From a speech by British Foreign Minister William Hague to the Times CEO Africa Summit on March 22, 2010. See the full text here.
We are only in the early stages of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East. It is already set to overtake the 2008 financial crisis and 9/11 as the most important development of the early 21st century, and is likely to bring some degree of political change in all countries in the Arab world.
This is a historic shift of massive importance, presenting the international community as a whole with an immense opportunity. We believe that the international response to these events must be commensurately generous, bold and ambitious.
But these momentous events do not stop at the borders of the Arab world.
One of the emerging lessons of the crises in the Middle East is that the demands for freedom will spread, and that undemocratic governments elsewhere should take heed.
Inspiring scenes of people taking the future of their countries into their own hands will ignite greater demands for good governance and political reform elsewhere in the world, including in Asia and in Africa.
The desire for freedom is a universal aspiration, and governments that attempt to isolate their people from the spread of information and ideas around the globe will fight a losing battle over time.
Governments that use violence to stop democratic development will not earn themselves respite forever. They will pay an increasingly high price for actions which they can no longer hide from the world with ease, and will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Governments that block the aspirations of their people, that steal or are corrupt, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will find it increasingly hard to escape the judgement of their own people, or where warranted, the reach of international law.
The action we have taken in Libya, authorised by the United Nations Security Council, shows that the international community does take gross violations of human rights extremely seriously.
For just as Qadhafi is an obstacle to the peaceful development of Libya, there are some others who stand in the way of a brighter future for their countries.
The foundations of good governance – the rule of law, free media and strong independent institutions – are not a luxury but a fundamental basis for economic long term development and security.