Congress Passes Lantos, Wolf Legislation to Promote Democracy, Human Rights Abroad
Washington, DC – Congress has passed legislation co-authored by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) to strengthen and secure America’s commitment to the expansion of freedom and the protection of human rights around the world.
The legislation passed by the House today (H.R. 1) and the Senate last night, which implements the remaining recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, also includes provisions of the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation was co-authored by Lantos and Wolf in the House and Senators Joseph Lieberman (I/D-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) in the Senate.
“Promoting democracy and protecting human rights are core aspects of the American moral compass, and these aims are crucial to our national security interest,” Lantos said. “With this legislation, we take another step toward ensuring that we focus on the long-term, difficult work of fostering budding democracies and those who support them around the world.”
The ADVANCE Democracy Act requires the State Department to develop new, written strategies for the promotion of democracy in all countries that are currently non-democratic or transitioning to democracy. These strategies will help ensure that America’s democracy promotion efforts are carefully tailored to the unique, long-term challenges presented by each country, and that they are focused on more than just holding elections, but on building democratic institutions and fostering democratic values.
“The passage of this important legislation heralds a new era in the worthy effort of democracy promotion around the world,” said Congressman Wolf, who co-chairs the Congressional Human Rights Caucus with Lantos. “The core values on which our country is founded – freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion – are affirmed as we promote the right of all persons to chart their own political destiny. I believe strongly that emphasizing democracy promotion through requisite training and funding of our foreign service appropriately reflects the priority that democracy promotion holds in our nation’s foreign policy.”
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The ADVANCE Democracy Act also authorizes the creation of a new position at the State Department, known as Democracy Liaison Officers. These positions will be filled by experts in democracy promotion who can be dispatched by the Secretary of State to U.S. missions overseas. The Act also provides for enhanced training for members of the Foreign Service in democracy promotion and human rights.
“The values of freedom, democracy, and justice have been at the bedrock of American foreign policy since the founding of our republic,” said Senator Lieberman. “Presidents from Wilson to Roosevelt, and Harry Truman to John F. Kennedy have argued that America’s vital interests are best secured when we help others find their own voice of freedom. The ADVANCE Democracy Act sends a clear and unmistakable message to the world that the self-evident truth, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, knows no borders, and that the United States stands with those who struggle for freedom.”
“At a time when some have questioned America’s democracy efforts, this bill affirms that the promotion of freedom is an enduring element of American foreign policy,” said Senator McCain. “The expansion of democracy and freedom is inseparable from the long term security of the United States and is intimately bound with the values Americans hold dear,” he added. “We must, I believe, promote democracy, the rule of law and social modernization just as we promote the sophistication of our weapons and the modernization of our militaries. The ADVANCE Democracy Act will strengthen America’s ability to do just that.”
The ADVANCE Democracy Act also:
Affirms that the policy of the United States to promote freedom and democracy in foreign countries as a fundamental component of American foreign policy;
Establishes a Democracy Fellowship Program that will enable State Department officers to gain democracy promotion expertise;
Calls for the establishment of an ADVANCE Democracy Award, to be awarded annually to State Department personnel who have made outstanding achievements in promoting democracy;
Calls for strengthening cooperation between and among democratic and democratic transition countries by authorizing a new State Department Office for Multilateral Democracy Promotion.
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