Minister Natalegawa, United Nations Resident Representative Douglas Broderick, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me add my own warm words of welcome to the Asia Regional Civil Society Experience Summit, which the USG through USAID is very happy to co-sponsor with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UNDP, The Asia Foundation and Kemitraan.
Want to particularly thank the Indonesian government, today represented by Minister Natalegawa, for agreeing to co-host the summit.
This summit follows the “Stand with Civil Society” roundtable hosted by President Obama on the sidelines of last year’s UNGA.
It reflects both Indonesia’s and America’s commitment for government and civil society to work together to address challenges, as exemplified by the Open Government Partnership, of which both countries are founding members and Indonesia has been the global chair in 2013-2014.
This commitment is rooted in our histories. In a visit to my then-new country in the early 1800s, famous French observer Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the United States is a “nation of joiners” because we like to form so many grassroots civil society organizations.
Likewise, Indonesia is full of civil society organizations both large and small that enrich democracy here, support networks in the region, and exhibit leadership across the globe.
The late Islamic scholar Nurcholish Madjid popularized the term “masyarakat madani” as an Indonesian version of “civil society” that emphasizes pluralism, tolerance and democracy.
Unfortunately, not all countries share our two countries’ commitment to this healthy partnership between government and civil society.
All too often, governments view civil society with suspicion and restrict its ability to operate freely, and thus civil society views government with equal suspicion.
That is why it is important for all democratic governments around the world to Stand with Civil Society, to show our support for responsible, peaceful, constructive participation in public life by ordinary citizens.
This summit is an important part of us all showing our support for a vibrant, independent, peaceful civil society; I am certain that you will have many very important conversations together over the next three days.
And its results will help inform discussions at this year’s UNGA, when there will be a similar roundtable.