USAID Kosovo’s Mission Director Zeinah Salahi’s Remarks at the Inauguration of Presidential Council on Democracy and Human Rights, April 12, 2022
Good morning. Thank you for that kind introduction. Madam President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, distinguished guests, thank you. It is a privilege to be here today, to mark the establishment of this Presidential Council on Democracy and Human Rights.
Calling the defense of democracy “the defining challenge of our time,” President Biden convened like-minded world leaders at the first-ever Summit for Democracy in December. President Osmani represented Kosovo at that Summit when President Biden called democratic nations together from across the globe for one simple, clear reason: “democracy needs champions.”
In the face of sustained and alarming challenges to democracy and human rights in the world today, we see the imperative and the importance of this call – democracy needs champions.
As we witness the atrocities in Ukraine – an experience many of you here can empathize with – that result from autocracies bent on power and destruction at the expense of human life and dignity – democracy needs champions.
Democracies are not perfect. That is not a weakness, but a strength, almost a part of the design. While authoritarian societies are wholly incapable of self-reflection, mature democracies admit their mistakes; their faults; learning and always striving to be better.
Democracies, like the societies we represent are diverse. That means democratic states and their populations don’t always agree on every issue. What distinguishes democratic states is that disagreements are normal and they aren’t resolved by unprovoked violence, invasions, or wars.
Democracy is resilient, but fragile. Even the most mature democracies need constant care, protection, and attention. Governments can commit to democratic principles, but to defend democracy, strengthen it, fight for it, renew it – democracy needs champions. And more often than not, the true champions of democracy come not from government institutions, but from civil society.
I applaud President Osmani’s commitment to work with Kosovan civil society through this Council on Democracy and Human Rights. As President Osmani noted at the Summit for Democracy in December, “democracy is in the fabric of Kosovo’s society.”
We share that ideal – that democracy is rooted in society. So I call upon you, the civil society representatives on this council, and all civil society organizations working to advance human rights across Kosovo, to embrace the gravity of your task. Your role and purpose are critical.
I urge you to stay connected to the citizens of Kosovo – all the citizens of Kosovo. Listen to them, hear their concerns, and bring positive, practical solutions to the table. Take on with vigor the essential function to drive and monitor Kosovo’s commitments to advance democracy and protect human rights.
President Osmani and the leaders here have joined their voices with democracies of the world. Citizens must also do their part. Democracy does not exist without you – without an active, engaged citizenry that holds the government accountable to its promises.
Democracy needs champions.
Be the champions that democracy needs.