News and Notes

Issue Date April 1992
Volume 3
Issue 2
Page Numbers 132-34
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Conference for Women Civic Leaders

The first North-South workshop for women civic leaders, “Consolidation of Democracy in the Americas,” was held 12-14 January 1992 in Miami, Florida. Women leaders from many countries in South, Central, and North America convened to discuss ways of strengthening democratic institutions and enhancing the role of civic organizations in the Americas.

Sponsored by the North-South Center of the University of Miami and the League of Women Voters of Dade County, the workshop focused on building public consensus, citizen education, civic action, government accountability, fundraising, lobbying, and using the media. Workshop proceedings will be published in both English and Spanish by the North-South Center.

Participants in the conference included María Rosa de Martini (Conciencia, Argentina), Monica Jiménez de Barros (Participa, Chile), Monica de Greiff (former Justice Minister, Colombia), Consuelo Maingot (Assistant Attorney General, Florida, and League of Women Voters, Dade County), Carol Whitney (International Institute for Women’s Political Leadership, Washington, D.C.), Bill Reece (Partners of the Americas), and Irma Arias Duval (Latin American Organization of Nongovernmental, Nonpartisan Institutions for Civic Education).

Mongolia Approves New Constitution

On 13 January 1992, the Mongolian legislature, the Great People’s Hural, approved a new democratic constitution. In an address on 12 February 1992 at a ceremony in Ulan Bator marking the effective date of the new constitution, Mongolian president Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat called the promulgation of the document “an epoch-making event in Mongolian history.” [End Page 132]

The new constitution contains a clear commitment to democracy, private property, and the rule of law. Its preamble declares the Mongolian people’s aspiration to develop a “human, civil, and democratic society,” while its first article states, “The supreme principle of the State shall be the respect for law and guarantee of democracy, justice, freedom, equality, and national unity.” The constitution’s three chapters deal with the sovereignty of the state; human rights and freedoms, including civil, political, economic, and social rights; and state structure.

Conferences Face Legacy of Totalitarian Past

There is a widespread consensus among democrats in Central and Eastern Europe on the necessity of eliminating old communist structures and practices and removing communist elites from positions of power. Yet the views of democrats on the pace, scope, and manner of implementing such changes diverge radically. An international conference sponsored by the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw on “Decommunization and Democracy,” held on 2-3 March 1992, was devoted to an effort to resolve this controversy.

The conference had two principal aims: first, to encourage the free exchange of ideas among politicians and intellectuals from the different countries of the region; and second, to offer the general public a chance to appraise the complexity of the issues relating to decommunization by inviting regional journalists. The Foundation also plans to publish the proceedings.

Participants from Poland included Aleksander Smolar, chairman of the Stefan Batory Foundation; Bronislaw Geremek, chairman of the parliamentary caucus of the Democratic Union; Andrzej Urbański of the Center Alliance; Tadeusz Mazowiecki, chairman of the Democratic Union and former prime minister; Aleksander Kwaśniewski, chairman of the parliamentary caucus of the Alliance of the Democratic Left; Zdzislaw Najder, chief advisor to the prime minister; Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former prime minister; and Jacek Kuroń, deputy chairman of the Democratic Union.

Hungarian attendees included János Kis, former chairman of the Alliance of Free Democrats; Miklós Maroth of Democratic Forum; and András Bozóki of FIDESZ. Also participating were Václav Benda, chairman of the Czech Christian Democratic Party, and Ivan Carnogursky, deputy speaker of the Slovak parliament.

Another conference addressing a similar topic, “Justice in Times of Transition,” was held in Salzburg, Austria, on 7-10 March 1992. Sponsored by the Charter 77 Foundation, it focused on how best to bring to justice individuals who were involved in human rights abuses during the communist era, and how to deal with people who collaborated with the agencies of [End Page 133] the secret police. Officials and policy makers from Central and Eastern Europe were joined by representatives from Latin American countries that have had to confront the issue of “transitional justice.”

Festschrift Honors Seymour Martin Lipset

In March 1992 Seymour Martin Lipset, one of America’s most distinguished social scientists and the only person to be elected president of both the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association, celebrated his seventieth birthday. Although Lipset has written on a wide variety of subjects, the issue of democracy, both in the United States and abroad, has always been at the center of his work. Thus it is fitting that a festschrift just published in his honor bears the title Comparative Perspectives on Democracy.

Edited by Larry Diamond and Gary Marks, the festschrift has appeared as a special double issue (March-June 1992) of the American Behavioral Scientist. It contains essays by each of the editors and ten other prominent scholars, all of them former students of Lipset. Among the themes examined are the problem of democracy in permanently divided societies; the place of collective norms and virtues in a democracy; strategic interaction among actors in democratic transitions; the relationship between economic development and democracy; the changing roles of parties and interest groups in contemporary democracies; and the distinctive social, political, and cultural attributes of American democracy. An expanded version of the volume, with three additional essays, will be published by Sage Publications in hardcover in August 1992.

Lipset serves as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy, and a reception celebrating the festschrift published in his honor was held in conjunction with the Journal‘s April 3 conference on “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.”

The Democratic Ideal

The Institute of Public Policy Studies at the University of Michigan sponsored a symposium on “Definitions of Democracy: The Democratic Ideal in Public Policy” on 30-31 January 1992. Two sessions covered topics related to international democratization. One addressed U.S.-Chinese relations, the democratic ideal in China, and the differences in perceptions of democracy between the two nations. The other, moderated by Ernest J. Wilson, examined the use of democratization as a “litmus test” for foreign assistance to promote the democratic ideal in developing countries. Kenya was discussed as a case in which aid has been linked to democracy, with promising results. [End Page 134]


Copyright © 1992 National Endowment for Democracy