Australian Centre for Democratic Institutions

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The Australian Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) was established in 1997 with funding of $A1 million per year for an initial five-year period from the Australian government. [1]

CDI's projects are in the Asia Pacific Region and specifically Fiji, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Vanuatu.

According to Stuart Macintyre (2006) in 1998 "A selection committee chose Dr John Uhr, a highly qualified political scientist, as the director of the centre. That decision was then put to Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer for approval, and it is alleged that he consulted the Prime Minister. In the event a former Australian ambassador, Mr Roland Rich, who had no research qualifications, was appointed the foundations director." (pp.49-50) [1]


From their website:

CDI responds to the needs of developing countries in the field of good governance and democratic institutions. The centre was established as an Australian Government initiative and receives its core funding through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Its geographic focus is the Asia-Pacific region.
CDI is based in the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National Unviverisy and draws from the considerable intellectual capital of Australia's leading graduate tertiary institution. [2]

Fidel Ramos, former president of the Philippines was the first person to deliver the Australian Centre for Democratic Institutions CDI annual address at the launch of the Centre in November 1998. [3]


"Promoting democracy"

The Australian Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) is similar in nature to the U.S. government funded National Endowment for Democracy. William Robinson (1996) suggests that such organizations are involved in "the promotion of polyarchy as a transnational project reflecting globalization" (Robinson, 1996, p. 363)

"This process is taking place through the development at two distinct levels of transnational mechanisms for promoting and instutionalizing a polyarchic global political system. The first level is that of other Northern countries. These countries have set up their own government-linked "democracy promotion" agencies and launched programs to intervene in the political systems and civil socities of the Third World, in coordination with US programs. By the early 1990s: the British government had established a quasi-private foundation similar to the NED, the Westminster Foundation; the Canadian government had established a similar International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development; Sweden, Japan, and France were expected to develop their own foundations; and several German foundations which have been active in limited "political aid" programs overseas since the 1970s, began to expand these programs and to coordinate them with the NED." (Robinson, 1996, p. 364)

In 1997, Louisa Coan, Program Officer for Asia National Endowment for Democracy reported that:

"We are pleased to report that just two weeks ago Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced the creation of a new, independent Centre for Democratic Institutions with the mission of providing practical support for the consolidation of democratic institutions. NED has been in contact with a number of Australians interested in this idea over the past couple of years, and we are pleased to see the establishment of such a sister institution in Australia." Source: Congressional Testimony by Federal Document Clearing House

The Christchurch Press reported on 17 June, 2000, that Roland Rich, the then executive director of the CDI:

"...argued against intervention in Fiji. "Our role," he said, "has to be to deal with elites." This is a strangely undemocratic attitude. Elites have ruled in Fiji for all but one of its 30 years of independence. As a result, little has been done for ordinary Fijians."

Promoting media developments

On 20 June, 2003, the PNG Post Courier reported that the CDI would be funding an initiative of the PNG Media Council which involved a three-day upskilling workshop for local media workers to promote more effective independent media. The training team consisted of the PNG Media Council manager John Rei, media council director and Post-Courier (the largest selling national newspaper in Papua New Guinea) managing director Bob Howarth - and IT specialist and consultant trainer Di Collins.

The CDI helped fund the creation of the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre in 2003 with aid from the Myer Foundation. [4]

In 2000, the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific held a conference on Media and Democratization in the Asia Pacific. Organised in cooperation with the CDI and ANU the conference also marked the launch of a new book Losing Control: Freedom of the Press in Asia, editied by Roland Rich and Louise Williams. [2]

Protest outside CDI conference

In 1999, the CDI organised a conference in Australia to examine the management of a smooth transition to democracy in East Timor. However, one of the 35 participants in the workshop was pro-Indonesian militia leader Basilio Araujo (leader of an organisation called Forum Persatuan Demokrasi Dan Keadilan - FPDK - or Forum for Unity). His inclusion in the conferences led to a protest outside the venue, where "Organiser Ines Almieda read a statement condemning the pro-integrationist militias for murdering and torturing East Timorese people."

Keynote speeches at annual CDI meetings

In 1998, Fidel Ramos delivered the CDI annual address and in 2000 former Thai prime minister Anand Panyarachun addressed Australia's Parliament House in Canberra for the annual CDI meeting. Two days later (on 26 November 2000) Anand delivered "another keynote address on democracy and free market to a group of business people and academics in Melbourne" (Lertcharoenchok, 1999).

CDI Consultative Council

As of June 2006

According to a 2003 M2 Presswire former members of the Council included:

  • Hon Chris Gallus MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs will chair the Consultative Council;
  • Mr Geoff Walsh, Federal Director, Australian Labor Party;
  • The Rt Hon Sir Ninian Stephen, KG, AK, GCMG, GCVO, KBE, former Governor General;
  • Mr Andy Becker, Australian Electoral Commissioner;
  • Professor Ian McAllister, Director, Research School of Social Sciences at the ANU;

Source: M2 Presswire, 2003

The role of the UN in promoting democracy

In late 2004, the CDI published the book "The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality".




  • Dr Roland Rich - was the CDI's Director from 1998 to 2005
  • Dr Michael Morgan - Deputy Director (The position of Deputy Director was established with the support of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies - RSPAS)

For further details

Contact details

Centre for Democratic Institutions
Research School of Social Sciences,
Coombs Building,
Australian National University,
Canberra ACT 0200
Telephone:+61 2 6125 0605
Facsimile: +61 2 6125 9726
Email: cdi AT

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Stuart Macintyre, Universities, In: Sarah Maddison and Clive Hamiliton (2006) Silencing Dissent: How the Australian government is controlling public opinion and stifling debate, pp.41-53.
  2. [Research Insitute for Asia and the Pacific Annual Report 2000], University of Sydney, accessed September 18, 2007.

External links