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In Cyril Foster Lecture at Oxford, Annan says democracy at home helps peace abroad

In Cyril Foster Lecture at Oxford, Annan says democracy at home helps peace abroad

Calling democracy an "international issue," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that open and accountable governments are less likely to use force - at least against States with similarly open systems.

Delivering the Cyril Foster Lecture at Oxford University, Mr. Annan said war was less likely between mature democracies because democratic rulers could not mobilize for a fight without convincing most of their citizens that such a course of action was both just and necessary. "That is much easier if you portray the government on the other side as evil, aggressive and not open to rational persuasion or reasonable compromise," he observed. "And people in a democracy find it easy to believe the worst about another country when it has a closed political system."

The Secretary-General qualified his appraisal of liberal democracies by noting that they are "least true to themselves" when their governments pursue covert or secret policies. "Cases have come to light where even the greatest democracies worked to undermine the stability of other elected governments, by means they would probably not have dared to use if their decisions had been open to public scrutiny," he noted.

In addition, Mr. Annan pointed out that democracies were often reluctant to take risks, noting that "even today there is a painful paradox in the fact that the United Nations, in its efforts to maintain peace and security, often finds that mature democracies are unwilling to provide troops for peacekeeping operations."'

Turning to democracy on the international level, the Secretary-General said that while the UN was theoretically based on the sovereign equality of its Member States, "in reality those States are very unequal" in size, wealth and power. He joined those calling for reform of the Security Council, while noting that decisions on that matter rest in the hands of States, and added that other institutions, such as the World Bank, should also be reformed.

Mr. Annan lauded the decision by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to bar leaders who have seized power from its meetings. He said the General Assembly should follow suit, as it would be "greatly strengthened when all the governments represented in it are themselves, clearly and unmistakably, representative of the peoples of the world, in whose name the United Nations was founded."

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is scheduled to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from Oxford.