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Om demokratins utmaningar

Anförande i Krakow, Polen

Is democracy losing ground in our world of today?

No. I will argue that it's the other way around.

We all know that there is no one-fit-for-all blueprint for democratic governance.

We are keenly aware of the fact that there are no quick-fixes or instant solutions when it comes to building the institutions and practices of democratic governance in fragile nations, among torn societies or based on tribal traditions.

And we are certainly aware of the fact that there has been painful setbacks in the different efforts to safeguard freedom and build democracy around the world.

The campaign for the presidential election in Iran just over a year ago was a vibrant, vital and to a very large extent open contest between the contenders - it brought real hope to the people of Iran, and to those of us in the rest of the world looking forward to a new Iran to work together with.

We know what happened.

Repression deepened. Massive violations of human rights. For many, hope was lost, at least for the time being.

But we all know that this was not the end of the story - not in Iran, not anywhere else in the world where freedom is still in danger and democracy de facto suppressed or curtailed.

The remarkable fact is that there is - to my knowledge - not a single regime in the world today that is not claiming that it is democratic. In very many cases they distinctly are not. In numerous cases the mismatch between their words and their deeds is monstrous.

But it's still a fact that a regime in our world today that wants to be seen as legitimate has to claim that it is democratic.

In claiming to be democratic, even the most autocratic rulers of this world are confirming the moral imperative of governance in our modern world being based on the consent of the governed and on respecting the life and liberty of their citizens.

There is thus no real philosophical or ideological challenge to the idea of democracy in the modern world. And that is truly a great victory.

Our task then is to twin-fold.

To highlight and expose the hypocrisy of those claiming the principle of democracy but practicing the policies of the suppression of freedom, the undermining of the rule of the law, the denial of the freedom of expression and the manipulation of the processes of democratic election.

We find them far away and we find them nearby.

Belarus is not far from here. Neither is Russia. And we should not shy away from acknowledging the political realities also of China. But the other and certainly not less important task is to give help to those working with the building of free and democratic societies.

Let me mention just two aspects of this - from our Swedish experience.

The first is to build networks between individuals and organisations in our democratic societies and such in the not yet democratic ones.

I believe that the work done by the political foundations attached to our political parties in Sweden during the last two decades has been of outstanding importance in this respect.

In the Baltic states in the very first and fragile years after they regained their independence. Still in large parts of the Balkans as it struggles to overcome the divisions of the past.

But also in Belarus and beyond - in all of the countries of the important Eastern Partnership of the European Union.

I should confess that these foundations were not invented in Sweden. We had admired the work of the German political foundations for years. And we have cooperated deeply with both the NDI and the IRI across the Atlantic.

Our experience shows the great contribution work along these lines - young politically active individuals networking - can do. I can only encourage others to look at what they can do.

The second issue I'd like to highlight is the freedom of the Internet - and the respect of freedom of the Internet. I believe this will be one of the most important political issues in the years to come.

It is certainly no coincidence that the last few years have seen an increasing number of regimes trying to increase their control over the content of the net.

Thus, they acknowledge what we all know - the net can be a powerful instrument of freedom, of change and of democracy.

In Stockholm recently we hosted a meeting together with the rapporteur on freedom of expression of the UNHCHR to discuss how we as governments can better highlight these issues in different international fora - but also how NGO's and technologically competent individuals can be encouraged to break through the firewalls of repression and censorship that different regimes are trying to set up.

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