By Siti Hajar
As per the yearly tradition whose legacy began in 2008 nestled within the picturesque Bali in Indonesia, this year will see the continuation of the Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) that will see the gathering of Heads of States from around the region, including His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
Scheduled to depart the Sultanate today, His Majesty will stand alongside with an expected presence of 15 Heads of States in an event that is set to take place from December 8 to December 9, 2011, within an inter-governmental forum setting that will discuss this year's BDF IV theme entitled "Enhancing Democratic Participation in a Changing World: Responding to Democratic Voices".
The forum will focus on efforts towards enhanced people participation by way of responding to democratic voices and relevant issues involved in such a process along with deliberations for its two other sub-themes namely "The Ability of State to Respond to the Voice of Democracy" and "Ensuring Democratic Space for Civil Society Participation" by leaders and experts.
Growing in strength as evident in the number of participations since it was first organised by Indonesia for the development and strengthening of regional democratic institutions, this year's BDF will see a total of 54 participating countries from the Asia Pacific Region and 66 countries and international organisations that are attending as observers from the initial 40 countries and observers in 2008, 48 in 2009 and 86 in 2010.
Apart from initiating a learning and sharing process among countries in Asia as a strategy towards the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond, the BDF's common goals and objectives includes placing democracy as a strategic agenda in regional discourse in Asia and to forge closer understanding and cooperation amongst participating countries of the BDF whilst establishing a regional cooperation forum that promotes political development through dialogue and sharing of experience that is aimed at strengthening democratic institutions.
As a means to initiate and build a platform for mutual support and cooperation in the field of democracy and political development and to function as a resource base and information centre for research and study, as well as a pool of expertise in the various sectors relevant to democracy, the BDF's principles is deemed as being based on equality, mutual respect and tolerance, mutual understanding and mutual benefits through an inclusive inter-governmental forum that is open to all countries in the region, democracies and those aspiring to be more democratic.
Their strategies include the conducting of annual high-level forum of foreign ministers or other ministries and prominent figures, endorsing the important role of the Institute for Peace and Democracy as the implementing arm of the BDF, establish networks with relevant regional and international organisations including NGOs and the media and to gain support from governments and other partners outside the region.
Prioritisation of the BDF is an arrayed field of international agendas that includes the strengthening and development of the electoral process, enhancing the role of political parties, ensuring access to basic public information and public needs and also fostering the role of women and gender equality and the participation of civil society and the youth.
- Borneo Bulletin
(7th December 2011)