GENERAL ASSEMBLY ESTABLISHES NEW EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND TO PROVIDE INSTANT CASH FOR HUMANITARIAN CRISES
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ESTABLISHES NEW EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND TO PROVIDE INSTANT CASH FOR HUMANITARIAN CRISES
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixtieth General Assembly
63rd Meeting (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ESTABLISHES NEW EMERGENCY RESPONSE FUND
TO PROVIDE INSTANT CASH FOR HUMANITARIAN CRISES
Resolution also Adopted on Security of Humanitarian Personnel,
Strengthening of Assistance Coordination, Assistance to Palestinian People
With the international community still recovering from a year of devastating disasters -- from the Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquakes in Asia, to hurricanes in the Americas and drought in Africa -– the General Assembly today set up a new stand-by relief fund that will provide the world body with instant cash to deal with humanitarian emergencies.
Adopting a landmark resolution enacting a key reform sought by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and endorsed by political leaders at the 2005 World Summit, the Assembly established the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), replacing the current Central Emergency Revolving Fund, to ensure a swifter response to humanitarian emergencies, with funds -- expected to total $500 million -- made available within three to four days.
The decision was immediately welcomed by the Secretary-General and Assembly President Jan Eliasson. Mr. Annan, who was present at the adoption, said that for far too long, relief funds had been sought only after disaster had struck. This meant that all too often, as money trickled in, lives which should and could have been saved, had been lost. “Generous and immediate” backing for the stand-by fund would allow more equitable distribution of relief and allow the United Nations to make emergency grants for rescue work in the aftermath of disasters. “Quite simply it will save lives”, he said.
Assembly President Eliasson of Sweden said the sizeable grant element added to the existing Fund would help launch relief operations in the crucial days of a crisis and keep it from spiralling out of control. Noting that the Fund ushered in an era of more effective and equitable responses to crises, he also paid tribute to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under the strong leadership of United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, and all relief workers and agencies, who in a difficult year of unprecedented humanitarian crises, had helped alleviate suffering throughout the world.
In other action, the Assembly, approving the recommendation of its General Committee, decided to include an additional item in its current agenda, which would allow the 191-member body to follow up the recommendations on administrative management and internal oversight of the Independent Inquiry into the United Nations oil-for-food programme, headed by former United States Federal Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker. This new item will be considered in plenary sometime early next year.
Noting the critical role played by local resources and existing in-country capacities, in natural disaster management and risk reduction, disaster response, rehabilitation, and development, the Assembly adopted a text on global cooperation on humanitarian assistance in natural disasters, from relief to development. By that text, States were called on to fully implement the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted last January at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, particularly the commitments related to assisting disaster-prone developing countries and disaster-stricken States in the transition phase, towards sustainable physical, social and economic recovery.
The Assembly also adopted a resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people, emphasizing the importance of the safety and well-being of all children in the Middle East region, and express its grave concern at the deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people, particularly children, throughout the Occupied Territories, which constitutes a mounting humanitarian crisis. The text calls on the international community to provide urgently needed assistance and services, in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian children and their families, and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions.
By a resolution adopted on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel, the Assembly expressed deep concern at the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations personnel, and urged all States to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of such humanitarian personnel. Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations in countries in which relief workers are operating, were also called upon to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations, to ensure the safe and unhindered access of aid workers and delivery of supplies and equipment.
The Assembly also held a brief debate on support by the United Nations system of Governments’ efforts to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies. During that discussion, Mongolia’s representative, speaking as host to the 2003 Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies (ICNRD) in Ulaanbaatar, and current Conference Chair, said the importance of assessing progress in democratization could not be overemphasized. A general commitment to democratic norms was no longer enough since democracy was not an abstract value, but one that impacted the everyday life of people.
He said nations must therefore develop their own national indicators to measure the level of democracy in their societies, as the Fifth Conference had called for them to do. They must have nationally-owned democratic governance indicators (DGIs) to assess the growth of democratization and answer questions, he said. Finally, he said the establishment of the Democracy Fund would go a long way towards helping fledgling and vulnerable democracies. He cautioned, however, that there was no “one size fits all” formula for democracy, and the Fund must be used to support pro-democratic activities in a cultural context, with capacity-building and rule of law as the focus of its first generation activities.
Earlier in the meeting, the representative of Nigeria introduced a draft resolution on assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence (document A/60/L.34 and amendments contained in L.35), by which the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to establish, within existing resources, an outreach programme entitled “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations”. Action on the text was postponed to all consideration of its financial implications by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
Draft resolutions were also introduced by the United Kingdom (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Sweden and Jamaica.
The representatives of Cuba and Israel spoke in explanation of vote, and the observer of Palestine made a general statement.
The representative of the United Kingdom (speaking on behalf of the European Union), and the observer for the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) also addressed the Assembly.
The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 16 December, at 3 p.m., to take action on the reports of its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
The General Assembly met today to take up issues related to coordination of humanitarian assistance, promotion of democracy, and inclusion of another item on the agenda, as recommended by the Assembly’s General Committee.
For its consideration of the latter, the Assembly has before it the fourth report of its General Committee (document A/60/250/Add.3) containing a recommendation that the Assembly include in its agenda for the sixtieth session an item entitled, follow-up to the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry Committee in the United Nations oil-for-food programme for Iraq. That would have the Assembly take up the recommendations in the Committee’s report and consider them in a broader system-wide context, beyond its relevance to the 15-nation Security Council.
The request was brought by Costa Rica, pointing out that the Assembly was responsible for the Organization’s administrative management and its internal oversight. Recommendations in the report, which applied to the Organization as a whole, included the creation of a Chief Operating Officer position; strengthening the independence of oversight and auditing; improving the coordination and oversight framework for cross-agency programmes; reform of management performance; expanding conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure requirements; and cost recovery.
Also before the Assembly is a report by the Secretary-General on United Nations support to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies (document A/60/556), which provides information on efforts to improve the Organization’s capacity to respond to State requests for support of good governance and democratization goals. The report is part of preparations for the Sixth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies ( Doha, 2006), which includes follow-up to the Fifth Conference ( Ulaanbaatar, 2003). In it, the Secretary-General indicates he will initiate a comparative study of United Nations interaction with global and regional intergovernmental democracy bodies. He also proposes that the Assembly make a decision on how to strengthen support for the Conference Chair and for others concerned with democratic governance.
In other recommendations, the Secretary-General notes that over the years, it has been repeatedly asked how the new or restored democracies can be strengthened or institutionalized to ensure better follow-up to recommendations adopted at each conference. Improving outcome effectiveness is expected to be a major focus of the upcoming Conference. Another focus would undoubtedly be the strengthening of coordination between the Conference and other relevant bodies, particularly with regard to complementarity and distribution of labour. Talks towards that end had already begun between the Conference and the Community of Democracies.
Further, the Secretary-General recalls the Democracy Fund and its contribution to increasing the Organization’s capacity to assist countries struggling to enhance still fragile institutions and processes. To advance that process, plans to ask relevant United Nations bodies to initiate a study on the comparative advantages, complementarity and desirable distribution of labour of various movements, organizations and institutes, and how the United Nations System could support their activities. Decisions on substantive and institutional measures could also be taken at the 2007 General Assembly session, on how to expand United Nations assistance programmes in this area.
Among the draft resolutions before the Assembly is a text on assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence (document A/60/L.34 and amendments contained in L.35), by which the Assembly, firmly convinced of the need to restore the dignity of the survivors of the tragedy which would help to promote reconciliation and healing in Rwanda, would request the Secretary-General to establish, within existing resources, an outreach programme entitled “The Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations.”
The Secretary-General would also be requested to identify measures to mobilize civil society for Rwanda victim remembrance and education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide, and to report to the Assembly on the establishment of the programme within six months. The text also requests the General Assembly to consider adding an additional item to the agenda of the Assembly’s sixty-second session.
Also before the Assembly is a text on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/60/L.36), by which it would emphasize the importance of the safety and well-being of all children in the Middle East region, and express its grave concern at the deterioration in the living conditions of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Territories, which constitutes a mounting humanitarian crisis.
Stressing the need for the full engagement of the United Nations in the process of building Palestinian institutions and in providing broad assistance to the Palestinian people, the text would have the Assembly call upon the international community to provide urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian children and their families, and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions. The draft would also have the Assembly urge Member States to open their markets to exports of Palestinian products on the most favourable terms, consistent with appropriate trading rules.
By a draft resolution on safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/60/L.37), the Assembly would express its deep concern at the dangers and security risks faced by United Nations and other humanitarian workers in the field, and strongly condemn acts of murder and other forms of violence; rape and sexual assault and all forms of violence committed particularly against women; intimidation, armed robbery, abduction, hostage-taking, kidnapping; and attacks on humanitarian convoys and acts of property destruction and looting.
The Assembly would also express its concern at the increased occurrence of such attacks and violence and would, therefore, strongly urge all States to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian personnel, and United Nations and associated humanitarian personnel. It would also have the Assembly call upon Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies, in particular in armed conflicts and in post-conflict situations in countries in which relief workers are operating, to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations to ensure the safe and unhindered access of aid workers and delivery of supplies and equipment.
The Assembly will also take up a draft resolution on strengthening the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations (document A/60/L.38), by which it would express its concern about the need to mobilize adequate support, including financial resources, for emergency humanitarian assistance at all levels, and decide to upgrade the current Central Emergency Revolving Fund into the Central Emergency Response Fund by including a grant element based on voluntary contributions, to be replenished at regular intervals, so as to ensure a more predictable and timely response to humanitarian emergencies.
The Assembly would further call upon States to adopt preventive measures and effective responses to acts of violence committed against civilian populations and ensure that those responsible are promptly brought to justice, and call upon relevant organizations of the United Nations system, and as appropriate other relevant humanitarian actors; to improve the humanitarian response to natural and man-made disasters and complex emergencies by strengthening such response capacities at all levels; by strengthening the coordination of such response at the filed level, including with national authorities of the affected State; and by enhancing transparency, performance and accountability.
A related text on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/60/L.39), would have the Assembly emphasize the responsibility that the affected State has in the initiation, organization, coordination and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory, as well as note the critical role played by local resources and existing in-country capacities, in natural disaster management and risk reduction, disaster response, rehabilitation and development. It would also note the significant role played by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in disaster preparedness, risk reduction and response.
Further by the text, the Assembly would call upon States to fully implement the Hyogo Declaration and Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted at last January’s World Conference on Disaster Reduction, in particular those commitments related to assistance for developing countries that are prone to natural disasters and for disaster-stricken States in the transition phase towards sustainable physical, social and economic recovery, for risk-reduction activities in post disaster recovery and for rehabilitation processes.
Taking up its first item of business today, the Assembly approved the recommendation of its General Committee to include on the current session’s agenda an additional item on “follow-up to the recommendations on administrative management and internal oversight of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations oil-for-food programme,” and consider the matter in plenary.
Introduction of Drafts
SIMEON ADEKANYE (Nigeria) introducing the draft resolution on assistance to the survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence (document A/60/L.34 and amendments contained in L.35), said that the tragic events of that awful year were among the darkest in human history. Up to one million lives had been lost -– ordinary men, women and children condemned to die for no other reason than that they belonged to, or were identified with, a particular ethnic group. The suffering of the survivors, particularly the women and children, had continued long after those terrible days.
The children, apart from the trauma of watching their parents and siblings being slaughtered, had been orphaned and had since been left in charge of child-headed households. Similarly, women not only watched their husbands and children killed, but also underwent unspeakable physical abuse, in particular sexual violence, resulting in HIV infections in more than 60 per cent of the cases. The aim of the text was to encourage the international community to provide assistance to those vulnerable groups and to build awareness of the events of 1994.
Action on those texts was postponed to a later date to allow consideration of programme budget implications.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, introduced the text on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/60/L.36), saying that cooperation from the international community was crucial in order to help build and rehabilitate Palestinian infrastructure and institutions. The European Union, along with other members of the Diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process, were prepared to provide technical and other assistance to the Palestinian people in upcoming elections, including deploying an observer mission. The European Union would continue to support all efforts to ensure that a final, peaceful, two-State solution was achieved, in line with the Road Map peace plan.
Introducing the draft text on the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel (document A/60/L.37), he said it was important to recognize that all relief and aid workers provided an invaluable service to millions of people around the world, often in difficult circumstances and at high risk to themselves. The text called on all States to become parties to and implement their obligations under all relevant international humanitarian instruments. It also requested that the Secretary-General continue his invaluable efforts to promote and enhance the Organization’s safety and security initiatives.
ANDERS LIDÉN (Sweden) then introduced the draft resolution on strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance (document A/60/L.38), saying that the text highlighted and reaffirmed the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence in the provision of humanitarian assistance, and called on Governments and parties in complex emergencies to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other relief agencies and organizations, to ensure the safe and unhindered access to affected populations.
The text also called for the upgrading of the current Central Emergency Revolving Fund into a Central Emergency Response Fund, a measure that would ensure a more predictable and timely response to humanitarian emergencies. He added that his Government had just decided to contribute some $40 million before the end of the year, so that the new fund could become operational almost immediately following the adoption of the text. The text called on all Governments to contribute to the fund. Before concluding, he introduced a few technical corrections to the text.
General Assembly President JAN ELIASSON (Sweden), said it was sad to note that such disasters were on the rise and that their intensity was increasing, but at the same time, it was heartening to see that important progress was being made, and that international resolve and commitment was building towards the ultimate goal of providing as much help and assistance as possible to disaster-stricken communities and populations in a speedy and comprehensive manner, particularly during the holiday season.
ARIEL BOWEN (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft on international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development (document A/60/L.39), saying that disaster response efforts should focus on long-term rehabilitation and development. While it might not be possible to totally eliminate the suffering caused by natural disasters, international response to them should be tailored to ensure broad recovery. She introduced a few technical corrections to the text.
Explanation of Position before Action
JORGE CUMBERBACH-MIGUEN ( Cuba), speaking on the draft related to coordination of humanitarian assistance, said his country helped its regional neighbours and others during times of crises. He supported the resolution but cautioned against misinterpreting its provisions or allowing them to adversely affect other instruments dealing with delivery of emergency assistance. For example, care should be taken with the term “culture of protection” in operative paragraph three, and the provisions of operative paragraph nine on coordination should not be read so as to affect the current regime of programme review. Finally, the Fund should provide leadership for an equitable distribution of resources.
Action on Resolutions
The resolutions on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/60/L.36), safety, security and protection (document A/60/L.37), coordination of humanitarian assistance (document A/60/L.38), and assistance in natural disasters (document A/60/L.39), were adopted without a vote, as orally amended amid a number of additional co-sponsorship statements. During adoption, the representatives of Mali and the United Kingdom made technical oral amendments to the texts.
Explanations of Position after Action
GILAD COHEN ( Israel) said his country had long supported humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and was pleased to join the consensus. The drafting of the resolution had been a good example of a process that fostered mutual respect and compromise. Rather than showing bias against Israel, it found the middle ground that was beneficial to mutual endeavours, as a mechanism that would hopefully be replicated in future resolutions addressing the situation in the Middle East.
He said both Israeli and Palestinian civilians had endured great difficulty and pain because of terrorist activity over the past five years. Despite continuing violence, such as that which occurred in Netanya just a few days ago, 23,000 Palestinian employees had been approved to work in Israel as of 12 December. That was in addition to 14,200 Palestinians who worked in Israel as employees of international organizations.
He said humanitarian assistance must be provided without selectivity or politicization. Israel’s joining of consensus on the resolution reflected that non-political goodwill, and did not represent an endorsement of certain items in the text that contradicted the language of agreements between the parties and the underlying spirit of the agreements. It must also be emphasized that civilians on both side endured pain. No one had a monopoly on suffering, and both sides must live without violence or fear.
Mr. ELIASSON ( Sweden), Assembly President, said the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), as established by the resolution, represented a major modernization of the basic framework of coordination in international humanitarian assistance, as set out in 1991. The Fund also fulfilled the mandate of leaders at the September Summit for making concrete improvements in the humanitarian response system, including in making provisions for timely and predictable funding. Finally, the Fund represented a commitment to a more effective and equitable international response to crises. It demonstrated a willingness to meet the demands of the twenty-first century in a flexible and responsible way.
He said the sizeable grant element that the resolution added to the existing Central Emergency Revolving Fund would help launch relief operations in the crucial days of a crisis, and keep it from spiralling out of control. It would also address imbalances in funding. The managerial, administrative and advisory arrangements to implement the Fund were already being addressed by the Secretary-General under the guidance of the Assembly and of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
However, he added, improved financing was only one key component in reform of the humanitarian response process. Global capacity needed strengthening, and coordination needed improvement. All three were a package that called for the support of the international community, both by the donor and recipient countries that had adopted the present resolution, and by those most prone to disasters and those most able and willing to help. Such broad ownership demonstrated the truly global nature and impact of humanitarian crises. It reinforced the need to act with common resolve and to continue reform through collective action.
Finally, he said this positive note at the end of a particularly difficult year, in terms of humanitarian crises, was gratifying. While the year 2005 had demonstrated how destructive, indiscriminate and widespread humanitarian crises could be in the loss of life and destruction of livelihoods, the strong leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator had let humanitarian organizations and staff alleviate the suffering brought about by far too many natural and man-made disasters throughout the world.
KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said that he was delighted that Member States had just approved the upgrade of the Standing Central Emergency Revolving Fund to the Central Emergency Response Fund. That action meant that in the critical realm of humanitarian assistance the United Nations would now be able to do more, sooner. He added that today’s decision, thanks to Assembly President Eliasson and the Assembly as a whole, was also cause for celebration because it marked the first success in implementing the recommendations made by political leaders in the ambitious Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit, which had been set out to prepare the United Nations for the demands of the twenty-first century.
“For far to long, humanitarian assistance for disaster victims has remained a reactive process”, Mr. Annan said, stressing that relief funds had been sought only after disasters had struck. Equally unacceptable had been the way that different crises were unevenly funded with televised or strategically situated suffering receiving disproportionate attention. That had meant that all too often as money trickled in, lives, which should and could have been saved, had been lost. That was why he was especially encouraged that the Assembly had approved this “stand-by” fund. “I hope that support will translate into generous and immediate funding. If it does it will allow more equitable distribution of relief, based on demonstrated need. It will also allow us to make emergency grants for rescue work in the aftermath of disasters. Quite simply it will save lives.”
Donor Nations had pledged some $175 million in indicative support for the fund during the Summit, he continued. European Union States had pledged most of that, and Mr. Annan thanked them for their generosity and called on other Member States to contribute no less wholeheartedly. The Secretariat would consult with Member States and other stakeholders to work out detailed administrative and management arrangements for the stand-by fund. He added that he hoped more pieces of the Summit follow-up puzzle would fall into place soon, and in that regard, looked forward to the Assembly’s adoption next week of a revised text on the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission.
Speaking in explanation of position after action had been taken on the resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people, NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said that her delegation believed that inclusion of language on children in the text, demonstrated that the international community was prepared to address the effects of the occupation on those children in a comprehensive manner. Her delegation looked forward to the day when the Palestinian people did not have to depend on the support of the international community for assistance and could live in their own State, peacefully and free from occupation.
Statements on the Report of Assistance to Democracies
BATAAR CHOISUREN ( Mongolia), speaking as host to the Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies (ICNRD) in Ulaanbaatar, and current Conference Chair, said declarations and plans were important but not enough. They must be followed by concrete actions.
Democracy today was firmly established as a universal value, he went on. World leaders at the September Summit had reaffirmed that position. His country, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, had taken on the pioneering task of implementing practical follow-up activities to the outcome documents of the Conference it had chaired. It focused on the formulation of a national action plan to consolidate democracy and development of nationally-owned democratic governance indicators, with provisions for Mongolia to measure its own democratic performance.
The importance of needing to assess progress in democratization could not be overemphasized, he said. A general commitment to the norms of democracy was no longer enough since it was not an abstract value but one that impacted the everyday life of people. Democracy assessment methodologies must be approached seriously, and nations must develop their own national indicators to measure the level of democracy in their societies, as the Fifth Conference had called for them to do. They must have nationally-owned democratic governance indicators (DGIs) to assess the growth of democratization and answer questions: How democratic was it in practice? How far developed was democracy and what needed to be done in the future?
Outlining other steps his country had taken to implement the outcome of the Fifth International Conference, he said Mongolia had been instrumental in bringing the Conference into closer cooperation with the Community of Democracies, the other global intergovernmental movement aimed at promoting and consolidating democracy. Further, it must be kept in mind that democracy was not an event but a process that built over many years as a result of being nurtured.
Finally, he said the establishment of the Democracy Fund would go a long way towards helping fledgling and vulnerable democracies. However, caution must prevail. There was no “one size fits all” formula for democracy, and the Fund must be used to support pro-democratic activities in a cultural context, with capacity-building and rule of law as the focus of the Fund’s first generation activities. A draft resolution related to the report would be introduced early next week.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation was committed to the worldwide promotion of democratic principles and believed that promotion and protection of human rights was a prerequisite for the existence of democratic societies. At the same time, democracy was the best means of ensuring the full realization and implementation of all human rights in the long term. Together, they delivered genuine prosperity, progress and sustainable development.
He said that a well-coordinated policy within the United Nations, for spreading and consolidating democracy could help achieve peaceful solutions to conflicts that threatened stability in various parts of the world and could enable democracy to take root in places it had never before existed, or where it had been eroded by war, dictatorship or societal collapse. The European Union would underline the role played by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her focal point on democracy, and would welcome the establishment of the United Nations Democracy Fund to take forward that vital work.
In the wake of the 2003 fifth International Conference on New and Restored Democracies, held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the European Union had noted that there was a growing support for strengthening democracy in all regions of the world -- a system of government which was based on the rule of law and allowed free expression of political opinions through electoral and other participatory mechanisms. That system also guaranteed the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the media and the promotion of human security, including the fight against exclusion and poverty.
ANDA FILIP, Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the Union had adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy in 1997, which focused on building the capacity of young parliamentary institutions, as the body where all voices in a society were heard and concerns articulated for the common good. Two years ago at the fifth International Conference in Mongolia centred on the themes of good governance and civil society, the Union had established a Forum with the parliament of the host country that had focused on the role of parliaments in promoting democracy. Throughout the debates, participation had emerged as a cornerstone of democracy.
She said the Union had endorsed a Forum Declaration reiterating the core principles and values of participation, transparency and accountability for a democracy. It also outlined the key ingredients for democracy and contained a menu of proposed parliamentary action in support of democracy. Those included structural and legislative reforms at the national level to institute measures to facilitate the participation of women or promote integrity and public trust, as examples. Other actions centred on the application of codes of conduct to build confidence and public institutions and to make parliamentary oversight more effective. Overall, the emphasis was on translating democracy into a concrete and practical reality to overcome the sense that democracy was a theoretical concept. The Union was actively involved in strengthening parliamentary capacities in emerging democracies such as Afghanistan, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, East Timor, Albania, and hopefully soon, in Iraq.
The Forum had been a first ever event for the Conference, she said, and the opportunity to assess the impact would emerge at the 2006 Conference in Doha. That Conference would also be a good opportunity to identify areas needing improved efforts, such as a more balanced representation of men and women in political processes. The Union had been following up on Forum recommendations and was in the process of updating its standards in elections. Another project was the identifying of good practices by parliaments in promotion democracy, with a focus on representation both at the national and international levels. The framework guide on good practices would be an important contribution to the Doha Conference, as would the Secretary-General’s initiative on a comparative study of intergovernmental and inter-State democracy movements.
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