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  • Documents on Democracy


On February 17 in New Delhi, the inaugural assembly of the “World Movement for Democracy” (see below, pp. 184–85) approved by consensus a founding document calling for the creation of a net-work to foster international cooperation among supporters of democ-racy. The entire document appears below:

We are democrats of different nations and cultures who have gathered in India, the world’s largest democracy, to consider how the prospect for democracy in the world can be advanced on the eve of a new millennium. It is our belief that the time has come for democrats throughout the world to develop new forms of cooperation to promote the development of democracy. Such cooperation is needed to strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even where it is longstanding, and to bolster prodemocracy groups in countries that have not yet entered into a process of democratic transition.

We welcome this gathering of delegates drawn from over 80 countries and from many different sectors to build a world movement for democracy. We affirm that the movement toward democracy is a process involving a large number of countries, and that no one country has completed this process or has consistently applied democratic standards to itself or to others. We also hold that the forms of democratic governance are plural—there being no single model of democracy. At the same time, we have been inspired by the experiences of those who have been in the forefront of democracy movements in countries that have taken the democratic path in recent decades.

Developing a movement of democrats from all regions of the world has become feasible today owing to the dramatic expansion of democracy during the past 25 years. It has also become necessary— [End Page 178] urgently so—as a means of responding to the unprecedented global interchange of people, ideas, and goods that has transformed the world. Only by successfully adapting to these new conditions can democrats remain an effective and influential worldwide force. The continued durability and dynamism of democracy globally requires a worldwide community of democrats—leading figures from politics, associational life, business, trade unions, the mass media, academia, and policy analysis organizations from all regions who are united by shared democratic values and a commitment to mutual support and solidarity.

The goal of building a worldwide movement for democracy presup-poses the universality of the democratic idea. We believe that human beings aspire to freedom by their very nature, and that no single culture has a monopoly on democratic values. The tradition of democracy has been enriched by contributions from many cultures, and the develop-ment of democracy is open to people everywhere. Neither the history nor the culture of a nation can justify violations of human rights, either directly by government or indirectly through mob or criminal violence. Even in countries where democracy is weak or nonexistent, the courage and self-sacrifice demonstrated daily by countless trade unionists, civic leaders, and human rights and other prodemocracy activists eloquently affirm the principle of democratic universalism.

The recent period of democratic expansion has seen the spread of democratic elections to well over half of the world’s 190 countries. Despite these gains, and in some respects because of them, the effort to foster the further development of democracy today faces two historic challenges:

The first is to consolidate recent democratic gains by deepening democracy beyond its electoral form. This involves, among other things: improving protection for human rights and the rule of law; strengthening judicial and legislative institutions, as well as other agencies to hold state power accountable; empowering democratic governance at the local level; ensuring the equal status and full participation of women; empowering marginalized groups to become partners in the restructuring of their societies; invigorating civil society and the autonomous mass media; securing fundamental workers’ rights, especially freedom of association; ensuring that those who work nonviolently for the democratic transformation of their societies are provided the space and resources needed for their task; controlling corruption and promoting transparency; extending civilian control over the military; cultivating democratic values and beliefs; and resolving conflicts over minority group rights and claims through the spirit...

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pp. 178-183
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