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  • Documents on Democracy


In Geneva on April 27, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on the “Promotion of the Right to Democracy” by a roll-call vote of 51–0, with 2 abstentions (China and Cuba). Excerpts from the resolution appear below:

The Commission on Human Rights,

Bearing in mind the indissoluble links between the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the foundation of any democratic society . . .

Recognizing that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and that democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives,

. . . Resolved, on the eve of a new century and millennium, to take all measures within its power to secure for all people the fundamental democratic rights and freedoms to which they are entitled,

  1. 1. Affirms that democracy fosters the full realization of all human rights, and vice versa;

  2. 2.

    Also affirms that the rights of democratic governance include, inter alia, the following:

    1. a. The rights to freedom of opinion and expression, of thought, conscience and religion, and of peaceful association and assembly;

    2. b. The right to freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media;

    3. c. The rule of law, including legal protection of citizens’ rights, interests and personal security, and fairness in the administration of justice and independence of the judiciary;

    4. d. The right of universal and equal suffrage, as well as free voting procedures and periodic and free elections; [End Page 182]

    5. e. The right of political participation, including equal opportunity for all citizens to become candidates;

    6. f. Transparent and accountable government institutions;

    7. g. The right of citizens to choose their governmental system through constitutional or other democratic means;

    8. h. The right to equal access to public service in one’s own country;

  3. 3. Notes that the realization of all human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social, including the right to development—are indispensable to human dignity and the full development of human potential and are also integral to democratic society;

  4. 4. Urges the continuation and expansion of activities carried out by the United Nations system, other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and Member States to promote and consolidate democracy within the framework of international cooperation and to build a democratic political culture through the observance of human rights, mobilization of civil society and other appropriate measures in support of democratic governance.


On April 26 in Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of Burma’s National League for Democracy and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, outlined her thoughts on the role of the military in society and on democracy in Burma. Excerpts from her remarks follow:

The question is “What is the political ideology of the present government?” Since it is a military dictatorship there is no political ideology. Only politicians will have political ideologies. A military dictatorship is militaristic and will govern the country from a military point of view. This is how I see it.

We who have faith in democracy believe that one cannot govern successfully from a militaristic standpoint. This is not said out of disrespect for the Tatmadaw [the Burmese army]. It is not because we want to belittle the role of the military. The Tatmadaw has a role. Military rule should be confined to the military. It is not appropriate for them to take over the governing of the whole country. The laws that are applicable to the battlefield should not be applied for governing the whole country. Military rules and regulations are designed for victory on the battlefield. Everything has its proper place and its proper role. If the Tatmadaw will perform its proper duties with dignity and honesty in its proper place there is no reason for us to find it unacceptable. We will all respect them. We will cooperate with them. But in governance, there must be political ideologies and political principles.

Everyone knows that we want a democratic system, which is one of [End Page 183] many political systems. The people have already indicated their...

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