INSTITUTIONAL PROFILE: Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
Democracy can be thought of as a political system or as a way of life. It can be understood or interpreted in various ways. Nonetheless, no matter how we perceive it, suppression of freedom, infringements of human rights, autocracy or dictatorship, and violations of public interest must not be indulged or tolerated, since such acts will corrode the foundations of all forms of democracy. Just as Taiwan’s democracy was not easily achieved, the global expansion of democracy has been beset by obstacles and difficulties. Moreover, since the process of Taiwan’s democratisation was assisted by friends from many other countries around the world, Taiwan cannot shirk the responsibility to assist democratisation in other countries. The struggle between democracy and autocracy is both a contest of strength and a competition among values. The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD) is willing to serve in the vanguard of this struggle.
The TFD is the first national democracy assistance foundation to be established in Asia, and is devoted to strengthening democracy and human rights in Taiwan and abroad. Taiwan’s transition to democracy is a historical accomplishment for its twenty-three million people and a landmark in the worldwide spread of democracy. As a joint effort from the people in Taiwan and the international community, Taiwan’s democratisation constituted the cornerstone of the people of Taiwan’s continued commitment to the principles of democracy and human rights. The establishment of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy is Taiwan’s effort to recompense the international community for all its long-term assistance and stalwart support.
In terms of organisation, the TFD is a cross-partisan organisation established in 2003. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs obtained the support of all political parties to pass the budget for the Foundation in the legislature. The TFD is governed by a Board of Trustees (with seventeen members) and a Supervisory Board (with five members). Board members represent political parties, the government, academia, non-governmental organisations, and the business sector. At the first Board meeting, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-ping was elected chairman and served until 2016. On 23 March 2016, Legislative Yuan Speaker Su Jia-Chyuan was elected as the new chairman. The current President for the Foundation is Dr Szu-chien Hsu, a renowned scholar on Chinese politics and a long-time advocate for democracy and human rights. The Foundation has three Vice Presidents. They are: Ms. Maysing Yang, Dr Ketty W. Chen and Dr Yeh-chung Lu. The three vice presidents are responsible for supervising their designated field at the Foundation in domestic affairs, international affairs and research and publication.
Human history has no fixed trajectory, and democracy does not fall from the sky. Established democracies may be destroyed, and complacent democracies may be hollowed out from within. However, democracy has become a core tenet of human civilisation. Therefore, the defence, deepening, and expansion of this civilisation are the common responsibility of humanity, and these are also the core missions of the TFD.
Democracy is the consensus of Taiwanese society, and the founding spirit of the country. Although Taiwan already possesses a democratic constitutional framework, there are aspects in Taiwan’s actual practice of democracy which require reform and improvement. Deepening and strengthening Taiwan’s democratic system through institutional reform and innovation, as well as broadening Taiwan’s pluralistic ideals of democracy, require efforts from all sectors of society. The TFD strives to work with Taiwanese civil society, academia, political parties, media, and government institutions, as well as, to form partnerships with global and regional democratic forces to achieve its mission.
Domestically, the TFD endeavour to play a positive role in consolidating Taiwan’s democracy and fortifying its commitment to human rights. The TFD is also devoted to supporting Taiwan’s civil society and political parties through grants and other forms of cooperation and to enhancing the quality of democratic participation, while promoting democratic values. To achieve this goal, the TFD assiduously investigates issues in the domestic development of democracy and helps develop solutions, and provides grants to domestic nongovernmental organisations as well as academic institutions and think tanks for activities to promote democracy and human rights. To facilitate diverse perspectives of human rights in Taiwan, special attention is now paid to issues such as transitional justice, democracy and human rights education, the empowerment of women, indigenous peoples and immigrants’ rights. In addition, the TFD aims to facilitate the awareness of new concepts such as open government and participatory budgeting in Taiwan.
Democracy is not only the pride of Taiwan, but also Taiwan’s strongest soft power in diplomacy. The TFD, therefore, is working to become the strongest link in the democratic network in Asia and worldwide. At the global level, the TFD actively participates in democratic mechanisms such as the Community of Democracies and the World Movement for Democracy. At the regional level, the TFD promotes solidarity and cooperation among pro-democratic political and civic actors in Asia, including enhancing the voice of Asians within global forums.
The TFD makes every effort to assist democratic transitions and consolidation in Asian countries, mainly through our partnerships with local NGOs. In recent years, the TFD has engaged in various ways to strengthen partnerships with leading advocates for democracy and human rights around the world, including international conferences, research projects, training programmes and seminars related to democracy and human rights promotion. In addition, TFD has developed a concentration on capacity-building to younger generations, especially for those from democracies in transition.
In the recently published report of “2015 Global Go-To Think Tank Index Report” by Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP), which reviews 6,846 think-tanks around the world, TFD ranks 7th in Southeast Asia and Pacific, out of the 370 think tanks in the Southeast Asia and Pacific countries and areas, and TFD also ranks the first, among the fifty-two think tanks in Taiwan.
1. Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADHRA)
Each year on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, the TFD presents the ADHRA to an individual or organisation that made concrete and significant contributions to the advancement of democracy and human rights and demonstrated a long-term commitment to the cause of freedom in Asia.
In 2016, ADHRA was awarded to the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD). AFAD is a regional federation of human rights organisations working on the issue of forced disappearances, with its headquarters in Manila, Philippines. In an award ceremony held at TFD’s premise, President Tsai Ing-wen presented the award to AFAD’s Secretary General, Mary Aileen D. Bacalso.
2. Asian Young Leaders for Democracy (AYLD)
The AYLD is the TFD’s flagship training programme, intended to encourage young Asian leaders in democracy and human rights movements and to prepare them for even more active public participation. The AYLD also serves as a platform for dialogue between young Taiwanese activists and regional counterparts. The 2016 AYLD gathered 22 young democrats and NGO activists from 18 countries as participants through a competitive application process, and featured with prominent lecturers and speakers, including Carl Gershman, President of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of the United States, Professor Larry Diamond of Stanford, Professor Michael Hsiao of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology and more.
Publications and Fellowships
In addition to occasional publications such as conference proceedings and books relating to democracy and human rights, the TFD’s regular publications include:
- Taiwan Democracy Quarterly – published since March 2004 (in Chinese)
- Taiwan Journal of Democracy – a semi-annual journal published since July 2005 (in English)
- China Human Rights Report – an annual report published since 2004 (in Chinese and English)
To support field research in Taiwan or comparative studies of Taiwan’s experience of democracy and human rights development, TFD established the International Visiting Fellowships, Democracy and Human Rights Service Fellowships, and Postdoctoral or Dissertation Fellowships.
Taiwan is gradually evolving into a mature democracy where freedom, democracy, human rights, and justice have become the core values of her citizens and the assets that bring them the most pride. In the near future, not only will TFD persist on the path of democratic reforms, but the Foundation will perform its duties to the international society. TFD will share Taiwan’s valuable democratic experiences and human rights ideals even-handedly to every corner of the world.
Taiwan Foundation for Democracy
No.4, Alley 17, Lane 147, Section 3, Sinyi Road, Taipei
Phone: 886-2- 2708-0100
Fax: 886-2- 2708-1148
Dr Ketty W. Chen is Vice President of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. She is also Non-resident Research Fellow, Center for International Indigenous Affairs at the College of Indigenous Studies, National Dong Hwa University.
Dr Yeh-chung Lu is Vice President of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy. He is also Associate Professor in Diplomacy, Department of International Affairs, National Chengchi University.