Sub-Commission on the promotion and protection of human rights
Fifty-fifth session
Item 3


by Mr. Petru DUMITRIU
Chargé d'affaires a.i.

Geneva, 07 August 2003

A review of the last 15 years will certainly indicate important advances in democratisation processes on all continents. Democratic values, principles and institutions are becoming more familiar for peoples as a current practice, at best, or as immediate or medium-term goal.

Nonetheless, it is equally true that in many parts of the world, democratisation processes are fragile and vulnerable to manipulation. A new generation of authoritarian leaders has emerged: one that appreciates the potential of democracy but only when they happen not to be in power. Yet, once they acceded to it, they gradually but purposefully forget about democratic behaviour. There are also countries where the way utilized to accede to power is violence, be it the result of consecutive coups, or the result of protracted civil wars. There is also a new brand of nominal democracy, which maintains essential non-democratic ingredients like corruption, lack of transparency, unwillingness to assume responsibility for governmental misdeeds, disrespect of the voice of minorities, lip service to the public good, intolerance towards independent media and dissenting opinion, infringements on the independence of the judiciary. In many cases the exercise of, and access to power is consistently accompanied by widespread violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

That is the reason why human rights bodies should spare no efforts in creating better awareness and strengthening the conceptual and institutional building blocks of democracy, as an overarching goal for the United Nations system to promote universally. We all should be consistent in speaking out the need for all governments to embark upon those measures that aim at establishing democratic regimes characterized, among others, by full and unconditioned respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, free and fair elections that offer real choices, pluralistic political systems, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, transparency and accountability in public administration, free and independent media.

While speaking about democracy, we should not hesitate in calling a spade a spade while referring to the nature of certain forms of governance. We should not wait the collapse of a regime to recognize it as a non-democratic one, as some of us have done it on occasions. You mentioned, Madam Chair, in your introductory statement, that we all knew about violations of human rights in Iraq. Yes, we all knew, but not all of us said it.

Over the last few years, significant efforts have been done in this respect. The Commission on Human Rights recognized the right to democracy in 1999 and adopted a comprehensive description of a genuinely democratic behaviour in 2000, following an initiative of Romania, in resolution 2000/47. This Sub-commission itself has engaged into useful research. May I remind you that as early as in 1995 a working paper "on democracy and the establishment of a democratic society" was produced for the Sub-Commission, for the first time, by Mr. Osman El-Hajjé. More recently, the Sub-Commission contributed new valuable updates on the status of democracy, such as the working paper by Mr. Rodriguez Cuadros. I am pleased to quote one of Mr. Cuadros' final conclusions, since it addresses one of the fundamental issues that has emerged out of the debates in the Commission on Human Rights, as well as in the negotiations over various drafts resolutions on democracy: "Cultural and social exceptions or characteristics are not recognized as limits to the protection of human rights or to democracy. At the same time, the spread of democracy around the world does not clash with national particularities or cultural diversity, which, on the contrary, it takes as given and has a duty to promote".

My delegation believes, indeed, that democracy should be recognized as a universal aspiration with global reach and validity. Unlike beauty, democracy is not in the eyes of the beholder. Since nowhere democracy is neither completed, nor irreversible, the Sub-Commission on Human Rights should keep the task of promoting democracy at the heart of its work. I am pleased to echo here the sixth challenge or commandment enunciated by the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It is in that spirit that my delegation believes the Sub-commission should continue to bring its own contribution to the promotion of democracy, as a comprehensive and secure framework for the protection of all human rights. On a more specific note, I would like to invite the attention of the distinguished members of the Sub-Commission on the most recent resolution adopted on that matter by the Commission on Human Rights, again an initiative in which my Government played a certain role, namely the resolution 2003/36 entitled "Interdependence between democracy and human rights".

The resolution seeks to stimulate an enhanced coherence in the United Nations system and a more active profile of the Office of the High Commissioner in promoting democracy. Similar recommendations are addressed to all the special procedures. A more active and focused role is expected from regional, subregional and other organizations and arrangements, as the best way to make universal values and principles of democracy genuinely accepted and implemented in specific regional, cultural and societal contexts. Other few practical steps are also envisaged, among which, the organization of an expert seminar on "Democracy and the rule of law". The Romanian delegation would like to encourage the learned experts of this body to consider the issues raised by the above-mentioned resolution and to bring their own inputs.

Before concluding, I would remind the importance the proceedings of other international forums that are examining and proposing action on the promotion of democracy, such as the Community of Democracies Conferences and the Conferences of New or Restored Democracies. The fifth edition of the latter will take place in Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia, from 10 to 12 September this year. One the site of the Conference, there have been already posted a number of background papers that propose interesting measures, inter alia, steps towards an international normative framework for democratisation. There is therefore enough incitement for innovative approaches, to which the expertise of this Sub-Commission cannot but add.

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