With UN help, number of democracies nearly doubled in past decade, Annan reports

With UN help, number of democracies nearly doubled in past decade, Annan reports

Among the most remarkable achievements of the 1990s has been the near doubling of the number of democracies across the globe, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

Noting that the UN has played an important role in supporting this trend through its multifaceted programmes and activities, the Secretary-General stresses that there can be no single prescribed form of democracy.

"To be sustainable, the democratic order of a State must be authentic and reflect the culture, history and political experience of its citizens," Mr. Annan writes in his report on the UN's support to promote or consolidate new or restored democracies. Furthermore, "democracy must be seen as a process that requires much more than the conduct of elections;" it should also provide opportunities for people to participate fully in all aspects of society.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General says the benchmark for a sustainable democracy is the extent to which a State acts in accordance with universal and indivisible human rights: the civil and political rights, as well as the economic, social and cultural rights defined in international human rights law. "The current state of international human rights law clearly shows that democracy is not only a universally recognized ideal and a goal, but also a fundamental right of citizens," Mr. Annan writes.

The Secretary-General also welcomes the "growing international trend to condemn unconstitutional removals of Governments or attempts at outright subversion of democracy" and notes that the root of many armed conflicts is the issue of the State and who controls its power and how it is used.

For that reason, Mr. Annan says, the promotion of democratic governance should also be considered as one of the most promising long-term strategies for the prevention of armed conflict. "Experience shows that peace and security are essential preconditions for a healthy and vibrant democracy," he says.