July 21, 2009

Obama's Ghana speech: A message for Honduras?

A reader wondered whether US President Obama's July 11 speech in Ghana might have an underlying message for Honduras. The following are some excerpts from the full text of the speech (emphasis is mine):

Now, to realize that promise, we must first recognize the fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends on good governance. (Applause.) That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That's the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.

As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I've pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa's interests and America's interests. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by -- it's whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change. (Applause.)

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I'll focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy, opportunity, health, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. (Applause.)

As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.

This is about more than just holding elections.
It's also about what happens between elections. (Applause.) Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves -- (applause) -- or if police -- if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. (Applause.) No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top -- (applause) -- or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. (Applause.) That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end. (Applause.)

Further on Obama states:

Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. (Applause.) Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. (Applause.)
But then, he states:

Now, America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation. The essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. But what America will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and responsible institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance -- on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard -- (applause); on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services -- (applause) -- strengthening hotlines, protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability.

What do you think? Anything hopeful in there?
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