Community of democracies convene seminar at UN

10 March 2005

The Community of Democracies, an informal grouping of 100 countries advocating democratic values and institutions, held a seminar today to analyze challenges and opportunities related to democracy, try to chart the future of the worldwide democratic movement and assess the role of the United Nations in promoting democracy.

"At the United Nations, the promotion of democracy inevitably has to pass through the prism of complex political realities, which makes it not always an easy achievable objective," Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told a news conference during a break in the closed, daylong meeting.

The seminar was co-sponsored by Chile and UNDP, and is part of the preparations for a meeting of cabinet ministers from all the members late next month in Santiago de Chile.

The group's 24 convening countries decide which countries should be included as full members and which should be observers, a category that grouped those countries whose commitment to democratic values was in doubt, said Chile's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz.

He added that democracy was better promoted collectively because a country pursuing it unilaterally could be suspected of having a hidden agenda.

Asked if the United States could more effectively promote democracy by acting with other countries, Vice-President José Miguel Insulza of Chile said the Community of Democracies was founded at the end of the 1990s under "the previous US administration" and could not be linked to any particular government.

At the group's first meeting in June 2000 in Warsaw, Poland, it issued a declaration, which said, in part, "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government, as expressed by exercise of the right and civic duties of citizens to choose their representatives through regular, free and fair elections with universal and equal suffrage, open to multiple parties, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, and free of fraud and intimidation."


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