Brunei Darussalam

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Brunei Darussalam is an absolute monarchy, ruled by the same family for more than 600 years. Although the government exercised its emergency authority less frequently than in the past, the threat of action cast a long shadow on public debate and political activity (emergency powers have been renewed every two years since the sultan first invoked an article of the constitution that allows assumption of such powers in 1962). The sultan appointed all government ministers and all but five of 29 legislative council members. Village-level governments were elected, but the government screened candidates, and often only one candidate competed. Reported human rights problems included arbitrary detention; limits on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on religious freedom; discrimination against women; restricted labor rights; and limited exploitation of foreign workers.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government seeks to promote the development of a more accountable and transparent government institutional framework that ultimately allows popular participation in an open political process. To encourage such participation, U.S. officials share the benefits of the U.S. democratic system and political openness with government officials, military officers, private citizens, civil society representatives, NGOs, political parties, and student groups. This includes expansion of person-to-person exchanges and increasing the number of Bruneians visiting or studying in the United States.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

To help foster development of a well-informed and involved civil society, the United States continues to promote freedom of expression, improve local journalism skills, and expand public debate through outreach and educational exchange programs. These programs also serve to widen the range and improve the quality of information about the United States available in the country. U.S. officials use these programs to introduce rule of law and human rights values consistent with international best practices to professionals, public employees, and law enforcement officers.

The United States encourages the government to progress on the path toward an effective and more representative legislative council through advocacy for the principles of transparent governance, the direct popular election of some council members, strengthened independent political parties, and termination of the longstanding state of emergency. The United States has increased support for active and independent political parties through exchange programs, public interaction, and advocacy.

The United States targets its exchange programs to support these priorities. Each year the U.S. Government provides funding to send exchange participants to the United States--one Fulbright scholar, two International Visitor Leadership Program participants, one Edward R. Murrow journalism fellow, and at least five Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies fellows. The United States also provides support to security forces to build their understanding of international human rights standards.

In addition the U.S. Government has increased public diplomacy efforts in support of democracy promotion. The U.S. ambassador writes a weekly newspaper column in which themes of human rights and democracy are discussed. Via the U.S. embassy Web site, blogs, and other Internet media, the embassy delivers extensive information about the United States, targeting the younger generation. The use of digital video conferences provides for more direct discussions with U.S. speakers and policy makers. U.S. officials interact directly with varied audiences ranging from high school to college-age students, military officers, leading business leaders, civil society, and government officials. Promoting additional government scholarships for study in the United States is also a top priority.