The Kennan Institute, the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, and the New Eurasia Foundation Hosted a Forum on National Security and Human Rights in Moscow

Jun 30, 2006

Over the last several years, the threat and reality of terrorism has grown exponentially, and countries throughout the world are struggling to combat this problem. The importance of developing an effective collective response to this challenge has been recognized by the G8, a group of leading democratic and economically developed nations. The G8 countries have included the issue of combating terrorism in the agenda of their annual summit in mid-July in St. Petersburg, Russia. Of particular concern to many people around the world is the perceived trend toward using fears about security to justify the erosion of civil liberties and to deprive citizens of their fundamental rights. Effectively addressing security while respecting human rights constitutes a key challenge of our day, and it is essential to have an open dialogue among individuals who are responsible for security and those who are involved in the protection and promotion of civil liberties. Such a real and meaningful dialogue is vital to the preservation of democratic societies.

On June 29, 2006, the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, and the New Eurasia Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion on National Security and Human Rights in Moscow on the eve of the G8 Summit. The conference was opened by the Chair of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, Ella Pamfilova. The forum brought together more than twenty leading experts from G8 countries, including members of academia, public policy research centers, law, nongovernmental organizations, human rights advocacy, and journalism. The main points of the discussion focused on the importance of protecting human rights while ensuring comprehensive security, and indeed, acknowledging the fact that the two are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. There was broad consensus among the participants that only a society built on respect for human rights and the rule of law can effectively combat terrorism and that good governance, independent judiciary, a strong civil society, constraints on corruption, and an independent media are key elements. Moreover, it was widely noted that suppressing democratic freedoms as an expedient to achieving national security will only weaken it further by radicalizing and isolating certain populations, contributing to their perceived grievances and increasing the impetus to violence.

We intend to continue this important discussion at other international gatherings with the goal of enhancing an appreciation for the essential interdependence of national security and human rights. We strongly recommend that this critical topic be placed on the agenda of the G8 at its next annual meeting in Germany in 2007.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, established by Congress in 1968 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the living, national memorial to President Wilson. The Center establishes and maintains a neutral forum for free, open, and informed dialogue. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.

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