Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 1999
Volume 10
Issue 2
Page Numbers 178-83
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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 network to foster international cooperation among supporters of democracy. 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 presupposes 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 development 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 and mechanisms of democracy.

The second challenge is to promote political liberalization and democratic transition in the remaining authoritarian systems. This may not come about quickly. But it is important to do what is possible [End Page 179] in each situation to assist the variety of groups and individuals who are working through nonviolent means for democratic opening and change.

To help maintain the global momentum for democratic progress, we believe there is a need for a worldwide network of democratic practitioners and thinkers, committed to mutual support, exchange, and cooperation. We hereby adopt for our network the name, “World Movement for Democracy.”

This global network will include:

  • political party representatives who are seeking the reform and renewal of political parties and party systems;
  • leaders of NGOs and other professionals working to improve human rights; institutionalize transparency and accountability; moder-nize the legal system; strengthen representative institutions; enhance the status of women in politics, society, and the economy; incorporate other excluded groups; promote civic education; and otherwise reform and invigorate democracy;
  • trade unionists committed to giving workers a democratic voice in a rapidly changing global economy;
  • business leaders committed to democracy, economic competition, and accountable and transparent corporate governance;
  • leaders of policy research institutes and other scholars and analysts who are not merely studying the conditions for democracy but advancing concrete initiatives for institutional and policy reform;
  • civic (and other) educators who are working both within and outside the formal school system and in various arenas in civil society to develop in their fellow citizens the values, skills, and knowledge that undergird a free and participatory society;
  • religious leaders who are working for the freedom of conscience and the freedom to worship of all peoples and faiths;
  • representatives of international democracy foundations that pro-vide financial and technical assistance to prodemocracy groups in transitional and authoritarian countries;
  • independent journalists, broadcasters and other specialists in communications who can help prodemocracy groups utilize new information technologies as tools for democracy-building.

Promoting cooperation among democrats is hardly novel. Where democracy has been achieved, it has been primarily through the struggles of the people of those countries, but these have often been energized by the diffusion of democratic ideas, strategies, and norms across national boundaries, and by the practical support provided by nongovernmental organizations in established democracies. There are now many additional opportunities, as more of the established democracies become involved in democracy assistance, and as the newer democracies themselves become active in engaging and providing assistance to other emerging democracies and transitional regimes. [End Page 180]

The goal of the World Movement for Democracy is not to create a new centralized organization that will make decisions on its own. Indeed, the Movement is not an organization as such. Rather, it is a proactive network of democrats that will meet periodically (not less than once every two years) to exchange ideas and experiences and to foster collaboration among democratic forces around the world.

In creating a forum of democrats from established democracies, new democracies, and transitional and authoritarian countries, we believe that it is important to avoid any impression of a patron-client relationship. To this end, the network will provide an arena of interaction for all those who feel the need for support and those capable of providing it in various ways. Those struggling to open up closed societies will find in the movement a network of democrats sympathetic to their causes. Those seeking to deepen and reform democracy in their own country, and those wanting to provide effective democratic assistance from the outside, will find new means of communication and shared learning to enhance their effectiveness. Similarly, democratic think tanks, scholars, and policy analysts will find in the network an exciting additional channel for the exchange of ideas, projects, research findings, reform initiatives, and institutional designs for democracy. The network may also help to enhance the international resources now available for financial and technical assistance to democratic development.

While the network will be nongovernmental, it appreciates that governments have a vital role to play in fostering institutional cooperation to promote democracy.

The network recognizes the importance of transparency and fair-ness in the functioning of international institutions. And it resolves to ensure the full and equal involvement of representatives of all regions in its own future activities, including preparatory work for future meetings of the World Movement for Democracy.

Our inaugural assembly in India is just a start. There is a great task ahead. We are confident that this new movement will take root and grow stronger, and that it will help people throughout the world who aspire to democracy as a way of life for themselves and future generations.


On February 26–27, the World Bank and the government of Korea cohosted a conference in Seoul entitled “Democracy, Market Economy and Development” (see p. 186–187 below). Excerpts from President Kim Dae Jung’s opening address follow:

We have learned an invaluable lesson from the [economic] crisis. We have learned that any solutions to our problem require much more [End Page 181] than [the] piecemeal reform measures attempted in the past. It demands nothing less than a fundamental change in our approach to the idea of development, a paradigm shift toward a parallel pursuit of democracy and a market economy. . . .

Without democracy, we cannot expect development of a genuine market economy under fair and transparent rules of competition. I have long believed economic growth achieved under conditions of political repression and market distortion is neither sound nor sustainable. I believe democracy and a market economy are like two wheels of a cart, and that both must move together and depend on each other for forward motion. . . .

By channeling scarce resources into a few targeted areas, and suppressing social conflicts, authoritarian rule can appear very effective in the short run. The authoritarian leaders of Asia’s developmental states followed this path. But hidden behind the façade of rapid growth are the increasing problems of moral hazard, bureaucratic rigidity, and political cronyism. The problem of inequality—between regions, classes, and industries—also becomes more serious. . . .

If Korea had pursued a parallel development of democracy and a market economy from the start, it would have been possible to check the collusive relationship between government and big business, centered around the government-controlled financial sector. It would even have been possible to avoid the destructive storm of the currency crisis. . . .

I believe that, in the 21st century, all nations of the world will be able to enjoy the benefits of democracy. In order to participate fully in globalization, I believe it is necessary to practice genuine democracy and allow a free exchange of ideas and information. Korea will follow this path. Korea will also practice genuine market economics, competing and cooperating with the world. This is the only way to provide equality of opportunity and a fair chance for all.


The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of 63 Nigerian human-rights and civil-society organizations, monitored Nigeria’s February 27 presidential elections, stationing approximately 10,700 observers throughout the country. The following are excerpts from the conclusion and recommendations of its interim report, released shortly after the elections:

[I]t is clear that the presidential election recorded a far higher incidence of electoral malpractices than previous elections, and this is a matter for grave concern as it calls the legitimacy of the process into question. Particularly worrying is the role of some INEC [Independent [End Page 182] National Election Commission] officials in perpetrating these mal-practices. These kind of malpractices have the potential to erode the confidence of the electorate in the whole transition to civil rule process. . . .

a) Incoming civilian government

In view of the doubts which will inevitably be raised about the outcome of the electoral process as a result of the malpractices noted above, it is important for the incoming civilian government to appreciate and understand that the emphasis in the current process has been on transition to civilian rule, rather than the establishment of full-blown democracy in Nigeria. Any triumphalist insistence on a “winner-take-all” stance on the basis of a supposed democratic mandate must be avoided. The incoming civilian government must therefore begin to make determined and sustained efforts to cultivate democratic norms and values amongst its members, as well as in the society at large. . . .


. . . Despite a commendable level of independence, it is disturbing that INEC had no reaction to situations where functionaries of the outgoing military government cancelled elections at certain polling stations in their states, and in some cases, ordered fresh elections.

c) Political parties

It is important for political parties to imbibe the principles of democracy at all levels, particularly as regards their internal processes. The part played by money in the whole transition process does not augur well for democracy in Nigeria. It is hoped that party members will learn to win votes by the persuasiveness of their programmes and policies, rather than by rigging, bribery, and violence.

d) Outgoing Federal Military Government

The entire transition process has now been conducted without any constitutional framework whatsoever. The TMG therefore wishes to caution the Federal Military Government against attempting to place the emerging Nigerian civilian democratic process into any straight-jacket, by imposing a Constitution on the nation. The TMG is of the firm view that as the Provisional Ruling Council is unrepresentative and unelected, whatever constitutional arrangements it may resolve upon should at the most be strictly transitional. Constitution-making should be left to the people of Nigeria.

e) Prodemocracy groups

Although the electorate is to be commended for its perseverance and determination to see the transition process through, many of the incidents observed by the TMG monitors make it clear that a great deal still remains to be done in the field of civic education, voter mobili-sation and empowerment, particularly by women’s groups.