The General Assembly this morning encouraged the Secretary-General to improve the capacity of the Organization to respond effectively to requests of Member States for support of their efforts to achieve the goals of good governance and democratization.
The Assembly took that action by adopting, without a vote, a resolution on support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies. It also encouraged Member States to promote democratization and identify ways to support government efforts to promote and consolidate those democracies.
Further, the Assembly invited the Secretary-General, Member States, the United Nations and other organizations to contribute to the follow-up of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development, held in Bucharest in September. It also welcomed the offer of Benin to host the next conference in its capital city Cotonou.
In other action this morning, the Assembly adopted a resolution, without a vote, urging the United Nations to continue cooperating with the Economic Cooperation Organization (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). It also invited international financial institutions to consider development plans in the region, particularly a comprehensive transport and communications infrastructure.
Further, the Assembly invited the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to assume a more active role in promoting cooperation with the Economic Cooperation Organization.
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In the debate before action on the resolution on new or restored democracies, several speakers emphasized the relationship between development and democracy. They said good governance was effective when the State, private sector and civil society cooperated on political, economic and social conditions necessary to foster sustainable human development.
Hennadiy Udovenko, the President of the General Assembly, said putting the issue of further development of the new and restored democracies under the "broad UN umbrella" gained more relevance and importance in the light of the Organization's ongoing process of renewal and reform. Deeper United Nations involvement in the world-wide process of democratization would benefit the Organization in its goal to further democratize its procedures and functioning methods.
Statements were also made by Romania, Luxembourg, on behalf of the European Union and associated States, Zambia, Germany, Swaziland, Hungary, Nicaragua, Philippines, Mongolia, Guyana, Argentina, Ukraine, Benin, Andorra, India, Italy, South Africa, United States, Republic of Korea and Gambia.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Monday, 24 November to elect 19 members of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. It will also consider cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and strengthening of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this morning to consider support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies, and a related draft resolution. It was also to take action on a draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and its specialized agencies and the Economic Cooperation Organization.
Consolidation of New Democracies
The Assembly had before it the Secretary-General's report (document A/52/513), submitted in response to the Assembly's resolution 51/31, which concentrates on policies and principles, while giving an account of relevant recent events shaping the emerging framework for inter-governmental action in the field of democratization. He referred to the need for the whole United Nations system to provide concrete assistance to countries that ask for help in various ways related to democracy, governance and development. It was his firm belief that the system could help the democratization process more effectively than it did at present.
The report outlines recent international events on democratization and governance, such as the Third International Conference of the New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development, held in Bucharest from 2 to 4 September 1997, and the International Conference on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity, held in New York from 28 to 30 July 1997. Both conferences, the report says, marked the gradual start of new thinking on international cooperation in this area. The driving forces for change, coming from North and South, the developed and developing world, could not be ignored.
Donors are increasingly emphasizing the virtues of democratization and good governance in their guidelines for aid programmes, the report states. The Bucharest Conference reaffirmed that international assistance for democratization and reform needs to be tailored to fit into the broader political, cultural and social circumstances in each country. An important question raised during the Conference was how to monitor progress in democratization and one proposal was to develop indicators. It recommended that a specific mechanism, that would include representatives of the United Nations system, should be established. It was also recommended that the Bretton Woods institutions and other sectors of the United Nations dealing with governance, democratization and peace-building should have more frequent contacts and cooperation.
The rationale for the New York Conference rested on two main factors -- first, that while there is worldwide acceptance of the significance of good governance as a major driving force of development, much still needs to be done to improve our understanding of the issues involved; second, that there is growing recognition of the limitations of modern forms of governance, and
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these, too, need to be better understood. The Conference concluded that governance is led by the State, but transcends it by collaborating with the private sector and civil society. All three domains are critical for sustaining human development. The state creates a conducive political, economic and legal environment while the private sector generates jobs and income. The civil society facilitates political and social interaction and mobilizes groups to participate in economic, social and political activities.
In order for the United Nations to play a useful role in helping new or restored democracies, the report goes on, past experience and new ideas and suggestions put forward by governments and representatives of academia and civil society must be taken into account. The first steps have been taken to foster an improved relationship between the United Nations and civil society, including a number of conferences and seminars held as a result of cooperation with the entities of the United Nations system, civil society and the research community.
The principles of good governance emphasized by the United Nations agencies in their definitions of governance are: an effective public sector; accountability/transparency of processes and institutions; effective participation of civil society/political empowerment; effective decentralization of power; access to knowledge, information and education; political pluralism/freedom of association and expression; rule of law/respect for human rights, legitimacy/consensus; attitudes and values fostering responsibility, solidarity and tolerance; equity/voice for the poor; and gender equality. If an additional twelfth principle, free and fair elections is added, the report states, all essential elements of a solid framework for democratization assistance by the United Nations anywhere in the world today would be in place.
The United Nations system, in assisting and supporting the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies, does not endorse or promote any specific form of government. Democracy is not a model to be copied but a goal to be attained. Also, the pace at which democratization can proceed is dependent on a variety of political, economic, social and cultural factors proper to the circumstances of a particular culture and society.
In reviewing the experience of the United Nations in electoral assistance, it is stated that an important characteristic of both international and domestic observation has been concentration on elections to the relative exclusion of other aspects of the democratic process. Such observation -- as of elections -- in isolation, should be undertaken in conjunction with more long-term efforts to consolidate democracy, which would require a significant change in the way electoral assistance is provided.
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The emergence of civil society is linked to two interlocking processes: the quest for a more democratic, transparent, accountable and enabling governance, and the increasing preponderance of market-based approaches to national and global economic management. These have resulted in a redefining of the role of the State and vested new and broader responsibilities in market and civil society actors in the pursuit of growth and well-being. A vibrant civil society is critical to processes of democratization and empowerment and needs to be recognized as such by the international community.
The private sector also has a crucial role to play in the consolidation of democracy and the promotion of sustainable human development. It has the ability to distribute economic resources, increase economic efficiency and provide employment, thus improving the population's standards of living. More research is needed on the links between globalization, including the role of financial markets, and threats to democratization.
The report says gender issues form an important component of many social and political cultures and, as such, have to be considered in the process of democratization. The active participation of both sexes is an absolute necessity in a process of consolidating democracy. Discrimination against women undermines the democratic fabric of society and lessens the overall degree of participation of citizens. Only a few countries have so far achieved the minimum goal of 30 per cent participation of women in decision-making processes at the highest national level.
Among its observations and recommendations, the Secretary-General's report says it is necessary to pay attention to the conduct of elections from an administrative and organizational point of view, in order to encourage the creation of conditions that are as free and fair as possible. The focus of observation should move from the international to the national level. Support should be provided to domestic organizations, both in the performance of their role as electoral observers and in the development of new functions as watchdogs of democracy.
The concluding declaration of the Bucharest Conference provided a perceptive analysis of the crucial nature of civil society in the democratization process. It warned about dangers of "direct democracy" when it disregards non-governmental organizations as representatives of citizens' interests, and it offered suggestions for Governments on how to establish appropriate legal frameworks for civil society. The Secretary-General took note of the proposal that the United Nations should arrange a larger forum for representatives of non-governmental organizations to discuss democratization and the role of civil society in two years' time in order to follow up on the Bucharest Conference. The Secretary-General's July 1997 reform package had suggested that representatives of civil society should be encouraged to hold a people's millennium assembly, as a separate companion event to a special millennium session of the General Assembly in the year 2000.
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An issue with practical implications for the United Nations, the report goes on, is the need to clarify further the link between democratization, development and peace. That the peace-building and development, democratization and governance efforts of the Organization are distinct but mutually reinforcing underlines the importance for the United Nations system as a whole to improve its ability to cooperate and coordinate its actions.
The report notes that to counter the existing trend towards parochialism, the Secretary-General's reform package of July 1997 proposed several measures to strengthen joint work and integrated planning among agencies. In January 1997, four Executive Committees were created in the areas comprising the core missions of the United Nations: peace and security; economic and social affairs; development cooperation, and humanitarian affairs. The fifth core area, human rights, was designated as "cutting across" the others and thus being part of all of them. The aim of the Executive Committees would be to sharpen the contribution that each unit made to the overall objectives of the Organization by reducing duplication of effort and facilitating greater complementarity and coherence.
The Secretary-General welcomes the Bucharest decision that the next international conference of its kind will be held in an African country. He says that while it is advisable that future conferences should remain outside the direct sponsorship of the United Nations, consideration should perhaps be given to inviting all States Members of the United Nations.
By the terms of the draft resolution (document A/52/L.28), the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General, Member States, the relevant specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations system, and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to contribute actively to the follow-up process of the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development. The Secretary-General would be asked to report to the next session of the Assembly on the implementation of the present resolution, including innovative ways and means to enable the Organization to respond effectively and in an integrated manner to requests of Member States for assistance in the field of good governance and democratization. The Assembly would decide to include the item in its provisional agenda of its next session.
Sponsors of the draft resolution are Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Zambia.
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Economic Cooperation Organization
By the terms of a revised draft resolution (document A/52/L.20/Rev.1), the Assembly would urge United Nations agencies, organizations and programmes to increase cooperation with the organization and call on international financial institutions to favourably consider the organization's regional development plans, especially a comprehensive transport and communications infrastructure.
The Assembly would invite the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to take a more active role in cooperating with the organization. It would also ask the Secretary-General to submit a report on implementation of the resolution to the next, fifty-third, session, and decide to include the item entitled "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization" in that session's provisional agenda. (For further details see Press Release GA/9357 of 20 November.)
The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Statements: New or Restored Democracies
The President of the General Assembly, HENNADIY UDOVENKO (Ukraine), said recent dramatic changes in the international arena had given powerful impetus to the global process of democratization. Since the first International Conference of Newly Restored Democracies held in Manila in 1988, a great number of countries had realized their people's aspirations by joining the family of States that had been following the path of freedom, justice and democracy for many decades or centuries.
The Declaration and Plan of Action endorsed by the second international conference at Managua, Nicaragua in 1994, had emphasized the need for active involvement of the United Nations system in the process. The final document of the third international conference held in Bucharest from 2 to 4 September this year, reiterated the importance of the United Nations role in helping countries meet their challenges. Today, the discussion would focus on new ideas and suggestions to enhance the United Nations role in supporting good governance, as well as providing assistance to those States in accomplishing their priority tasks.
Putting the issue of further development of the new and restored democracies under the "broad UN umbrella" gained more relevance and importance in the light of the ongoing process of United Nations renewal and reform, he said. Particular attention should be paid to strengthening the mechanisms of monitoring the information and development of those States, so that specific assistance could be made promptly available and deliverable. Deeper involvement of the United Nations in the continuous world-wide process of
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democratization would benefit the Organization itself, during the process of essential structural transformations aimed at further democratization of its procedures and functioning methods.
ION GORITA (Romania) introduced the draft resolution, entitled "Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new and restored democracies" (document A/52/l.28). He said Albania, Benin, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Hungary, Latvia, Niger and Portugal had joined the list of sponsors.
He said effective democracy should not only allow participation in decision-making but also lead to development and prosperity for all. Development without democracy was impaired if it brought benefits to a few elites only. The political document entitled "Progress Review and Recommendations" adopted by consensus at the Bucharest Conference in September, acknowledged the emerging of a new thinking over democratic values and their potential in making democracy work in the service of development and prosperity. The Ministers and representatives who met at the Conference acknowledged the relationship of interdependence and mutual reinforcement that existed between democracy, development and good governance. They concluded that democratization was a world movement based on shared values, which embraced North and South, East and West, and overcame traditional confrontational lines.
He said the Bucharest document contained recommendations that addressed vital areas significant for the consolidation of democratic societies. There were guidelines for strengthening policies and principles addressed to governments in the field of human rights, judicial reform, corruption, organized crime, decentralization, participation in political life, elections, gender equality, civic education, accountability and transparency, media, and civil service reform; and also recommendations related to civil society and the private sector, to donor countries and the international community, to the United Nations system and international financial organizations.
He said his Government was satisfied with the observations and recommendations in the Secretary-General's report. The value of the electoral assistance provided or coordinated by the United Nations was unquestionable and the potential of the organization in that respect should be further considered in the new international environment, where democratization efforts had become more prevalent. Romania also wished to underline the importance of civil society in the democratization processes and agreed that in peace- building and development, democratization and governance efforts of the organization were distinct but mutually reinforcing. His country welcomed the report's essential conclusion that democracy now more than ever had practical relevance to United Nations activities.
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SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), spoke for the European Union, for Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia, and also Norway and Cyprus.
She said that while democratic systems assumed many shapes, depending on the specific conditions of their social structures, they all rested on a set of essential values, particularly the holding of free and transparent elections and the active development of civil society. Democracy was also synonymous with pluralism based on mutual respect. People must be able to enjoy freedom of association, form political parties and play an active part in the political life of their country. The separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers was another key element of a democratic system, as was respect for human rights and the rights of ethnic, religious of political minorities, freedom of opinion and the press.
The European Union supported and stressed the importance of United Nations efforts, particularly by the Electoral Assistance Unit, and the programmes of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank to promote democratization. The efforts of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were to be commended.
The Union and its member states were firmly committed to promotion of democratization and transition towards permanent systems of democratic government, she said. It had introduced a cooperation and development policy emphasizing positive actions to promote human rights and promote democracy. It had also established numerous projects to promote the rule of law, transition towards democracy and the strengthening of non-governmental organizations and other organizations to promote the emergence of a pluralist society. The United Nations must ensure the durability and universality of democratic values while taking into account the extreme diversity of situations around the world.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia) said it was important to encourage education for democracy and to open future conferences on democracy to all United Nations Member States. No single model of democracy could be used to meet the challenges facing newly-democratizing countries, such as poverty and inequality, and social, religious and political instability. Developing countries that held regular consultations with representatives of the donor community were interested in the Secretary-General's observation that "democracy is not a model to be copied but a goal to be attained". Those consultations often lost their value when donors tried to "manage" the democratization process without regard for particular circumstances.
All democratizing countries agreed on the fundamentals, he said, including representative government, the secret ballot, regular elections, party competition, an independent judiciary, human rights and individual freedoms, transparency, the rule of law, free press and the growth of civil society. As the Bucharest Conference noted, the external debt of developing
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countries was a serious threat to democratization. The international community must promote debt relief to improve their development prospects. Aid flows to developing countries were declining, exports from those nations to the developed world were limited and currency markets were volatile -- making the democratization process unstable and intolerable. There must be a new consensus on financing development to promote international cooperation for democracy. Zambia supported the idea of convening a conference on that matter.
TONO EITEL (Germany) said good governance, rule of law, respect for human rights, development, peace and democracy did not exist in isolation. They were also the indispensable requirements for economic and social development. Governments had to create the conditions for economic growth through investment, for social justice and for offering the entire population education, health and other social services.
The United Nations and its different programmes also had to create the environment for good governance and democratization, he said. It should offer, at the request of States, electoral assistance in the broadest sense, which not only included electoral monitoring, but capacity-building at the institutional level, often requiring long-term efforts. At present, the United Nations, for lack of resources, could not comply with many requests. The United Nations also had to give expert advice to governments regarding the complex, multi-fold tasks facing them in connection with a democratic transition.
Two years ago, Germany created a programme to aid democratization processes, to promote the respect for human rights and the rule of law, he said. One of the lasting contributions towards democratization in a number of countries had been effected through the German political foundations and independent institutions, funded by the Government.
MOSES M. DLAMINI (Swaziland) said that a periodic assessment of the ways and means in which democracy was achieved and practised was an essential tool towards peace-building and sustainable development. The United Nations had been actively involved in the movement of new and restored democracies and had convened a number of regional conferences which had brought together a diverse range of interested parties. Notable among those had been the Third International Conference of the New or Restored Democracies on Democracy and Development, held in Bucharest in September, and the International Conference on Governance for Sustainable Growth and Equity, organized by UNDP in New York in July. Both conferences had marked the start of a new thinking on international cooperation in the sphere of governance and democratization.
Turning to the report of the Secretary-General, he said his country was heartened by the Organization's recognition of the fact that in assisting and supporting governments' efforts to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies, and democratization in general, it did not in any way endorse or
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promote any specific form of democracy. Swaziland believed that democracy was not a model to be copied but a goal to be attained and the pace at which it could proceed was dependant on a variety of political, economic, social and cultural factors proper to the circumstances of a particular culture and society.
He said Swaziland realized the need to create an environment in which its people could prosper. The King was anxious to see the inclusion of the entire Swazi populace in a process of review of the Constitution based on the views and aspirations of the Swazi nation. Swaziland's unique political system embraced the key variables and characteristics of democracy, but like all political systems, it too had its own shortfalls. His country realized the need to have a clear cut policy on economic and social development. The private sector had a crucial role to play in the consolidation of democracy and sustainable human development and the Government had the responsibility to create an enabling environment to allow the private sector to become the engine for growth.
Africa's marginalization was a historic accident and its economies were regarded as struggling because of that historical accident, he said. He appealed for understanding and said that Africa's political and economic problems had been imposed on it. He feared that the so-called winds of democracy would have conditionalities that would affect the continent. In the quest for democratization, the international community should appreciate individual cultural values, or democracy would remain foreign to Africa and the rest of the developing world.
ANDRE ERDOS (Hungary) said his delegation associated itself with the statement by the representative of Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union. Although it had made tremendous strides in recent years, the democratization process of countries around the world was far from finished, and efforts to support it must continue. The international community must help fragile democracies face internal and external dangers, he noted.
In an age of globalization, national goals could not be achieved if democracy, political stability and material well-being were not consolidated both inside countries and among neighbouring countries as well, he said. The success of democracy depended on the good functioning of democratic institutions, a market economy and an open, rational foreign policy. The democratization process differed from country to country. However, in all cases the movement towards democracy should reflect the popular will, of which governments were merely an expression. The promotion of democracy was more essential to United Nations activities than ever before. The goal should be to organically integrate the promotion of democracy into actions that the Organization was carrying out in many areas. The draft resolution, which Hungary had co-sponsored, needed some revisions in order to avoid superfluous repetitions and incoherent language.
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ENRIQUE PAGUAGA FERNANDEZ (Nicaragua), speaking also on behalf of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, said since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the ideological confrontation of the two super- Powers, many countries, despite economic difficulties, had accepted the democratic ideal and the global effort to strengthen democracy. It was a worldwide movement because democracy, far from being an abstract concept, was incompatible with demagogues and outdated utopias. Countries which had freed themselves from totalitarianism were aware that democracy was the best model to provide solutions to economic and social problems. The strengthening of democracy in Central American societies included the holding of elections, open dialogue, recognition and protection of human rights, freedom of association and expression, the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, the primacy of civilian over military power and accountability by governments. He said democracy should also be an economic, social and cultural process. Countries also needed monitoring mechanisms to ensure it was a dynamic process. There was no single definition of democracy which would identify its many complex and varied aspects. None the less, certain elements were essential, if governments were to act transparently and legally and avoid corruption. Unfortunately, countries still faced many problems, which threatened the democratization process, including the illicit drug trafficking, unjust international economic relations, an overwhelming debt burden, an acute shortage of resources and threats to the environment. New democracies must act in a framework of international cooperation. For the countries of Central America, democracy was the best form of government invented to date and it must be given constant support so it did not falter in any part of the world. FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said that after the restoration of its democratic institutions, his country experienced a marked improvement in its economy, making it a favoured investment destination and a new "Asian miracle". Despite the recent currency problems the country had suffered along with fellow South-East Asian neighbours, the Philippine economy remained robust and was successfully weathering the momentary difficulty. In order to consolidate those gains, he continued, the Philippines and a handful of countries with similar experiences had convened the first International Conference on Newly Restored Democracies in 1988. It was there that the Manila Declaration had been adopted. It identified the indissoluble link between democracy, peace and development, and called for mutual support among both new and old democracies, particularly to safeguard the gains won by the newly restored democratic regimes against both internal and external threats. The next conference in 1994, held in Nicaragua, came up with the Managua Declaration and Plan of Action, which sought to promote respect for democratic principles, to foster the dissemination of and to arrive at a broader understanding of democracy, and to encourage greater cooperation and coordination among democracies, the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions.
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The Bucharest Conference, held in September, built on the previous two conferences by injecting the participation of civil society, he said. Academicians and leaders of non-governmental groups engaged government officials in meaningful and insightful discussions in the Conference's Civil Society Forum, which affirmed the invaluable role that civil society played in the development and maintenance of democracy. The Conference's "Progressive Review and Recommendations" on safeguarding democracy, promoting development and improving governance, addressed the international community as a whole, the United Nations and international financial organizations.
He hoped that the international community had been able to study and give serious thought to those recommendations and views. It had also been decided that the next Conference would be held in Africa, making the round of regional representation complete. He added that the Secretary-General's report and the draft resolution before the Assembly were a direct result of the call for an enhanced and meaningful working relationship between those Conferences and the United Nations system. Lastly, he reiterated the call by his Foreign Secretary to consider the convening of a "new or restored democracy Heads of Government summit" at the start of the new millennium.
J. ENKHSAIKAN (Mongolia) said he agreed that democracy was not a model to be copied or imposed, but rather a goal to be attained. The pace at which democratization proceeded was dependent on a variety of political, economic, social and cultural factors proper to the circumstances of a particular culture and society. Mongolia's democratization experience showed that the latter could be defined as a move away from totalitarianism to a participatory form of government and consisted largely of two distinct stages. The stage of transition, which ended when a new government was installed as a result of free and fair elections. The stage of democratic consolidation was defined as a process aimed at achieving the long-term sustainability of the democratic process.
For Mongolia, as for most other ex-communist nations, the biggest challenge to the democratic consolidation was posed by pressures of a socio- economic nature, he said. Simultaneous democratization and economic liberalization could exact high social costs, while economic hardships could weaken the trust in the viability of democratic institutions. The efforts to reduce economic hardships and poverty needed perseverance, adequate resources and international support and assistance.
Convinced that the economic reform should be further accelerated to shorten the painful economic transition period, he went on, the new Government had undertaken a number of radical measures in the past year. It had introduced a "zero" per cent import tariff and accelerated the pace of ongoing privatization. Those steps also represented important steps to attract foreign direct investment and expand trade. In conclusion, Mongolia believed that the proposal to develop some indicators to assess or monitor progress in democratization was a timely proposal that should be pursued.
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PAULETTE CORNETTE (Guyana) said that five years ago Guyana became a newly restored democracy after the first free and fair elections in decades. It was from its efforts to secure democracy that it recognized the value of external support in the matter. For fledgling democracies, such as her own, the United Nations was the best place to seek support. Democracy was like culture -- a way of life that had to be learnt and nurtured for it to survive and flourish. It was subject to the social, political, and economic peculiarities of each national environment, as much as it was affected by international activities.
Poverty, the external debt burden, illicit drug trafficking and intra- state conflicts were among the many threats confronting Guyana's efforts to consolidate democracy, she said. They were global issues requiring global solutions, which was why support by the United Nations system was important. Assistance from developed countries on a bilateral or preferably multilateral basis was almost a sine qua non condition for the success of new or restored democracies.
She said it was also important to focus on youth to guarantee success, for it was they who would eventually take up the reins of government. Here again the United Nations could lend crucial support through the dissemination of information and the hosting of programmes and other activities which would familiarize youth with the tenets of such an important process.
FABIAN AOUAD (Argentina) said the Bucharest Conference in September had brought the world's attention to a future in which the democratization process would be gradually consolidated. However, Argentina was concerned with the findings of expert seminars that threats to democratization persisted in certain regions and his Government supported efforts to curb such threats. The international conference on governance for sustainable growth and equity, held in New York in July, had concluded that good governance involved equitable and effective participation, transparency, responsibility, and respect for the rule of law. Argentina was pleased that the encouragement of good governance and the consolidation of peace were assuming greater prominence in international debate.
He said Argentina, unswerving in its commitment to promote democratization, had taken two key initiatives in the area of peace maintenance and in humanitarian assistance -- it had sent 614 personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations and it had launched the "White Helmets" project in 1993 to draw on the real potential for humanitarian assistance and help consolidate international peace. In its region, Argentina had provided electoral observers in Central America and peacekeepers, when requested. Argentina had co-sponsored the draft resolution in the conviction it would contribute to the ideals which united civilization.
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VOLODYMYR YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said although his country was not a new member of the United Nations, it had begun its democratization process only six years ago, and that process was now complete. The framework had been built. Now it should be strengthened and properly managed, especially in the field of the economy. Further, the Ukraine Parliament had just adopted a law on its Human Rights Representative -- or Ombudsman -- in order to establish parliamentary control over the observance of constitutional rights and freedoms of all citizens.
Despite optimism, there were still many threats to democracy throughout the world, he said. Democratization was a lasting process. In that regard, Ukraine would like to recall the initiative, put forward by its President, to establish a United Nations trusteeship mechanism over the processes of formation of new States; the Organization's current efforts to consolidate new and restored democracies fit in with that proposal. Ukraine supported UNDP monitoring efforts of new and restored democracies, and it endorsed the Secretary-General's report.
ROGATIEN BIAOU (Benin) said the fate of democratization differed, depending on the country. In Africa, especially, fragile democracies were still under threat. The United Nations had a major role in breathing new life into new democracies. Democracy could not be consolidated without social and economic development that fostered the personal fulfilment of human beings. The adoption earlier this year by the General Assembly of the Agenda for Development, which stressed the relationship between democracy and development, was a source of satisfaction for Benin.
He said democracy was not merely the ritual of periodic elections. Elections without development were not sufficient for democracy to take root and flourish in a developing country such as Benin, which was ranked among the world's least advanced. Moreover, democracy must be an underpinning of international relations. Now that the cold war was over, new and democratic relations between States must be designed and implemented. To mark its commitment to democracy, Benin would host the fourth international conference of new or restored democracies. It would be the first African country to host the conference, which was a new type of gathering on the international scene.
JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL (Andorra) said his country had respected individual liberties and tolerance for over a thousand years. Collective good was achieved by the cooperation of all. Andorra's example showed that human rights and democracy could be achieved in poor countries and remote communities, far from the mainstream of urban sophistication. The argument that economic and social rights came before individual liberties was a fallacy: one should not exclude the other.
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He said that even in the developing world, countries that had embraced democracy and human rights were no worse off in terms of development than those with authoritarian regimes. Countries, such as Andorra, that defended human rights must foster tolerance at every level and give a voice to those who did not have one yet. It was important to bring knowledge of human rights and democracy into schools. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child insisted on human rights education, and much remained to be done in that area.
M.A. BABY (India), a Member of the Indian Parliament, said the new or restored democracies had embarked on a crucial and essential journey towards representative government, when most of them were simultaneously faced not only with the struggle for development but also with other inescapable challenges. Domestically, there was often pressure to move towards a market economy. Internationally, there was the challenge of globalization.
While the market economy had been elevated to a norm almost as widely accepted as democracy, he went on, the World Bank noted that many countries lacked the basic institutional foundations for market development. At the same time, making the hard political choices that were essential in the transition to a market economy was even more difficult in a democracy. The United Nations could help, not only in building national capacities, but in pooling experiences from other democracies which had travelled that path before. India, for example, adopted a framework, called a market-plus policy, to pursue growth with social equity through decisions democratically taken.
He said life for the new or restored democracies was complicated by the current political orthodoxy which called for the downsizing of the State. The United Nations system should, in its advice, analyse each country's situation objectively, and offer neutral, professional advice, assessing needs which the new or restored democracies had clearly identified and tailoring its programmes accordingly. Unequal growth among regions of a country, the devolution of responsibilities to a local government not yet equipped to take them on, or tensions between local governments, could all disrupt a burgeoning democracy. The advice of the United Nations system must not be driven by ideological bias, but by objective, sensible and responsive to the needs of each country.
Better terms of trade, enhanced access to markets, increased and stable investment flows, access to technology on a non-discriminatory basis and the availability of increased Overseas Development Assistance were all essential if countries were to satisfy the needs of economic and social development, he said. The United Nations had many priorities, but assistance to the new or restored democracies should rank high among them. What was most unfortunate was that a major contributor, which was also a major democracy, chose to ignore the Charter requirement that all Member States must pay their assessed contributions to the United Nations unconditionally.
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FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said the United Nations system could help Member States in the democratization process by aiding them to develop more equitable and effective governance of their peoples, strengthening their civil society and through the Organization's activities in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
He said five main areas should be kept in mind to achieve the goal of making democracy a universal tool. In the first area he identified political parties, movements and civil societies as being essential to healthy democracy. The second area was electoral assistance, particularly from the United Nations, to which Italy had actively contributed in Africa, Central America and Europe. The third area was the media environment; the development of a free press was essential to effective democratization. Respect for human rights was the fourth area, in which connection he praised the work of the United Nations High Commissioner. Finally, he said, was the issue of institution building and governance. This was an area where Member States had begun to look to the Organization for assistance.
He said cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations could also make a remarkable contribution to the process of consolidating democracy. In Europe such cooperation was assured by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Italy welcomed the fact that this year, the Assembly would once again discuss a specific item on cooperation with the OSCE. The Bucharest Conference underlined the mutually reinforcing relation between democracy and sustainable development. It added a new dimension to the discussion of democracy, and engendered new thinking on international cooperation in that area. New issues for consideration included the role of civil society and the private sector in democratization as well as gender participation in that process and the use of globalization to benefit the consolidation of democracy.
VICTOR MARRERO (United States) said his country fully endorsed the findings of the Secretary-General's report on United Nations support for the efforts of governments to promote new and restored democracies -- particularly its observations and recommendations concerning electoral assistance, strengthening civil society, coordinating United Nations activities in democratization and governance, and promoting democracy in the next century.
He said the United States remained committed to consolidation of the world's new or restored democracies. Many of those countries faced the challenge of simultaneous transitions: from authoritarianism to democracy; from a planned to a market economy; and even from war to peace. The focus of the recent Bucharest Conference on the critical link between democracy and sustainable development was to be applauded. The Secretary-General's efforts to use democratization and the governance agenda as a means to bridge the United Nations peace and development agenda were also to be applauded. The steady growth of the number of new and restored democracies reflected the universality of the shared cause and the effectiveness of the United Nations
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varied effort. The United States would continue to work closely with the Secretary-General and Member States to strengthen that critical support.
DAVID PETER SOAL (South Africa) said the Secretary-General's report addressed the process of global democratization in an integrated manner and underscored that it was an exercise which did not fall within either the political or the developmental agendas of the Organization, but rather that it should be treated in a holistic fashion.
Governance, he said, was effective only when three key elements, the State, the private sector and civil society, functioned in partnership in creating political, economic and social conditions which were conducive to ensuring sustainable human development. His delegation agreed with the importance which the Secretary-General attached to the emergence of civil society as being critical to the process of democratization and empowerment, and also believed that the role of civil society should not be restricted merely to the process of democratization.
He said South Africa also agreed with the recommendation of the Bucharest Conference that the international community should make a commitment to collaborate with the new or restored democracies, to provide adequate support for the attainment of their objectives. It noted with satisfaction the Secretary-General's observation that the United Nations did not endorse any specific form of government, but that democracy was a goal and not a model. While inter-State conflicts remained, and while the focus had turned to internal strife, the obligations of the Organization to the peoples in those countries and territories to promote and consolidate democratic cultures and societies, placed new demands on it as it prepared to enter the twenty-first century.
SOO GIL PARK (Republic of Korea) said that although an impressive number of States had been successful in democratization, in many parts of the world democracy was a fragile construct, with weak socio-economic foundations. A disconcerting number of people suffered under oppressive authoritarian regimes. His country would continue to provide assistance to the world's newly democratized countries, particularly through support for human resources development. Strong human capital was one of the most critical components of development and was essential for strengthening the roots of any nascent democracy. When countries invested substantially in human resources development their people became agents of their own development and fostered a strong civil society.
In a world with a large number of fledgling democracies, he said, the United Nations system should take further steps to coordinate its democratization activities, including the provision of electoral assistance. His country had participated in various electoral observer missions, including those in Cambodia, South Africa, Mozambique, Palestine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Algeria. As a relatively young democracy, the Republic of Korea was
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particularly committed to promoting and consolidating democracy and good governance. Democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were fundamental building blocks of development and prosperity. Next year's commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would strengthen the international community's role to promote good democracy and governance around the world.
ABODULIE SALLAH (Gambia) said his country had been a multi-party State until 1994, but that the "so-called democracy" that was in place there was rife with corruption, poverty and social injustice. The peaceful military coup in 1994 introduced a comprehensive programme of reconciliation and development. The military Government introduced a new meaning of democracy, with educational programmes to combat illiteracy, a lowered voting age, and a revised constitution to include the right to development. For the first time, an ombudsman was introduced to make government more responsive to the needs of citizens. The military Government achieved unprecedented goals, including the organization of a referendum for a new constitution, a free and fair press and the organization of legislative elections.
Social justice in the Gambia, he went on, conformed to the principles of democracy as noted in the Secretary-General's report. Paragraph 27 of that report said the United Nations did not endorse any specific form of democracy. Human rights was not only a matter of free elections. The United Nations provided financial and technical assistance during the period the Gambia was under military rule; now democracy was being put in place in the Gambia, and the country still counted on the United Nations for support.
Action on Drafts
MAHAWA BANGOURA CAMARA (Guinea), Vice-President of the Assembly, announced that South Africa, Angola, Belarus, Croatia, Spain, France, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Thailand and Uruguay had joined the list of co-sponsors.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies.
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation Organization.
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