Political accountability central to democracy, peace and prosperity – UN officials

28 November 2011

Top United Nations officials today stressed the importance of political accountability to promote democracy and ensure a more peaceful and prosperous world.

“Political accountability is central to meeting the generational challenges of today’s world. Poverty, crime and violence thrive in States that are not accountable,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said in remarks to the joint hearing with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the General Assembly, held at UN Headquarters.

“Countries with corrupt and repressive institutions – where the rule of law is weak – face a greater risk of civil wars, criminal violence and terrorism,” she added. “This was documented in this year’s World Bank World Development Report.

“But we do not need a study to appreciate the damage caused by repressive governments,” Ms. Migiro continues. “The Arab Awakening was a reflection of the fundamental human longing, especially among young people, for democracy, dignity and accountable governments.”

She stated that political accountability and democratic governance are inseparable, and both are essential to peace, development and human rights.

“As parliamentarians, you embody political accountability. At your best, you hear citizens and express their will. You check the power of governments. You pass laws that foster just societies. You promote peaceful dialogue to overcome tensions. And you ensure that national resources are distributed fairly.”

Today’s gathering provides an opportunity to discuss how the UN system can work better with the IPU, the international organization of the world’s parliaments.

“We share the same goals: to promote democratic governance, and to translate international commitments into national realities,” Ms. Migiro noted, adding that there are four ways parliaments can help achieve this.

The first is to practice accountability, she said. This means holding regular, credible and transparent elections, and it requires a solid legal framework guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly and the media.

“Second, represent your populations,” she told participants, noting that in too many countries, a room full of parliamentarians looks nothing like a sample of the country’s people. He highlighted the need to bring in more women and to ensure that minority groups have seats in parliaments.

Parliaments must also squarely confront corruption and organized crime. “These erode political accountability and democratic governance,” Ms. Migiro said. “Like termites, corrupt practices hollow out weak institutions from the inside. And they destroy people’s trust in the State.”

“Fourth, make sure individuals let go of power when their time is up,” she stated. “And when the separation of powers is under threat, be vigilant and assert yourselves. The peoples of your countries count on you to be front-line defenders of democratic governance and constitutionality.”

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser noted that political accountability is a pertinent theme for the two-day hearing. “All over the world, populations are calling for more responsive government that works for the good of society as a whole.”

He said that, globally, the issue of accountability is best seen in the workings of the 193-member General Assembly, which he called the most legitimate world body. “It is the only place in the world where all countries come together as equals, regardless of their power and wealth – one member, one vote!”

Over the next two days, participants will discuss issues related to the situation of youth, the role of civil society and the management of public funds. Mr. Al-Nasser noted these issues are also on the agenda of the Assembly, in one way or another.

He voiced the hope that the discussions will contribute to re-defining current notions of accountability and strengthen the ways in which accountability is effected.

On the margins of the hearing, Mr. Al-Nasser met with Mevlut Cavusoglu, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with whom he exchanged views on Palestine’s application for UN membership, the Arab Awakening, and the subject of mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Mr. Al-Nasser also met with Ranko Krivokaptic, Speaker of Montenegro’s Parliament, discussing issues such as the Assembly’s role in strengthening global accountability, and boosting cooperation between the IPU and the UN.

 

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