Expert seminar on the interdependence between democracy and human rights



GENEVA - 25 November 2002 -

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for giving me the possibility to speak, on behalf of the delegation that initiated the resolution 2001/41. Allow me to say how grateful we are to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights for bringing together such highly competent and representative experts who will, no doubt, reward the organizational efforts and be up to the intentions of the resolution. I believe also that it is the duty of my delegation to thank warmly all co-sponsors of resolutions 2001/41, in particular to those who found ways and means to provide additional voluntary contributions to make this seminar possible.

Since 1997, when Romania took the leadership in the movement of new or restored democracies and hosted the Third International Conference of New or Restored Democracies at ministerial level, numerous events - very significant in number and quality - took place in the intergovernmental multilateral debate on democracy. Among them, a follow-up process to the Bucharest Conference catalyzed a dynamic evolution, with a Fourth Conference of New or Restored Democracies held in Benin in 2000, and the forthcoming one in Ulan Bator next year. There has been also another important Conference entitled "Towards a community of democracies" with its first edition held in Warsaw, Poland, in 2000, and a second one, very recently closed in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The most substantial developments in the intergovernmental debate and action on democracy took place in our own Commission on Human Rights. These developments are important because they started a fruitful process of transforming the increasing commitments in favour of democracy into resolutions that are attempting to describe and define democratic behaviour.

In that context, Romania takes pride in having had the privilege to initiate the work leading to the adoption of the resolution 2000/47 entitled "Promoting and consolidating democracy". That resolution is indeed the most comprehensive text ever adopted in the UN system on democracy, an issue that, for too long time, was seen as taboo, based on the Cold War assumption that the UN should not pronounce itself on the value of political systems.

Fortunately, the times of UN silence in acknowledging the values of democratic culture, principles and mechanisms are over. Now democracy has gained a new place among the priorities of the UN and it is our duty to work hard to further enhance it, constantly and systematically. As one could notice, democracy has become instrumental in changing the world by stimulating processes of integration of historical proportions, like those we are witnessing these very days, in Europe.

That was why Romania initiated the resolution 2001/41, entitled "Continuing dialogue on measures to promote and consolidate democracy", whose very concrete fruit is this expert seminar, which is meant to examine the interdependence between democracy and human rights. This event is just one of the possible ways to deepen the debate on democracy and underline its fundamental and organic connections with the human rights.

By calling states to consolidate democracy through the promotion of pluralism, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, maximizing the participation of individuals in decision-making and the development of competent and public institutions, including an independent judiciary, effective and accountable legislature and public service and an electoral system that ensures periodic, free, and fair elections the resolution 2000/47 anticipates, to a greater extent, the conclusion that indeed human rights constitute the fundamental matrix in a true democracy.

From that point, all directions for debate and action can be shaped and developed. Since a recent edition of the Human Development Report is mentioned among the references for this seminar, let me remind you one of the initial analyses offered by the same report in its 2000 version. One of the subchapters of that report states clearly: "Democracy is defined by human rights". The report identifies four defining features of democracy that are based on human rights; i/ holding free and fair elections contributes to the fulfillment of the right to political participation; ii/allowing free and independent media contributes to fulfillment of the right to freedom of expression, thought and conscience; iii/separating powers among branches of government protect citizens from abuses of their civil and political rights; iv/encouraging an open civil society contributes to fulfillment of the right to peaceful assembly and association (as well as participation). That again reinforces our basic assumption about the strong and mutually complementing nature of democracy and human rights.

We are convinced that the debates and their conclusions will produce new ideas and suggestions for our work in the Commission on Human Rights and in the United Nations General Assembly. We expect from this seminar a further impetus to the new thinking and action that will make democracy a genuine global public good. Democracy and high human rights standards should provide to all individuals throughout the world a framework that will make them protagonists and not just witnesses of the globalization era.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and wish you a successful and productive seminar.

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