Poland for Democracy
Strengthening civil society and independent state institutions, support for civil dialogue, ensuring transparent electoral procedures and the openness of public life, monitoring the approach to basic human rights and civil liberties – in all these areas, Poland actively supports countries that are going through systemic transformations towards democracy. It also focuses on those societies whose freedom is limited by systems of government that deviate from democratic standards.
The seventh Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy conference started yesterday in Warsaw. This time, the forum is devoted to the opportunities and threats posed by new technologies in democratic societies. It is an opportunity for human rights defenders, experts in democracy and representatives of public institutions from all over the world to exchange views and experiences. The annual conference, which monitors the evolution of transformation processes, the fruit of which are further recommendations for international entities dealing with this subject, is not Poland’s only form of activity that promotes democratic values. Assistance in this area to partner countries is one of Poland’s development cooperation priorities implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Supporting democracy and human rights is one of the objectives of the "Multiannual development cooperation program for 2016-2020." This priority is based on the conviction that without a well-functioning state that respects democratic standards and human rights, long-term development and real improvement of the life of individuals is not possible. Recognising that democracy is the system that best satisfies social, cultural and economic needs of people and creates conditions for sustainable economic growth, Poland provides assistance based on democratic values, thanks to which it offers a multi-faceted response to the complex needs of the societies it supports. This help is part of efforts made by the international community aimed at helping the weakest – the poor, marginalised and the dispossessed.
Strength of the majority
International and regional organisations are important partners of Poland in this area. Poland is an active member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the United Nations and its specialised agencies. Within these organisations, Poland undertakes initiatives that build and develop civil societies, develop local dialogues and democracies, and strengthen independent media and organisations that uphold human rights.
One of them is the Community of Democracies initiated by former Polish foreign minister Prof. Bronisław Geremek and US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, established during an international conference in Warsaw in 2000. The aim of the coalition of over one hundred states is to promote democratic principles and strengthen democratic norms and institutions in the world. The first group convening the Conference of Ministers, the most important Community event, at which foreign ministers meet, included: Czech Republic, India, South Korea, Mali, Poland and the United States. The conference is organised once every two years, and the government of the host country sends out invitations after the approval of guests by the Convening Group. States wishing to participate in the conference must meet certain criteria, including respecting democratic procedures and the rule of law or maintaining a multi-party system. Countries that are on the way to a democratic system take part in the conference as observers.
Poland also inspired the European Endowment for Democracy, which was launched in 2013. Established as a European initiative, it was aimed at supporting democratisation processes and building civil societies in countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy. The resulting tool has proved to be an efficient complement to the European pro-democracy system, because it has been directed towards influencers, recognisable activists, independent journalists and other opinion leaders that have a strong influence in their societies. The fund was created as a response to the events in Belarus and the Arab Spring, which showed the importance of fast and flexible support for leaders of pro-democratic transformations, while revealing the weakness of previous solutions.
Polish mission in the East
In 2001, on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Poland, the Polish State Treasury created the Solidarity Fund PL, later reactivated in 2011. Pursuant to Article 10 (3) of the Development Cooperation Act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs may commission the fund to carry out tasks in countries where particular political conditions prevail. The fund operates primarily in Eastern Partnership countries (with particular emphasis on Belarus), and its main task is to undertake projects that support democratisation processes and promote basic democratic principles: equality before the law, freedom of conscience, religion, speech and assembly, freedom of association etc. The fund provides support to persecuted people, protects basic rights, and also builds structures that permanently change the social reality of former Soviet countries. To this end, it focuses on building competences of young opinion-makers and supporting leaders of transformation and civic organisations.
In 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs provided the fund with PLN 13,553,400 to carry out its tasks. These include assistance in implementing local government reform in Ukraine, as well as providing support to the media in Belarus to create broadcasts and websites to increase the access of citizens of this country to independent information. An important project of the fund is the Information Center for Local Authorities in Moldova, which focuses on supporting local development and local democracy within two paths: rural development and urban development. The Center's activities in 2017 were financed by funds of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EuropeAid, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Embassy in Chisinau.