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Davos 2012 – AP Debate on Democracy


Shut off cell phones, that’s a good reminder.
Please, at least on silent, unless your cell phone is tuned to a
particularly good music station. One minute, we have one minute, everybody. Twenty seconds. Can I have everybody’s at least feigned
attention? Seven. Hello, I’m Mike Oreskes from the Associated
Press and welcome to this AP Davos debate. Are the democratic institutions of the 20th
century up to the challenge of the 21st century? It’s a big question and we’ve assembled a
panel from all around the world, from democracies old and new, brand new in
fact. Let me introduce them to you. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, the Minister of
External Relations from Brazil. Hina Rabbani Khar, the Foreign Minister of
Pakistan. Rached Ghannoushi, the Chairman of Ennahdha,
the winning party in the first free election in Tunisia’s
history. Congressman David Dreier, Republican of
California and also the Chair of the House Democracy
Program. And finally, Ken Roth, Executive Director of
Human Rights Watch. Thank you all for being here. We have a lot of ground to cover. Let me begin. From the streets of Cairo to Occupy Wall
Street, the defining image of the past year
was the protester demanding democracy. In some places, those demands were realized, sometimes partially, sometimes quite
remarkably, as in Tunisia. But in other places, the answer was brutal
repression, or in the West, gridlock and frustration. Many of the Western countries seemed unable to
provide the shining example that they used to provide. So I want to start with you, Congressman
Dreier. You’re the senior elected official on this
panel. Has democracy run out of steam? Is it ready for the 21st century? Well, I’m not only the senior elected
official, I’m the only elected official who’s actually
here. Well, I guess Minister Khar has been a member. Minister Khar has been elected, and I’ll defer
to her at any time, of course. Let me say that if you look at the two
centuries, I think it’s very interesting, Mike,
to note that the demands are the same. But if there is a lesson that emerged
from the latter part of the 20th century coming into the 21st century, it’s something
that I like to point out, and that is, one election a democracy does not
make. The real work takes place between elections. The issue of institution building is a very
high priority. It’s something that needs to be done. In 1982, when Ronald Reagan called for the
establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy, he
talked about the hard work of developing the infrastructure of democracy. So these new and re-emerging democracies
around the world need to work hard. And there are many people who want to
participate and not involve themselves where they’re not
wanted, but share their experience. And that’s what the House Democracy
Partnership is all about. Chairman Ghannoushi, how is the transition to
democracy going? I have to be an optimist. We haven’t another choice, only to let this
experience of democratizing our country and our Arab world succeed. Since the 19th century, the Muslim world has
had a dream. That dream is how we can co-exist, reconcile
democracy and Islam, or modernity with Islam. This dream has not succeeded because outside
pressure, colonization, has crushed this dream. I think the Arab Spring now gives the
opportunity for this dream to emerge. And for the first time in our history in
Tunisia, we had free and honest elections. Now we have a real assembly, we have an
elected government, we have an elected president. So we are now on the way to achieving the
second goal of our revolution. The first one is to implement a democratic
system. Now the second goal is to develop our country,
to implement real development in the country. I think we are well on the way to achieving
our goals. We will return to the subject of Islam and
democracy, but I first want to get everybody in on the
big picture. Minister Khar, your country certainly faces a number of very complicated 21st century
challenges. Is democracy up to the challenge of the 21st
century? First of all, I think it is important to
highlight that there is no one single utopian model of
anything in the world, and that goes for democracy also. However, I think what is equally important to
highlight or to give importance to is the topic itself, about the institutions
that go to support democracy. And for that, the answer to whatever is not
working is clearly more, rather than less, democracy. But let me emphasize the fact that democracy
has to be able to develop into a maturer form, as we speak, with time. You need time to be able to evolve into a
stronger democratic set-up, to be able to deliver better. That is the aspiration of the people, is the eventual goal of any system, democratic
or otherwise. So in all of this, I think what we have to
keep in mind is first, that one-solution-fits-all sort of mindset should obviously be avoided in the case of
many, many countries. But in the case of Pakistan, for instance,
because the democratic institutions, be it the political parties, be it the
Parliament, be it any of these institutions, never really got a time which was long enough
for them to develop and to mature into a proper system. Therefore, of course, we will continue to be a
young democracy. So today, we are a democracy which is only
four years old, despite the fact that we have had stints of
democracy in the past also, anywhere ranging between two years to two-and-
a-half years. But until the time that you can consistently
go and develop those institutions and have a model which is there to stay, then democracy will continue to be challenged
in the way of delivery. Mr. Patriota? Well, if democracy is about rule by the
majority, and in the developing world the majority is
poor, then democracy has to be about social
inclusion. And this is precisely the experience we’ve
been having in Brazil and in South America where democracy certainly has not run out of
steam. I think we are very proud of the achievements
of the past years and decades and very eager to consolidate these gains. These are processes that have allowed for
segments that have been excluded from the political
process to assume leadership and high positions from the indigenous in Bolivia, to a union
leader in Brazil, and now the first female president in Brazil,
to other similar processes. So the point I’d like to stress at the outset is that in the developing world, inclusion is
a key word. Ken Roth? Well, I would agree with Congressman Dreier that democracy is more than simply periodic
elections. He stressed the need to build institutions
between elections, and that’s certainly true. I’d like to stress something else, which is
that it’s not enough just to allow someone to vote every four or
five years. You need to allow them to speak out and to
organize around matters of public concern in between. That’s why the press is so important, that’s
why blogs are so important, NGOs. You also need to hold the government to the
law. The point of democracy is not just to rule the
People, it’s also to rule the government. And we see all of these critical elements of
democracy under attack as governments recognize that they need to
allow elections for legitimacy, but they want to manage the process. So you see, for example, Putin in Russia
trying to limit candidates who will run. In Iran, they’ve just arrested ten bloggers
and journalists this month to try to prevent a free press in advance of
their parliamentary elections in March. Egypt right now is cracking down on NGOs because they’ve been one of the critical
sources of pressure on the military. And time and time again, you see governments
who say, well, we’re certainly happy to apply the law
to other people, but please don’t hold us accountable for our
human rights abuses. Don’t prosecute us for torture or for shooting
at demonstrators. If we’re going to talk about full democracy, we need to include all of these elements, not
just periodic elections. Well, thank you all very much for setting the
stage. So let me try to run down some of the key
challenges and get the different perspectives from the
different parts of the world. As you enter Davos, immediately right at the
threshold of the town, there’s an encampment of the Occupy movement,
Occupy Davos. And one of the protesters has a sign, and I
want to read it exactly. If voting could change anything, it would be
illegal. Well, that’s pretty cynical, I have to say,
and I’m a journalist so I know from cynicism. But it’s clearly not an isolated view among
citizens of democracies around the world. The Edelman Trust Barometer, which was
released here at Davos, reports that trust in governments, governments
all around the world, has basically collapsed among democratic
governments. And we solicited for this panel questions on
Facebook and a number of them were just dripping with
doubt about the effectiveness of government. I’ll just read you one. How is it that with all the highly respected, well-paid technocrats managing the world
economy, everything is still going wrong? Well, that’s pretty dispiriting when a lot of
people have those kind of ideas. And I guess the question I want to ask,
starting with you, Minister Patriota, is can democracy survive such a profound loss
of faith? Well, cynicism is certainly a very dangerous
and risky attitude to have when you’re looking for political progress. But I’d like to disagree slightly with the two
comments which seemed to minimize the importance of
elections. It’s true that elections alone do not build a
democratic system. But the first step, and a very essential step,
is the electoral process. And especially for those who have not had the
right to elect their officials, this is a most valued attribute. I’m sure that if you ask a post-Apartheid
South African what is the role of elections, they will say it’s a very fundamental role in bringing justice and democracy to any given
country. So if you look at Haiti, if you look at other
places, let’s not underestimate the importance of
elections. Of course, otherwise institutions are
fundamental and cynicism comes out of, well, government’s
not delivering what the people are asking for. This is why I stress, once again, that in the case of societies marked by great
concentration of wealth, inequality, poverty, social progress is fundamental for the
population, the electorate, not to lose hope in changing and modifying and
advancing their societies. Minister Khar? I think if you missed the whole question or
he whole change which has happened all over the world, especially in the developing world or the less
developed world, because of the access that they have through the media today and through various
types of technology, to what is happening all around the world and how that has raised the expectation out of any government, democratic or otherwise
by those people, we will be somewhat not looking at the entire
picture. I think that is an extremely important part of
why the expectation levels are changing and why democracies all over the world are
seeming to be performing or delivering less. It also has to do with the economic structures
all over the world. So I think this question to me is somewhat
less of democracy and more of what has happened in the economic
management realm of how things have developed. Therefore, to me, frankly speaking, the answer
is a country which has suffered, if there’s one single ill, flaw, reason I can
find for Pakistan not living up to its full
potential, and we are beginning to live up to our full
potential, it is because of the fact that we haven’t had
a consistent democratic process in Pakistan. If that were to be the case, I think many ills
that you see in Pakistan today, many ills that we continue to fight, for instance the leader of the party that I
represent, Benazir Bhutto lost her life for, would not be there today. So it is really the consistency of a
democratic process. It is about that process and the institutions
which go to support it being given the time, the energy, the resources to be able to
develop and start delivering. So the answer really is yes, a different structure, more democracy, more democratic ways. And I completely agree with my colleague over
here, the electoral process is an extremely
important one and I think anyone doubting the importance of
it or the legitimacy of it or the need to improve wherever need be the
electoral process and everything else, but I think the answer to lack of satisfaction
with democracy is maybe looking for more democratic ways of
building those institutions. We’re definitely going to want to talk more
about this link between expectations and trust and effective
democracy. But immediately, the question of economics
comes up. How is your ability to deliver economically to
the people of Tunisia coming so far? It’s true that guaranteeing the process of
free elections is not enough to achieve democracy. Democracy needs civil society, very rich civil
society. It needs also to respond to the main necessity
of the people because democracy without social justice can
be transformed into a mafia. The government can be transformed into a sort
of mafia so we have guaranteed needs of people, social
justice, and people can achieve these needs when we
open up the system, when we have a free economy, when we fight
against corruption because the governments, not in the Arab world
but in many, many countries, is transformed into a mafia. So we have to fight against corruption, we have to open up the system to attract
investment from inside and from outside, and to guarantee social justice. Congressman Dreier? Well, Mike, I think that there is a
correlation between what Minister Patriota, Minister Khar, and Chairman Ghannoushi are
talking about and I really put this into expectations. It goes back to the sign that you pointed to that’s here in the outskirts at the Occupy
Davos camp. You’ll probably be very offended, Mike,
if I mention this, but your great book, The Genius of America,
sorry I mentioned it, it’s interesting that you’re juxtaposing the
20th to the 21st century. But I like to go back and look at the 18th
century. If you look at the 18th century and the 20th
century and the 21st century, it’s important to note, as you have in your
book, that between 1776 and the spring of 1789, there was 13 years between independence and
the establishment of a government. The summer of 1787 is when we had our
Constitutional Convention. It took two years from the Constitutional
Convention to have that happen. Now, rush forward to the 21st century and
today, what is it that we have? Anyone can take a video camera and film police brutality taking place on the
streets and that can go viral. Millions of people can be exposed to that. And that’s a tremendous difference and a
challenge that we all have to deal with. And it seems to me that as we look at these
expectations, we can’t say to people, be patient, because
that obviously is not an answer. We need to figure out how to address this. Just yesterday in Tahrir Square, marking the
first anniversary of the Egyptians who, as we know, followed the Tunisian lead, we saw protests not celebrating what happened
a year ago but complaining about the lack of action
within this one-year period of time. So that’s why I think it’s incumbent upon
those of us who have enjoyed participatory democracy,
representative democracy, to continue to band together. And that’s one of the reasons that seven years
ago, we established this House Democracy
Partnership. And we’re working to develop, I mentioned at
the outset, institutions. The idea of saying that legislative bodies
which are actually closest to the people, you know that, Mr. Chairman, the legislative bodies are closest to the
people. They need to have oversight of the executive
branch. They need to be able to put into place
policies that encourage economic growth, because we know this frustration stems from a
lack of economic growth. So my message, Mike, is that it’s important
for those of us who were lovers of self-determination, the
rule of law, human rights, recognizing that again it’s not just about
elections. A democracy does include human rights and
minority rights, as you point out in your book. Those are the kinds of things that we need to
work together on. So what I’d like to do right now is just this week we’ve introduced, as I told
you, Mr. Chairman, a resolution in the United States House of
Representatives. It’s bi-partisan, a Democrat lead, I’m a
Republican, and I’d just like to present you, Mr.
Ghannoushi, a copy of the resolution that praises the
Tunisian people for the lead that they have taken in sending
this ripple effect throughout the Arab world, and we know that it’s going to impact other
parts of the world as well. So I’d like to present this to you. Thank you very much. Okay, thank you. And thanks for the mention
of the book. When I visited the United States last month,
I was surprised that I found many enthusiasts vis-ֳ -vis the
Tunisian revolution in the United States. I’m very pleased by that. Thank you. Well, you know you have that, Mr. Chairman. Let me turn back to Minister Patriota and
Minister Khar. Say a few words about the ripple effect of the
Arab Spring of Tunisia and Egypt on your countries and on your regions. Well, in my region I think we’ve been
struggling with the same objectives that the Arab world is now seeking, freedom of
expression, better opportunity, more equal opportunity across society,
improved governance, growth with distribution of wealth. But I also think that we found certain
formulas that work. So perhaps we’re at a slightly different stage
in the process and to the extent that our experience can be
of interest, we are reaching out to the Arab world to
exchange views, to share perceptions and see in what ways the
experiments that we’ve been carrying out can be of use to them. But I’d also like to make another point
because there was a mention of utopia here. Maybe if you compare the 21st century with the
20th century, some of the 20th century utopias have run out
of steam and when we look at the future, and this is a topic that will be center stage
for you in Davos, I think we need to try to reconcile economic,
social, and environmental objectives, which is what the Rio+20 Conference that we
will be hosting this year is all about. If we also gain awareness about our common
humanity, the fact that we are threatened by
environmental circumstances, this can also have a transformational effect
on societies and improve the communication between
different models, and ultimately, I think, lead to better
government. Minister Khar? You know, it’s interesting. I think the ripple effect, or the effect, in
Pakistan would have been very, very different. I’m almost encouraged, thinking of using the
word transformationally different, had it been maybe five years back or six years
back when you had a non-representative government
in place in Pakistan. Then the effect would have been pretty much, maybe we would have seen the Arab Spring find
its way somewhere in South Asia and you could have said that it has sort of
crossed some oceans to reach it. But in Pakistan at the time that this was
happening, we had, after years, a truly representative
government and we had a government which was certainly
struggling with all of the challenges that Pakistan has,
and continues to struggle with. But I tell you, it is interesting, and I think
this can be corroborated, in many of the countries which have seen some
of the freedom of expression late in the day, the freedom that the media enjoys in Pakistan,
for instance, is maybe unparalleled. I would almost say that it is more than what
is enjoyed in some of the developed democracies of the
world where the media is still very aware of the
national narrative, what should or not should be said to promote
or support it. Whereas in Pakistan’s case, they have the
ability, the space, the freedom to be able to go beyond the
national narrative, so to speak. In the same way, judiciary, already in the
last years of the Musharraf government, there was a judicial movement in Pakistan and the independence of the judiciary as it
was enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan came to fruition because of work and labor and
protests that almost all political parties collectively
in Pakistan had done, which included the masses, the people, the
lawyers, almost everybody, rural or urban. Now, because some of these things were already
under way, the thing that Pakistan requires now is a
different set of issues. It’s not that of representation, it is not
that of freedom of expression, it is not that of every institution
constitutionally not finding its place and playing its role. So quite frankly speaking, the effect of the
Arab Spring, therefore, was different. However, what is Pakistan’s biggest issue,
or South Asia’s at large, is that of ensuring that we are able to feed
our poor and able to give them some sort of a social
system in which they are able to have access and to
have opportunity. And for that, we have some programs, for
instance the Benazir Income Support Program which is, for the first time in Pakistan’s
history, where if you are known to be in the poorest
strata of the society, you will be given enough to feed your
children. So I think because of those things, because of the fact that you had a new
democracy taking root in Pakistan, the effect wasn’t what it would have otherwise
been. I’m sure of that.
-Interesting. I want to go on to Ken Roth but before I do,
I just want to ask one follow-up question. You stressed the independence of the
judiciary, obviously a central part of any democracy. Has the independent judiciary gone too far now
in Pakistan? I think in Pakistan an interesting thing is
happening. I really would like maybe to take a minute on
that, okay? I think it’s a good thing for Pakistan. What is happening in Pakistan may look chaotic
to the outside eye. But it is a new kid on the block called
Parliament, which hasn’t been there for a long time in
Pakistan’s history, which has almost not been there consistently for more than two years at any given point in
time. So every institution has to find its place. So there’s a bit of an elbowing act maybe
happening in Pakistan where every institution is trying to find what
is rightfully, constitutionally its place. It’s not a bad thing for Pakistan because out
of this will emerge everybody falling quietly, hopefully, into the space
that is constitutionally provided to them. And as you see, this is the longest era of
democracy in Pakistan. So that is, in itself, first something which
gives you hope for the future. Mike, let me just say that Pakistan is one of
the partner countries for the House Democracy Partnership and I and
a delegation from the Congress will be there. And I know there is a female speaker of your
Parliament and we’ve worked very closely with her and we
look forward to continuing this. And that’s why I believe that all of these
countries, Human Rights Watch, other entities who believe in this promotion
of democracy, we all need to work together on this. Pakistan, and you’re absolutely right, Madam
Minister, there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for
anyone. And Indonesia is a perfect example of what the
Chairman talked about, the convergence of modernity, Islam, and
democracy, where in a 12, 13-year period of time, they’ve
had a phenomenal success there. I know there are differences between Southeast
Asia and the Arab world, but there are similarities that I think can be
shared. If I could step in here? First of all, with respect to Pakistan, I take a much less sanguine view than
Congressman Dreier. You’ve got a supreme court that in essence is
pressuring the civilian government to relinquish its right to fire the chiefs of
the military and the intelligence service. That completely reverses the presumptions of
democracy, which is that civilian government should rule. So we have real problems there. But Mike, I’d like to come back to your
original question which is really, what does the world owe to
the Arab Spring? Imagine yourself a pro-democracy protester
sitting in Homs or Hama, facing President Assad’s military who’s
shooting at you. What do you need? You need somebody to put pressure on Assad to
stop shooting. And this is where a number of the world’s
leading democracies, including some represented here, have really
let the Arab Spring down. For example, when Brazil was sitting on the
Security Council, a resolution came up to try to put pressure on
Assad. Brazil abstained. It wouldn’t even vote for it and that allowed
Russia and China then to veto the resolution, something that would have been much more
difficult if Brazil had said, we stand for this
resolution. This is not about military intervention. It’s about putting pressure on Assad not to
shoot the demonstrators. Pakistan has been even worse. At the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan never
votes for resolutions trying to criticize this kind of oppression,
unless of course, it’s Israel. But they’ve actually voted against resolutions
on Sudan, Iran and Syria. Even on North Korea they abstained, the most
repressive government in the world, they couldn’t get themselves to criticize it. So there’s something wrong here when
governments that are democracies at home fail to stand up for the brave pro-democracy
activists in these repressive countries around the world. Mr. Patriota? I think there’s something profoundly wrong when those who should be actually giving an
example in terms of democracy, good governance, etc.,
seem to establish almost an automatic link between military intervention and promoting
democracy. It’s not about military intervention. So it’s very problematic for places that are struggling to gain improved political
participation by excluded groups in their processes when
there is this constant threat of sanctions, military intervention, where attempts have been made to impose
democracy from the outside with, I think, very negative, if not catastrophic, results in
places like Iraq. So abstention here is not abstaining from
condemning violence against unarmed civilians, abstaining from siding with those who seek
greater participation in political process. On the contrary, abstention here is ensuring
policy space for diplomacy, for negotiation, for dialog, and for progress that doesn’t
breed violence. Because very often these extreme positions, and I think both the Western and the permanent
members who vetoed the resolution were failing to reach a consensus and this did
not help the manifestants on the streets. So this is where three large, multi-ethnic,
emerging democracies from the developing world, India, Brazil,
South Africa, decided to side together to speak to the
Syrians, to abstain, because in any event, this vote would have
been useless. The resolution would not have gone ahead. I think it’s very important to make the record
clear here. Let me just let Minister Khar respond as well. I think I would tend to agree with the
Minister over here. Really, I think a lesson that should be
learned is that one should allow every country to be able to reach its own
mature stage in many areas. For instance, one can use the example of child
labor. Now, child labor, while it was allowed in
Europe for many, many centuries, has a completely different dynamic when it
comes to maybe some countries in South Asia. So pressure and open humiliation of countries
is sometimes not the best tactic that we feel to be able to let them come
around. Now an excellent example in that case is that
of Tunisia and Egypt. There was no pressure coming in from an
outside force. There was no nudging being done as such. There was no military support that was given. It was people who demanded their right in a
certain way, who got their right in that way. And once the people of that particular country
have decided and have stood up for their rights and have
demanded, then it is really the job of the whole world
to really be a support system, to provide a support system to them. But to enforce what are considered to be ideal
Values, which may be prevalent in one country or in
another, has always been counterproductive. Before I come back to Ken Roth, I want to ask
Chairman Ghannoushi, do you feel that the democratic world has let
down the Arab Spring? I think that the Arab Spring is very important
for all the world because the Arab world is very important as a
base of main wealth, petrol, a strategic place. I think if democracy can succeed in this part
of the world, I think it will be in favor of the whole
world. I think some orientalists argue many times
that Islam is an obstacle in the face of democracy. The Arab Spring proved that Islam is an
element to democratize this part of the world and the mainstream of the Islamic movement
like Ikhwan al-Muslimun in Egypt, Nahda in Tunisia, Justice and Liberty in
Morocco, in Turkey the mainstream Islamic movement is a
moderate one. They believe that democracy and Islam,
modernity and Islam, are compatible. So the world has benefited from what happened
in the Arab world through the Arab Spring. Mike, could we specifically ask Chairman
Ghannoushi about Syria as a part of this, which is what Ken is raising? Because I think that there obviously is a
question here as to whether or not the Western world has, in
fact, been supportive of the expansion of the Arab
Spring, including into Syria. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the
wave of democracy spread in the world, except the Arab world. I think the obstacle was not Islam but outside
pressure which doesn’t help democracy in the Arab
world. I think now this wave of democracy will spread
through all Arab countries, among them Syria. I don’t have any doubt that the Syrian
revolution will succeed as all the other revolutions.
It just occurred to me that what we’re talking
about is interesting and becomes even more interesting by the fact that some of the most mature democracies all
over the world, some of the most established democracies all
over the world, so not just one part of the world, all over
the world, have been much more supportive of non-civilian
dictatorships in Pakistan, an excellent case in point, than they have ever been of civilian
democratic dispensations in Pakistan. And that can be seen in some ways in the Arab
world also. So what I was referring to before is pretty
much in the same light, that we cannot have a change of heart
overnight when our interests can be met in a different
way and cannot propagate our own interests and therefore propagate very, very
undemocratic regimes in many, many parts of the world for very many
long, long, long years. So why I wanted to use the case of Pakistan in
specific was that both in the regime of General Zia and
in the regime of General Musharraf, it was really the support that came from
outside which made them elongate their years into ten,
12 years rather than the support that should have come
from within. Fascinating. There’s no question that the Western
governments have supported military dictatorships in many
parts of the world and they’ve been widely criticized for that,
and I think quite legitimately. But the question is, if a pro-democracy
movement is facing severe repression, facing violence, should the world just sit by and wait for a
natural evolution to see if the numbers killed get so high that
finally the military is overthrown? Or should they try to help by trying to
curtail the killing? Now in the case of Egypt, pressure was
actually put on the military to oust Mubarak and to stop the killing. It played a very important role. The revolution was by far and away an Egyptian
revolution but external intervention, not military
intervention but just pressure, helped stop the killing. In Syria today, the question is, are we going
to just sit there and wait for it to naturally evolve as
Minister Khar seems to be suggesting, or are we going to try to put pressure on
Assad through seizing assets, through travel bans, through referring the
country to the International Criminal Court, not through military intervention which is a
red herring that is just not on the table. But are those more limited forms of pressure
going to be used? Or should we just sit back and fold our hands? I think folding our hands is the wrong thing
to do. I think we have a duty to stand up and help
the people who are risking their lives day in and day out
to try to have the same democracy at home as they would have enjoyed if they happened to
live in Pakistan or Tunisia or Brazil. I think Ken makes a very important point here,
Mike, and that is that if you look at what has
transpired beginning a year ago last December in Tunisia,
spreading to Egypt, obviously look at Libya that has taken place, and as this spreads, is it all of a sudden
going to stop? That’s the thing, I think, that is of concern. And again, it’s the utilization of this 21st
century technology that has allowed the world to witness this and that’s why I think Ken correctly points to
the fact that the idea of having some kind of
solidarity here is important. And I understand the impact of the Syrian
economy on countries like Lebanon and others. I understand that, but the fact is that when
it comes to the recognition of human rights, the thing that has been so successful, a year and a half ago, if one had contemplated
the idea of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak being where they
are today, you would have said you were crazy. So look at what has happened. So that’s why I think Ken’s point is
appropriate. When we’ve got this movement going, we should
be doing everything we possibly can to encourage more self-determination and the
development of these democratic institutions and the rule of law and the recognition of
human rights. Let me pick up on Congressman Dreier’s
reference to 21st century technology and come over to you, Minister Patriota. So social media has obviously been a major
force over this past year, and yet it’s also obviously a force that hits
limits, hasn’t moved the government in Syria. It also raises the question of, even when it
does help drive a revolution, then what? Is social media actually a force that will
help us govern? Or is it just an electronic way to channel the
mob? I think there are very many different aspects
to this question. Obviously, social media can have a very
galvanizing effect in mobilizing people who would otherwise not be in touch with each
other under very noble and worthy objectives such as
improving governance, outlawing corruption, and so on. But there are types of media also that fuel
polarization. And we know that in any political system, and
of course I am entirely pro-democracy, you need to build consensus to some degree, or
at least to ensure governability through discussions that will bring societies
together. And to the extent that the social media breeds
hatred, polarization, also takes advantage of unresolved
international issues, and I must say that the beauty of the Arab
Spring was that it was entirely self-promoted from
the start. It wasn’t against anyone. But I have my doubts that if the Israel-
Palestine issue remains too long without a solution, that this
is not going to poison the atmosphere and instigate violence rather than consensus. Well, the Arab Spring was clearly against
those dictators of Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali and others. But it was home-grown.
That’s the point I was trying to make Right, right, right.
Absolutely, as is the case in Syria. Chairman Ghannoushi, if you had to rank,
though, the importance of social media in the Arab Spring versus the importance of
Al-Jazeera, what would you say? The Arab Spring was made in part by the media
but not the traditional media, by the new media, by Facebook and Twitter. I convey my salaam to the people of Facebook
and Twitter because they shared, they participated very
strongly in these revolutions. So it’s true that some channels like Jazeera
shared in this revolution, but I think the new media, Internet, Facebook,
Twitter, are the leaders of this revolution. First of all, I think once the revolution got
going in many of these countries, Al-Jazeera was by far and away the most
important external force because it was able to beam pictures of the
repression into homes far beyond those who happened to be wired up
to the Internet. So I think if you speak to people who were
involved in the various revolutions, they say Al-Jazeera is Weapon Number One. Where social media was critical was in the
early days because if you are facing a situation where if you go out and stand in the street
and demonstrate, you’ll get beaten up and arrested, you’re not
very likely to go out. And the role that social media played is, it
allowed people to sort of stand up and be counted without
literally standing up. It allowed them to just join a Facebook page
and suddenly, when there were so many people, so many fans
of that page, people began to gain confidence that even if
only a percentage of those people actually show up in Tahrir Square, I may be
safe because there’ll be so many of them. In that initial organizing role, Facebook was
essential. Twitter than played a key role in essentially
broadcasting the repression to the rest of the world because people could
quickly share links with photos or videos of the repression, which
in itself had a galvanizing effect. Longer term, I think, by the way, this social
media is a very important way for the public to make itself heard in between
elections. We saw that in the United States just this
last week. But it is such a quick way of allowing people
who may not have access to the traditional media nonetheless to have
themselves heard and to quickly organize large numbers of
people, and governments simply have to pay attention
to that mobilization. We do get back, Mike, to the challenge, going
back again to the 18th century and the 13 years between independence and our
establishment of a government, and the fact that yesterday’s anniversary of
the uprising in Tahrir Square saw complaint rather than celebration. This is also about economics. Minister Patriota began his remarks by saying
that if we deal with majority rule, what we need to do is recognize how great
poverty is. Since February 11th of last year, Egypt has
lost two million jobs. One of the things that is necessary is greater
foreign direct investment and that’s a message that I believe is
important for the Davos community. I think it’s important for people around the
world to know that recognizing that holding elections, and
again, the development of institutions, that’s really what it comes down to, I
believe. We have this instantaneous communication that
Ken is talking about that everyone agrees exists. We need to turn that kind of tool into
something that can come back to institution building so that we can put into place the tools that
are necessary to develop economic growth, which is what all of our peoples are looking
for. I obviously come from the wealthiest nation
here and we have obviously a poverty rate that is
not as great as it is in other countries. But my God, if you look at the United States
economy, you know we have an unacceptably high
unemployment rate, great concern among the people whom I
represent from California and around the United States. But that still is much better than the
situation in other parts of the world. So we need to have these institutions to
encourage and develop economic growth. I believe this is what it comes back to. And the level of frustration is so high because they’re not seeing the kind of
instantaneous response that they would like. I want to turn back to Minister Khar and
Chairman Ghannoushi to probe a little further on a point that was
touched on, which is the role of Islam in democracy. It will come as no surprise to either of you
that in the West, there are a number of people who are very edgy about the Brotherhood in Egypt, about your own Islamist party in Tunisia. But George Soros was here the other day and he basically compared your party to the
Christian Democrats here in Europe. Is that a reasonable analogy? Yes, it’s reasonable because cutting off
politics from values, from the spirit, means we’ll end by transforming the state and
the economy into a mafia, as I said. So we have to let morals play a role in the
economy, in the game of democracy instead of pushing things toward a world
without any restrictions, without any values. So I think what Mr. Soros said is true. There is much in common between the Christian
Democrats and the Islamic movement democrat. Minister Khar, is the line clear to you
between religion and politics? Certainly, and I think first of all, I would like to take this opportunity to say
that in my mind, Islam is clearly the most misunderstood and also the most misrepresented religion in
the world because most of the issues that we ascribe to
Islam, Islam has a completely different perspective
on that. To give you an example which will ring home, it is the whole question of the rights of
women in Islam. Islam was the one which gave women their
rights. Islam was the one which recognized respect for
women and enforced it almost on all believers. So there is the real Islam which is there in
the holy Koran and there is the Islam that the West portrays. We ourselves must take the responsibility for
that misrepresentation because we have let Islam be interpreted and
we have let Islam be taken to other people by the most illiterate people in most of our
societies. I cannot speak for everyone but certainly it
is in most societies. So the question of whether Islam will come in
the way of democratic dispensations, Islam actually goes for more democratic ways
of governance than anybody else. And secondly, the whole question of the social
structure of delivering to the people, and that is really at the heart of the debate
that we’re having. Expectations come from the expectations not
being met. So clearly the delivery to the people as per
their expectations is not happening in many, many forums, whether
it’s in the economic forum, whether it’s in the social realm, whether it
is in the political realm, or maybe one is happening more in one country,
the other not so much. But if you look into the caliphate, for
instance, in what Prophet Muhammad brought to Arabia, it was really a completely not only democratic
but a social system of delivery which would embarrass all of us if we were to
dig deeper into it. So I don’t see these to be contradictory
forces. I see this to be supportive forces, to be
exceptionally supportive forces. And the best example for that, I hope Pakistan
will be a very good example in ten years, but the best example for that today is Turkey. You know, the level of satisfaction,
expectations being met of the people of Turkey are probably higher than many other countries. There has been a political party which was
considered to be far too Islamic and has delivered more to the people of Turkey
than the ones which were not. So I think we should really look at things
with a newer lens. Chairman Ghannoushi, why do you think Islam is
so misunderstood? In Islam, there isn’t any sort of church so
there is no spokesman for the Koran. Any Muslim can learn the Koran and understand. So within Islam, usually in history, there is
pluralism which means free interpretations. Free interpretations means plurality. There is no spokesman of God on Earth. The Umma, the nation, the whole Muslim nation
is the spokesman of God. But no state, no church, no Islamic party can
pretend that he is the spokesman of God. So democracy can work in a friendly way with
Islam because in Islam, we need democracy to make
decisions because there are many interpretations of
Islam. Which one can we decide is good and implement
it? The majority of Umma, the ijma, consensus of
Muslims can decide which Islam we’ll chose to
implement but after that, all Muslims can deal with the Koran, with the
Sunna, without any restrictions. Ken Roth and then Minister Patriota, please? I completely agree with Minister Ghannoushi
that there are many Islams, just as there are many Christianities or many
Judaisms. You have on the one hand the liberal Islam of
Mr. Ghannoushi. On the other hand, you’ve got the Taliban. And the real question is, which Islam prevails
in any given country? In a place like Turkey, the AKP under Prime
Minister Erdogan has been quite tolerant with respect to
religion, although increasingly repressive with respect
to free expression and ethnic issues. I think the real question in a place like
Egypt is, which way will the Muslim Brotherhood come
out? They’ve got the salafists pulling them in a
more illiberal direction and they have actually elements of their own
party pulling them in a fairly liberal direction. I was just in Cairo this weekend and the argument I was making to them is that
they’re very fearful about their own future. Everybody remembers what happened to the
Islamic movement in Algeria in the 1990s and they’re fearful that there could be
another crackdown and that they may well need their rights as
well. So my message to them was, you can’t pick and
choose among rights. You can’t try to preserve political freedoms but repress women’s rights or repress
religious freedom, and think that you’re not going to somehow
undermine or you’ll somehow salvage the edifice of
human rights. If you want to rely on certain kinds of
rights, you’ve got to preserve the full foundation. I’m hopeful that as they put together their
program, they will have one that includes vigorous
protection of women’s rights and vigorous respect for pluralism in the
realm of religious freedom. Mr. Patriota? Well, I come from a very secular country where religion plays a very limited role in
politics. But this discussion to me raises a few issues. First of all, it brings to mind the thinking of the Indian philosopher and economist
Amartya Sen and his very thought-provoking book about
identity and violence. The idea here is, why should groups have a
single identity or be forced into a single identity? This sometimes is something that is indirectly
encouraged by others rather than the Islamists themselves. I think here, non-Islamic countries, including
my own and Western countries, others, have a high responsibility also through the way that they treat migrants from
the Islamic world. Until very recently, you would read comments about how the Islamic world is not fit for
democracy or for social progress. Well, fortunately the Arab Spring has laid
that to rest. It became very obvious that yes, there are aspirations for improved governance
and democracy just as anywhere else. So there have been stigmas and simplifications
associated with Islam that I think we all have a common
responsibility in combating. That is one thought. The other thought is that democracy in the
Arab world has also been set back through attitudes such
as, we’re very much in favor of democracy and
elections as long as such-and-such a group is not
elected. This was very present, for example, in what
happened in Palestine when Hamas got elected, or even in Algeria, which led to the years of
violence. I think a lot of wisdom is required in this
case and the less one interferes in the outcome of
elections, the more one respects the specificities,
cultural, historic, and others, of each process. I think the important thing here is to look at
the movement, look at the film and not the photograph. If a movement ensures some progress, not
sufficient maybe, well then we should support that and look at how it can improve the local
situation and to some extent start answering to the
aspirations of the majority. Believe it or now, we’re almost out of time. So I do want to move us to a last question,
but if you can be brief? Just very quickly, September 11th is the
reason that Islam is misunderstood and everything that relates to that. Taking that action in the name of Allah is
what played a tremendous role in sending this horribly negative message
about Islam throughout the world. Chairman Ghannoushi? Terrorism is against Islam and the Muslim Umma paid a very, very negative
price from this terrorism. I think linking Islam with terrorism is very
bad. It’s given terrorism justification because there’s nothing in common between what
happened on the 11th of September, in Britain, in Tunisia, and everywhere. I think it’s very negative and gives
justification for terrorism. There’s nothing in common between Islam,
between the notion of jihad in Islam and what the terrorists have done. It’s a misunderstanding in and of itself. During the ’70s, there were some factions who
used violence, from the Left and from the Right. But how Europe can contain its extremists is
through democracy. Minister Khar, you said that you and others had to take some responsibility for changing
the image? What do you propose to do? And I’m afraid we only have a minute left, so
briefly. First of all, I think, as I said, we have to take Islam out of the hands of the
leftovers of society, almost. We have let Islam be taken over by almost
illiterates who interpret it in a mosque every day and
tell people versions of Islam which are then spread all over the world. I would want to therefore, every country has to take more responsibility
in how that is managed because Islam does not have a clergy system so the way it has to be managed has to be in a
better way. But I would like to take this opportunity to
say something I have not said before. It is also the responsibility of the Western
countries to send a message of positivity to the Islamic world. So the whole question of identity, violence
and these things, if you separate the people out of the common
mankind almost and separate them as a cause of all ills and
cause of all problems and then continue to show examples of
festering issues, and I would like to end on that, the issue of
Palestine and Israel, and show extreme bias in the way we deal with
that, the issue of Kashmir, for instance, in South
Asia, so we all have to do our bit in order to make
sure that Islam and people who follow Islam are not seen to be an ostracized community
within humankind. On that note, we’ve finished our AP Davos
debate. But clearly this conversation is only
beginning around the world. And we do want to take one last final step in
the spirit of democracy and ask you here in the studio audience to
vote on the question that was before this panel. As you recall, the question was, are the
democratic institutions of the 20th century fit for the challenges of the 21st century? All those who think the institutions are fit
as they now stand, please raise your hands. No secret ballot, Mike? Not bad. No, we don’t do secret ballot here in the
debate. All those who think the institutions of
democracy need change for the 21st century? Wow, a close election. Not as close as Florida, but close. We want to thank you all very much, and
especially I want to thank our panelists. This has been the AP Davos debate.
I’m Mike Oreskes. Thank you.

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