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  • Documents on Democracy

Kosovo

On February 17 in Pristina, the Assembly of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia and proclaimed the new Republic of Kosovo. An excerpt from Kosovo's Declaration of Independence appears below:

We, the democratically elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement. . . .

We declare Kosovo to be a democratic, secular and multiethnic republic, guided by the principles of non-discrimination and equal protection under the law. We shall protect and promote the rights of all communities in Kosovo and create the conditions necessary for their effective participation in political and decision-making processes. . . .

We shall adopt as soon as possible a Constitution that enshrines our commitment to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all our citizens, particularly as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Constitution shall incorporate all relevant principles of the Ahtisaari Plan and be adopted through a democratic and deliberative process.

United Kingdom

On February 12, U.K. foreign secretary David Miliband delivered the Aung San Suu Kyi lecture at St. Hugh's College of Oxford University. Excerpts from his speech appear below:

I have called this speech "The Democratic Imperative" because I believe discussion about the Iraq war has clouded the debate about promoting democracy around the world. I understand the doubts about Iraq and Afghanistan, and the deep concerns at the mistakes made. But my [End Page 183] plea is that we do not let divisions over those conflicts obscure our national interest, never mind our moral impulse, in supporting movements for democracy. We must not be glib about what democracy means—it is far more than a five-year ballot. We cannot be self satisfied about the state of our own democracy. We cannot impose democratic norms. But we can be clear about the desirability of government by the people and clear that without hubris or sanctimony we can play a role in backing demands for democratic governance and all that goes with it. That is my focus today. . . .

We must resist the arguments on both the left and the right to retreat into a world of realpolitik. The traditional conservative "realist position" is to say that values and interests diverge, and interests should predominate. This will not do. Yet in the 1990s, something strange happened. The neoconservative movement seemed to be most sure about spreading democracy around the world. The left seemed conflicted between the desirability of the goal and its qualms about the use of military means. In fact, the goal of spreading democracy should be a great progressive project; the means need to combine soft and hard power. We should not let the genuine debate about the "how" of foreign policy obscure the clarity about the "what."

Democracy is plural not singular. There are many aspects to democracy and some countries are more democratic than others. It also makes sense to talk of the culture of democracy, which is both a condition and a consequence of a democratic state.

But that doesn't mean that nothing can be said. The root of the word is clear: government by the people. We can specify the indispensable conditions of a democracy—that the people choose the government, that they are free from arbitrary control, and that the government respects the right of the people to dispense with it.

And I do not believe . . . this demand for civil recognition to be a curiosity of the modern West. There are very many forms of government by the people that are compatible with the demand for civil recognition. The demand itself I take to be universal. The checks and balances of human rights and democratic governance are important for the security and development of any society: from established systems like ours, to the new democracies of Eastern Europe and Africa, to the emerging economies of China and the Middle East. . . .

I am quite comfortable asserting, to echo Churchill, that democracy is the least bad system of government we have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 183-186
Launched on MUSE
2008-04-03
Open Access
No
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