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Forum pledges to bolster democracy amid authoritarianism threat

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Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) The 2021 Open Parliament Forum in Taipei concluded Friday, with representatives from participating democracies pledging in a joint statement to strengthen the pursuit of democracy amid concerns over growing authoritarianism.

According to the statement, the participants pledged to engage on the "open government challenges identified in the forum ... including transparency, civic space, open response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 crisis."

Other goals cited included raising awareness of the ongoing infringement of minority rights in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide, building global connections to foster global legislative transparency, and push for buy-in of open government principles.

"As we uphold shared values and work with Taiwan and regional partners to promote legislative openness, we must recognize that democracy is being challenged as never before.

"Authoritarians have taken advantage of the pandemic, crippling many young democracies and exacerbating disparities of wealth and divisions in society, so it is now more important than ever for the international community to stand with Taiwan and like-minded countries around the world in pursuit of democratic governance, peace, human rights and the rule of law," the statement read.

During the forum's closing ceremony, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Taiwan will never give in to authoritarianism, which he said "seemed to be determined to crush our democracy through military coercion and hybrid warfare."

"We understand our democracy is not perfect, and our government, including our Legislative Yuan, may not be as open and responsible as we desire it to be. But I can tell you that the Taiwanese people don't turn back after we embarked on the road of democratization," Wu said.

"We have confidence that democracy will prevail at the end. And Taiwan will also prevail because we are a democracy, and we are not alone," he added.

The two-day forum, titled "Open Parliament in a Post-COVID Context: Global Examples of Resilience and Planning for 2022 and Beyond," was organized by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Legislative Yuan and the National Democratic Institute, a U.S.-headquartered nonprofit.

Through the forum, Taiwan became the first country that is not a member of the Open Government Partnership to host the event in Asia.

With ties warming up between Taiwan and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, a group of parliamentarians from the three former Soviet republics attended the forum in person to show their support.

Also participating was Belize's House Speaker Valerie Woods.

A total of 37 experts, scholars, and parliamentarians from 21 countries including Argentina, Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Sri Lanka, the U.K., and the U.S. also took part in the forum, with the majority of attendees appearing via video link.

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