The National Democratic Institute hosted a terrific (and huge and really long) lunch yesterday honoring the Fifty Fifty Group in Sierra Leone and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The work that Fifty Fifty has done to bring women into politics in Sierra Leone is very impressive. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whose term as President has gotten off to a promising start, seems to be focused on development and democracy from the right perspective — that is, she believes both must be built from the bottom up.
It was fitting that the event took place on UN Day. Sierra Leone and Liberia are two rarely acknowledged success stories for the world body. Without UN help, neither country would have likely emerged from vicious civil conflict, and neither country would have successfully held legitimate elections. Plus, Johnson-Sirleaf herself is a former UNDP regional bureau administrator.
The NDI lunch also offered a healthy dose of measured idealism. The U.S. does have a role in promoting democracy internationally, just so long as it’s done peacefully, with sense of humility, and with an acknowledgment of the shortcomings of our own process.
Bush, Cheney & Co view democracy as a silver bullet. NDI has the right idea: promoting democracy is celebrating imperfection. Democracy is messy — and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
— Scott Paul