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Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský at the Forum on the Future of Democracy
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Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský at the Forum on the Future of Democracy


Vilnius, November 10, 2023

Dear Madam Speaker,

Dear Minister Landsbergis,

Dear Ms. Chulick,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to be here today and have the privilege to address you at the opening of this conference. The Summit for Democracy process represents our common endeavour to strengthen democracy and support human rights around the world. I very much support and I am grateful for the initiative of my Lithuanian colleague to build on that process by organizing this conference.

We are living in difficult times. Democracy, the rule of law, human rights, they are under attack. We need to find ways how to protect them, how to promote them. Forums like this one are important platforms to discuss new approaches.

Last month I attended the 27th Forum 2000 conference. Some of you had the chance to join us in Prague for our discussions. Continuous global trend of democratic backsliding was one of the main topics. Yet, the mood was not one of desperation. The Forum offered a number of important insights on how to face some of the current challenges to democracy. We were united in our determination to persist in opposing autocracies and continue supporting emerging democracies around the globe.

Let me quote words of one of the founders of the Forum 2000, the late president of the Czech Republic Václav Havel. “Indifference to others and to the fate of the whole community is exactly what opens the door to the evil”.

He said those words 30 years ago, yet they are as relevant today as they were back then. Thanks to them, we are acutely aware of the non-obviousness of freedom and democracy. In the face of brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine, cruel oppression of Belarusians by the Lukashenko regime and increasing attacks against human rights defenders across the globe, they remind us not to be indifferent. 

Václav Havel had a lasting impact on what Czechia is today, what it stands for, what foreign policy it promotes. The fact, that support for democracy, human rights, and civil society has been since 1990s one of the main features of Czech foreign policy, is his legacy.

In the current security context, pursuing a human rights-based approach in foreign policy, contributes also to international security. Protecting human rights may prevent or limit the emergence of security threats such as conflicts, terrorism or irregular migration, and fundamentally contributes to the growth of prosperity. Putin’s Russia serves as a specific prove of the fact that states that violate human rights of their citizens will not adhere to rules in international relations. At the end, they pose a threat to other states and the international community as a whole.

We believe that our experience in transitioning from totalitarianism to democracy remains an asset to our efforts in upholding democracy and human rights in the world.

A key part of our approach is drawing attention to serious human rights violations worldwide, including cases of individuals - powerful human stories - and a focus on independent investigations of such cases. We address these cases both bilaterally and at international human rights fora.

We are aware of the limits of those interventions. Therefore, we strive to provide targeted aid through projects within the Transition Promotion Program. These provide practical support and complement the rhetoric support within international organizations. Methods may vary – in some cases we try to strengthen democratic institutions and rule of law, elsewhere we promote active citizenship and civil society, we support independent media, somewhere we provide concrete support for persecuted human rights defenders, activists and independent journalists. However, the goal of these projects is the same - to increase respect for democratic values, human rights, and principles of good governance in target countries.

We place particular importance to supporting independent media and journalists. We still remember the crucial role that the radio networks such as Radio Free Europe or Voice of America played in making the first cracks in the wall of communist propaganda that surrounded communist Czechoslovakia.  

Independent media remain an irreplaceable component of democracy. We, the democratic community should be therefore their natural and staunch allies. That is what we strive to do. It is reflected in the pledges we made within the Summit for Democracy process, namely to:

  • Support independent journalists and other engaged voices, both online and offline, by speaking out on their behalf and by providing the necessary practical support such as visa facilitation;
  • Continue close cooperation with independent media outlets, including by providing funding for fellowship programs which aim to support aspiring independent journalists in the Eastern Partnership countries, Russia and Western Balkans;
  • Strengthen our engagement in the Media Freedom Coalition by becoming a member of the Executive Group;
  • Provide financial contributions to UNESCO Global Media Defence Fund and the Digital Defenders Partnership programme initiated by the Freedom Online Coalition, etc.

The military aggression of Russia against Ukraine caused a worsening of the media freedom situation in the eastern neighbourhood of the EU. We have been witnessing growing numbers of attacks on and repression against journalists. Targeted disinformation campaigns worldwide or misuse of digital technologies lead to further restriction of media freedom in many countries.

We have been working hard to support endangered journalists, pro-democratic civil society activists and other engaged voices fleeing from Russia and Belarus. In close partnership with Czech NGO’s, the Czech government has been since last year implementing residence permit facilitation programme “Civil Society”. Hundreds of endangered journalists and activists from Belarus and Russia have relocated to Czechia thanks to this programme. Others profited from emergency fast track visas procedure. We increased national funds earmarked to support independent media as well as voluntary contributions to international organizations, including to the Global Media Defence Fund and the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Thanks to this engagement, Prague has become an important hub for independent journalists and media. We will continue to provide this support.

Our assistance would not be possible without close cooperation and partnership with Czech and international NGOs that allow us to target our assistance efficiently. They deserve our appreciation.

The world is changing. With the ongoing digitalization and advances of new technologies, we need to focus on protection of human rights in the digital space. Creating of an enabling environment and safe digital space for freedom of opinion and expression is our next challenge.  

This is why, together with Maldives, Mexico, the Netherlands and South Africa, we presented at the current session of the UNGA Third Committee, a resolution on promotion and protection of human rights in the context of digital technologies. The aim is to fix a basic consensus on the impact of digital technologies on human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, access to information, the need of protecting women and vulnerable groups, closing the digital divides or exploring the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence.


Ladies and Gentleman,

Let me sum up my intervention by using a quote of Larry Diamond, who urged us all, I quote: “We must demonstrate that democracy, with freedom and a rule of law is a morally and practically superior form of government, and indeed the only form of government that has assured human dignity, peace, and prosperity.”

It is an immense task, but I am confident we can do it. It must be a joint endeavour of all of us - governments, civil society and the private sector. Let’s draw our inspiration and strength from the example of the perseverance and strength of the Ukrainian people and their fight for freedom.