Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court

Remarks By H.E. Alberto van Klaveren, Special Ambassador for the Community of Democracies, Ambassador of Chile to the European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile - Sana'a, 10 – 12 January 2004

Democracy has stood the test of time and has come to be recognized by peoples across regions and cultures as the form of government that best meets their aspirations.
 
Remarks By H.E. Alberto van Klaveren Special Ambassador for the Community of Democracies Ambassador of Chile to the European Union Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile
10-12 January 2004
 
[Sana'a Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights, the Rule of Law and the role of the International Criminal Court
Sana'a, Republic of Yemen
10-12 January 2004]

I am glad to be here in Sana'a in representation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Ms María Soledad Alvear, to convey the deep interest of my country, as the chair of the Community of Democracies Convening group, in this impressive regional meeting.
 
Democracy has stood the test of time and has come to be recognized by peoples across regions and cultures as the form of government that best meets their aspirations. The democratic movement now sweeping the world arose after the Second World War, as many nations asserted their freedom and independence from colonial rule. This movement surged forward again with the return to civilian, democratic rule in Southern Europe, Central and South America, the emergence of democratic regimes in Asia, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe ant the Soviet Union, the end of the oppressive Apartheid regime in South Africa, and the expansion of democracy in Africa and the Middle East.
 
History teaches us that democratic progress is not restricted to a narrow group of countries or civilizations. Democracy and human rights, which are compatible with all faiths and cultures, are interdependent and inseparable. No region of the world has the monopoly of democratic values. In recent history no region of the world has been immune to gross human rights violations and grave democratic setbacks.
 
Progress towards democracy is not inevitable; it is an ongoing progress, not an end-state, requiring continuous effort and imagination. Today the worldwide democratic movement must keep pace with rapid global economic change. Democracies young and old must overcome obstacles to sustainable development and economic growth; resolve racial, ethnic and religious divisions; resist corrosive crime and corruption; and foster a culture of citizenship that instills individuals with the knowledge and skills to assert their rights, embrace their responsibilities and participate effectively in public life.
 
Political and economic cooperation among democratic peoples and governments committed to advance democracy is essential to creating a favorable international environment for development in which democracy can flourish. The United Nations and organizations such as the European Union, Council of Europe, the Organization of American States, the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States are committed to sustaining and strengthening democratic practices around the world. The UN-sponsored International Conference of New or Restored Democracies has provided a useful forum for the promotion of democracy. The Stockholm based inter-governmental Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) has made a very impressive contribution to nurture and support democracy worldwide.
 
In 1990 the Community of Democracies was established in 1999 as a flexible coalition of democratic countries that seeks to advance democracy by providing a forum for the sharing of experiences, identification of best practices and formulation of an agenda for international cooperation.
The first meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Community of Democracies took place in Warsaw in the year 2000, under the leadership of a convening group integrated by Chile, the Czech Republic,
India, Korea, Mali, Poland, Portugal, and the United States. More than 100 countries participated. Approximately 60 percent were represented by cabinet level ministers. 8 Arab countries attended. The meeting culminated in the Warsaw Declaration, which was a reaffirmation of the basic principles of democracy: equality; freedom of expression; freedom of the press; due process rights; transparent, participatory and accountable government.
The Second Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies assembled foreign ministers and representatives of more than 100 countries in Seoul, South Korea, on November 10-12, 2002. The Convening Group was expanded to include Mexico and South Africa. The Seoul Plan of Action adopted at the end of the conference reaffirms the participating countries' commitments to the continuous development of democracy domestically, and the promotion of democracy regionally and globally, and sets out what the Community of Democracies plans to accomplish.
 
Chile will host the next Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in 2005. We firmly believe that in the new millenium, it is important to continue adopting measures to secure for all people the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms to which they are entitled. We must expand the activities carried out by the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, non governmental Organizations, and national states to promote and consolidate democracy within a framework of international cooperation. We have to build a democratic political culture through the observance of human rights, the mobilization of civil society and other appropriate measures in support of democratic governance.
 
We need to recall that in the Millenium Declaration the world leaders stated that the development goals could only be achieved through democratic governance. They furthermore pledged to spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law. These goals constitute our joint vision for this decade.
 
The 21st century challenge for democracy will be its expansion beyond free and fair elections to the broader components of democratization. Special attention has to be given to such issues as political participation, the role of political parties, post-conflict democracy building, gender issues, the protection of minorities, and good governance.
 
In many of our countries democracy is not yet deeply rooted. The lack of previous experience in representative government, deep social and economic inequities, insufficient institutional development, act as impediments to achieve democratic consolidation.
 
Populist or authoritarian trends in emergent democracies frequently express the frustration of citizens regarding democratic rule. Many new or restored democracies have failed to deliver on the promise of a better standard of living for their people, and risk a loss of public confidence.
We must recognize that the strains of a globalizing economy are especially hard on developing societies that are also faced with the challenge of adjusting to a new political system. External factors can play a very positive role in the promotion of democracy but, under certain circumstances, can also become obstacles to achieve this objective. And that the information revolution has created expectations that newly free economies find hard to meet.
 
In Seoul our countries adopted a Plan of Action to cope with the main challenges which democracy is facing. Special emphasis was placed on the need of a new generation of political reforms to improve citizen participation and the consolidation of democratic rule. The Seoul Plan of Action recognized that “transparency and accountability are a democratic government’s responsibility to its citizens.” Building democratic institutions and sound political practices are basic elements for good governance.
 
The Convening Group of the Community of Democracies is implementing the Seoul Plan of Action, promoting and sponsoring regional meetings, supporting civil society initiatives, and conducting public diplomacy. The Comminity of Democracies has been present in regional meetings in Cusco, Perú, in Santiago de Chile, in Miami, Bucharest and now in Sana'a. The Convening Group is organizing a meeting to discuss and develop concrete actions for strengthening democratic institutions in East Timor.
 
We are also strengthening links with civil society. Each ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies has had its own non- governmental forum. Santiago will be no exception. We are aiming at deeper involvement of NGOs, academics, political parties, foundations and think tanks on democratic issues.
 
This year we organized a Ministerial Meeting of the Convening Group on the occasion of the UN General Assembly, which was held in New York, on September 26th, 2003. High representatives from the Czech Republic, India, the Republic of Korea, Mali, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, the United States, Italy, Peru, Romania and Chile attended the meeting.
On the occasion, the Ministers issued a press release in which they encouraged the formation of coalitions and caucuses within the UN and other multilateral fora to support democracy. The members of the Convening Group decided to strengthen a process of consultation and coordination at the UN in order to promote and defend democracy and human rights. They committed themselves to consult and coordinate actions, as appropriate, at the UN General Assembly, the ECOSOC and the Commission of Human Rights.
 
We are fully aware that international action for fostering democracy has its own dilemmas. How far can the international community go when it comes to defend democracy? How do we conciliate the defense of democracy with the principle of nonintervention? How does the international community define a democracy? How do governments conciliate different policy interests in this regard? How can double standards be avoided in this field?
 
Let us recognize that there are no easy answers to these questions. The same legal instruments that create international obligations in the areas of human rights and support for democracy flatly bar any interference in the domestic affairs of member states. National sovereignty retains its force as one of the great political principles of our times.
 
But despite these contradictions, a new international regime is gradually emerging for the support of democracy in the world. Just as states have been involved in the establishment of universal practices and norms in, for example, the regulation of international trade, the uses of nuclear power, or the possession of weapons of mass destruction, so, too, a new regime is emerging in an area which was reserved to exclusive internal jurisdiction. Three general observations must be made in this regard.
 
First, we are dealing with an emerging regime, that is, a still very incipient and nascent set of rules and practices, which have not been defined in very precise terms. This regime is very far from being codified, is characterized by a rather complex implementation, and is subject to important reservations.
 
Second, democracy emerges from the people. It cannot be imposed from abroad. The international community can play a very valuable role in the defense and promotion of democracy, as it did in the recovery of democracy in my own country. But the main responsibility in this task lies in our own peoples, countries and institutions.
 
Third, official declarations and international instruments in favor of human rights and democracy do not always coincide with observable international behavior and can lead to double standards.
But the answer to these dilemmas cannot be inaction. We have to move ahead through a policy of constructive engagement, supporting those processes which are geared to achieve democratization, and strengthening institutions in countries which are already democratic. In sum, we have to stimulate cooperation among democracies and democrats worldwide, working through the sharing of experiences and best practices. We are aiming at constructive engagement and inclusion, rather than sanctions, exclusion and finger-pointing.
Let me congratulate and thank the Government of the Republic of Yemen and the NGO No Peace without Justice for hosting this Conference. In the name of the Chair of the Community of Democracies, let me convey my deep admiration for the efforts that are being developed in this part of the world to foster democracy and human rights.
 
Thank you.