A new paradigm for the fight against terror

7 April 2005

'One of the most surprising political developments since the attacks of Sept. 11. 2001 has been the extent to which the fight against terrorism has divided the democratic world' writes Fernando Cardoso former president of Brazil in today's International Herald Tribune.

But Cardoso has faith. The 'seemingly unbridgeable gulf' between those who wanted to counter terrorism through 'taking the battle to the enemy' and those who 'tended to minimise the threat' is not so unbridgeable after all. It is the Madrid Agenda, Cardoso believes, that may prove to be our golden gate.

Almost a month has passed since the International Summit on Democracy and Terrorism which took place in Madrid  March 8-11.

So what did it achieve? Certainly we must look at the Summit as more than an event, more than a three-day whirl of activists, academics and politicians. For three months before the Summit, activists spent many long hours researching the various causes of terrorism, how to confront it, and longer term democratic responses, as did a lively public in our online debates. And so the Madrid Agenda emerged.

For Cardoso the Madrid Agenda represents an emerging global consensus on the issue of terrorism whose central elements are:

- to condemn terrorism unequivocally

- to fight it through the rule of law

- to promote international cooperation

- to spread and deepen democracy

Of all of these he points to democracy as key, democracy based on more than just elections but 'a vibrant civil society and full respect for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities.'

As Cardoso writes 'where people have access to institutions to address their most urgent concerns - economic, political or cultural - they have no reason to turn to the merchants of hate and fear.'

Do you agree that the Madrid Agenda represents a real turning point, 'a new paradigm cutting across the ideological divisions that have hindered the fight against terrorism in the past?'

And if democracy is key, how can we best encourage vibrant civil society and responsive institutions?

Join the Madrid debate and comment on the Madrid Agenda here.

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