Press Releases

    2 May 2005

    Democracy, Development Reinforce Each Other, as Do Democracy, Peace, Says Secretary-General in Message to Santiago Ministerial Meeting

    NEW YORK, 29 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Third Ministerial Meeting of the Community of Democracies, delivered by Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico and Envoy of the Secretary-General for the September 2005 Summit, in Santiago, 28 April:

    I send my greetings to all participants in this meeting of the Community of Democracies.  You meet in a country whose people’s impressive achievements in peacefully building democracy and ensuring respect for human rights, after a period of dictatorship and oppression, are an inspiration.  You also meet at a critical time for the future of the United Nations, and for the future of efforts to strengthen democracy.  Those futures are closely linked.

    As long ago as 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spelled out the essentials of democracy.  It has inspired constitution-making in every corner of the world, and contributed greatly to the acceptance of democracy as a universal value.  Today, more than a decade after the end of the Cold War, almost all the Member States of the United Nations accept democratization as desirable in principle.  Indeed, they pledged five years ago, in the Millennium Declaration, to strengthen their capacity to implement democracy.  That same year, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on promoting and consolidating democracy.

    The United Nations does more than any other single organization to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world.  In that work, we are conscious that, while democracy is a universal value, there is no uniform model to be applied.  We are fully aware that, while democracy must come from within, international cooperation can help support it.  And we have learned that, while elections are a vital part of democracy, much more is required.  Democratization is a process, and it needs support across a range of sectors.  The United Nations’ development efforts, therefore, focus increasingly on questions of governance.  Our human rights staff work in 39 countries, and dozens more have benefited from technical and advisory missions or from visits by special rapporteurs and other human rights experts.  And our electoral assistance staff are today supporting the conduct of elections in 45 countries around the world.

    Important though all this work is, I believe we must go further -- and we must do so in the context of a strengthened multilateral system.  Democracy and development reinforce each other, as do democracy and peace.  Indeed, we should not assume that democratic progress is foreordained.  On the contrary, the struggle for democracy requires constant vigilance in the face of a range of challenges, not only in the most obvious form of unconstitutional seizures of power, but also in the form of failure to provide for the basic well-being of citizens, which can lead to declining confidence in democracy itself.

    A strengthened multilateral system and strengthened democracy, therefore, go hand in hand.  In my recent report, “In larger freedom”, I have placed an agenda of far-reaching reform before Member States, proposing a comprehensive strategy for effective international cooperation on development, security and human rights.  I hope that, when world leaders meet in New York this September at the summit to review progress since the Millennium Declaration, they will summon the vision and the pragmatism to make far-reaching reforms and to renew the United Nations, rendering it a more effective instrument of their common purpose.

    In that effort, the Community of Democracies has a vital role to play -- and, I believe, a clear interest in playing it.

    For many democracies, particularly in the developing world, the promise of democracy has not yet been fully realized, primarily because the benefits of economic and social development have not been felt sufficiently widely.  For those countries, few issues are more important than an all-out global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  In my report, I have called for urgent action to implement the Monterrey consensus, with national strategies to meet the Millennium Development Goals backed up by a major boost in resources for development.  We need to see action on debt relief, trade, and aid, including concrete commitments from donor countries to meet the 0.7 per cent target for official development assistance.

    Likewise, on the security side, it is in the interest of all countries to work to achieve a basic consensus on the threats we face and on our approach to the use of force.  We must also strengthen a range of important multilateral security instruments -- including United Nations mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding capacity, a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention, a rejuvenated nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, and a legally binding instrument to regulate the making and tracing of small arms and light weapons.  An effective, equitable and efficient collective security system must address all these challenges.

    We must also update the institutions of the United Nations.  A reformed Security Council, and a rejuvenated General Assembly, would make the United Nations itself more democratic and effective.  A new Peacebuilding Commission would fill a major institutional gap, and help improve the international community’s success rate in assisting countries make the transition from violent conflict to stable democratic governance under the rule of law.

    And the replacement of the Commission on Human Rights with a new Human Rights Council would put human rights on a truly equal footing with development and security in the structures of the United Nations.  Some have raised questions as to whether this reform is really needed.  I am convinced that it is.  We need a standing council that can do the business of human rights year round.  We need election procedures and standards that will deliver a membership of which we can be proud.  And we need a wholesale revision of the agenda, working methods, and procedures, so that polarization is replaced with collaboration.  I do not believe that the status quo is an option, or that incremental change will be sufficient.  We must restore the human rights credibility of the United Nations, and reclaim its proud history of leadership on human rights.  A Human Rights Council is the path forward.

    All of these reforms would be good for democracy. So would the creation of a voluntary Democracy Fund at the United Nations to help promote democracy around the world, by providing assistance for projects that build and strengthen democratic institutions and facilitate democratic governance.  The Fund would complement existing United Nations efforts, and help ensure that our work to strengthen national capacity is well integrated and driven by demand.  I invite members of the Community of Democracies to support the Fund, and to make contributions to ensure its effective operation.

    I look to the Community of Democracies to support wide-ranging reform.  Our goal must be a more representative and effective United Nations, fully engaged in advancing the goals of development, security and human rights -- including the right of all people to choose how they are ruled, and who rules them.  This should be the birthright of every person, and its achievement must be a central objective of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.

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