STUDENTS FOR GLOBAL DEMOCRACY MANIFESTO
Make the world a better place by promoting political liberties worldwide.
Have you ever wondered if you’ll make a difference in the world? Sure, you can get good grades, join in a protest march or two, make friends, and do everything that’s expected of the typical student. But perhaps you would like to set yourself apart. We offer the opportunity to join an unprecedented movement that will forever change the world.
Wouldn’t you like to solve the world’s biggest problems – horrors such as war, terrorism, and genocide? Most movements fight these evils in a piecemeal way and rarely produce results. If we want to truly change the world, why do we attack its ills by combating only the symptoms and never removing the causes? Without an ambitious plan to transform the environment that creates these ills, we will perpetually fight the side-effects and never find the cure.
The roots of these three major problems can all be traced back to one source – the denial of the basic rights of self-determination. The global democracy movement acknowledges that the worst problems occur when people can’t choose their own governments. Our cause offers the only practical solution to the evils of dictatorship and oppression.
War is a potent destructive force wielded most often by tyrants. A government that does not answer to its citizens more often engages in the brutality of warfare, unfettered by the restraints of a concerned public. The average person will not have the same hawkish drive as autocrats because the majority of citizens do not profit nearly as much from interstate conflict as dictators. Just look at the wars of the last century – can you name one that didn’t involve an autocratic country? Sure, there have been cases where democracies started wars – but those wars were almost always waged against dictatorships. When every country around the world has a democratic form of government, the primary cause of war will disappear.
Terrorism, another type of dictator-caused conflict, has given our generation a unique challenge. Must we be forever condemned to hunt terrorists in the backlands of nations halfway across the world? We will be if we never remove the root causes of the cancer. To paraphrase Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, the only way to truly defeat terrorism in the long-term is to tell oppressed peoples that “we’re on your side” by promoting civil society and democracy in autocratic nations. When governments deny citizens political liberties, people often turn to violence to effect change. Democratic governance removes terrorism’s primary cause by giving people a nonviolent, productive way to express themselves.
Finally, genocide in the twentieth century always occurred under the auspices of dictators. People without political rights cannot express their outrage at the murdering of their neighbors. Autocrats play upon differences to pit their people against one another so that no one may challenge the regime. It happened in Hitler’s Germany, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, in Rwanda, and occurs even today in Sudan’s Darfur region. Only a government that is accountable to its own people will protect the rights of minorities.
We do not seek to impose an American-style democracy in other countries, nor do we support dissident groups that use violence to achieve their goals. Rather, we simply wish to bolster the efforts of indigenous individuals by removing the obstacles to their dreams of liberty.
But how can college students affect countries halfway around the world? First, a show of solidarity from students worldwide will greatly energize any democratic movement and bolster their support among their country’s population. Protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 constructed a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Iranian dissidents held a candlelight vigil in solidarity with Americans on September 11, 2001. The least we can do to repay their esteem for our shared ideals is to stand in unison with them. Our action will help dissidents along the lonely and difficult path they take when they oppose dictatorship.
Secondly, we can help democratic activists by giving them aid and training. Often a dissident movement suffers simply from lack of experience in opposing dictators or doesn't have enough funds to do so. We can help by connecting them with groups that have both, and raising funds for them ourselves.
Lastly, our members in current democracies can aid opposition movements in autocratic nations by applying pressure on our own governments. In America, Students for Global Democracy led a petition drive that encouraged the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004 – a bill that will give great aid to the North Korean people. All it takes is a demand for change nationwide to transform a government's policy.
Here are three steps you can take right now and in the coming weeks:
SGD provides a third way for solving the problems of the world. Too often today we are given the choice between the lesser of two evils with no middle ground. SGD promotes a bridge between extremes. With partisanship dividing the world today, it’s time a movement appealed to all sides of the political spectrum. Individual SGD members may be liberal or conservative, libertarian or progressive, but the organization as a whole will always strive to present all sides of an issue in the truest tradition of a democratic debate.
- Start a local chapter of Students for Global Democracy (SGD) or get involved at the international level. Apply here to begin the process. If we don’t expand to as many places as possible, the movement simply will not succeed.
- Educate yourself and those around you. Soak up everything on the following websites: CCD21's Democracy Library, Freedom House, and Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy. Read Breaking the Real Axis of Evil by Mark Palmer and A Force More Powerful by Jack Duvall and Peter Ackerman.
- Hold local awareness and activist events in conjunction with international SGD campaigns. This is simple as showing a film highlighting oppression in Burma and as ambitious as gathering signatures on national petitions and participating in regional demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in countries such as Iran.
We must return the community of nations to their natural role as a beacon of freedom. Together, democracies defeated fascism and communism in the last century, but were not always on the right side of freedom when our nations propped up dictatorships abroad. It is the task of our generation to share the liberties secured in the last century with the rest of the world and to eliminate the last vestiges of dictatorship.
Choose apathy or choose to change the world.
We await your decision.