is important to recall that in the third conference of the new or restored democracies on democracy and development in Bucharest in 1997, Professor Mircea Malitza, President of the Black Sea University Foundation, pointed out that the mass media have a huge influence over the opinions, beliefs and values on which social behavior is based. In general, they are factors encouraging democracy. This role of mass media is greater than ever in the century of information technology.

We begin our search today by echoing once again the categorical statement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that human rights are the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. Human rights and the many freedoms they guarantee are basic and fundamental to the existence and continued prosperity of all peoples. No country can claim that it is democratic and progressive unless it has enshrined respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in its struggle for a just way of life.

Societies that do not have a modicum of reverence for the fundamental liberties and essential well-being of people undermine our efforts towards a world community of democracies. The will of the people must be respected for sovereignty resides in them. For people to perfect their humanity, it is necessary to create a regime of law and justice, free from oppression and persecution.

Democracy and development go together. The Philippine experience demonstrates this. The seeds for today's republic were sown by Andres Bonifacio, the plebeian who launched the Filipino revolution of 1896. In launching the revolution, Bonifacio had the social objective of achieving equity, of freeing the people not only from foreign rule but also from exploitation by their own countrymen.

When President William McKinley decided to place the Philippines under American rule, he adopted an enlightened colonial policy of training the Filipinos for independence - politically. During that tutelage in the process of democracy under the American government and when the Filipino nation regained its independence in 1946, we had the best economy and most advanced society among our neighbors.

When liberty was taken away by the declaration of martial law, the Philippines was left behind by its neighbors as they rapidly joined the ranks of the industrializing economies during the 1970's.

The Filipino people stood up for democracy at EDSA after President Corazon Aquino restored our democracy, President Fidel Ramos restored our economic competitiveness, and President Joseph Ejercito Estrada went on to establish the principle that democracy and economic prosperity must be for the poor.

Today, in the 21st century, the Philippines continues its total commitment to building a just and humane society based upon freedom and democracy. The Philippines renews its solidarity, in words and action, with the efforts of freedom-loving peoples in the new millennium.

Thank you.

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