I. Democracy omitted
Adopted in the name of the ‘peoples of the United Nations,’ the UN Charter expresses “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…” But in none of its provisions does it use the term democracy. The democratic character of the government of a State is not a condition for admission to the United Nations; just as the violation of democratic principles — and, above all, of human rights — does not become a cause for exclusion.
It is only in the preamble of UNESCO's Constitution that "democratic principles" are mentioned.
It is undoubtedly in the East-West confrontation of the 1940s to 1980s that the UN system's explanation of democracy must be sought. As there were fundamental disagreements about the meaning of democracy ('popular' democracy versus 'genuine' democracy), states saw it as an additional argument that they could use in their conflicts, but did not see it as the basis for national and international peace.
At the end of the Second World War, the lack of agreement on the meaning of democracy did not affect — or at least not immediately — the other facet of the demand for a human life worth living: human rights, since it was possible to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. But the fact is that the Universal Declaration only mentions democracy once, in Article 29, paragraph 2. This provision allows for limitations on human rights, justified, among other things, by the requirements of "morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society." It is therefore with regard to the requirements of democracy that one must assess the limitations imposed on human rights. Democracy, as a regime of freedom, thus becomes the very instrument for judging the limitations that can be imposed on human rights.
Although there is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, supplemented by a series of covenants, treaties and declarations, there is no equivalent instrument for democracy. Would it not be appropriate to complete the work begun in 1948 with a Universal Declaration of Democracy?
II. The return of democracy
If, during the Cold War, democracy sought refuge in regional organizations (the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States and, a little later, the European Union), it was the fall of the Berlin Wall that made its reappearance in international relations possible. Since 1989, it has been a constant presence in the work of international organisations: the United Nations has devoted a series of meetings to democracy, including one in the Council of Europe, one in the organisation of American States and, a little later, one in the European Union.
aimed at the "new democracies," among which several States have drafted Declarations on democracy. African States also prepared their own drafts, most notably the African Charter on Democratic Elections and Governance of the African Union.
The draft 'Declaration of the Council of Europe on Genuine Democracy' may perhaps be considered the most comprehensive, even if it could not be adopted because of the opposition of only one Member State. The Universal Declaration on Democracy of 16 September 1997, adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, is also worthy of note for the plurality of views it represents and the innovative concepts it contains.
Several UNESCO instruments and, above all, those of the International Labour Organization should also be taken into account. Of course, one cannot fail to mention the French and American Declarations of the last decades of the 18th century, as well as the instruments (Declarations and Conventions) drawn up by the Organization of American States. All these texts have been taken into account in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Democracy.
III. Democracy and peace
Initially, peace was understood as simply the absence of war between States or within States. This somewhat negative peace was gradually replaced by a ‘positive peace,’ which must transcend mere armed peace and incorporate the demands of security, mutual understanding, tolerance and economic and social development. It soon became clear that this positive peace was based on human freedom — and hence on human rights — and on a political system of democracy in all its dimensions: political, economic, social, cultural and international.
In short, peace must be both negative and positive, but above all it must be global, that is to say, a collective affair: all men and women are henceforth responsible for peace in the world vis-à-vis their peers and even vis-à-vis future generations. If we all have the duty to work for peace, we all have the right to enjoy it.
Thus, within a framework of freedom, we arrive at the affirmation of a genuine right to peace, opposed to and enforceable against all sources of power, State or otherwise, but above all, achievable only through the combined efforts of all those involved in life in society: States, individuals, public and private entities. And it is precisely this regime of democracy, based on freedom, which is the best guarantee of national and international peace.
This aspiration for peace, which implies the rule of democracy, requires that peace, enhanced by democracy, should become a collective affair: but in order to achieve this, a genuine culture of peace must first come into being. This was the aim of all those who, under the protection and inspiration of UNESCO, created the Foundation for a Culture of Peace. The draft Universal Declaration of Democracy therefore responds to this twofold human aspiration: democracy and peace.
With the intention of making the Universal Declaration of Democracy effectively the equivalent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both instruments consist of thirty articles. Article 30 is common to both: it states that "Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration."
Draft Universal Declaration of democracy
Whereas, for a long time, law and international relations have remained indifferent to the political nature of the government of the State and whereas, therefore, the effective protection of human rights today requires the existence and free functioning of a regime of democracy, considered as the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Cconsidering that, although international, universal and regional instruments for the protection of human rights have given rise to a body of numerous and detailed standards, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there does not exist the indispensable equivalent of this Declaration, which should be a Universal Declaration of Democracy, which is urgently needed to guide, at the personal, local and global levels, the behaviour and governance of human societies.
Considering that the elaboration of such a Declaration would make it possible to highlight the intrinsic link between human rights and democracy, which is based on effective respect for political, social and economic rights, cultural and international, on a personal and collective, national and global scale.
Considering that the World Plan of Action on Education for Human Rights and Democracy (Montreal, 1993) is an excellent guide and that some of its points have been incorporated into the text of the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993).
Considering that if democracy presupposes the respect and exercise of human rights, the democratic regime constitutes the best guarantee of the promotion and realization of human rights.
Considering that the systemic and ethical crisis that Humanity is suffering can only be solved by a democratic behaviour at all levels, in such a way as to place the reins of their destiny in the hands of "the people."
Considering that the times of the bloody history of absolute male power are over, and that the human species, ‘liberated from fear’ and capable of inventing its future, will begin, with the transition from force to word, a new era.
Considering that a Universal Declaration of Democracy should therefore include at the same time the political, economic, social, cultural and international democracy.
I. Fundamental principles of democracy
Article 1: Democracy is a political, economic, social, cultural and international system based on respect for the human person, whose rights and duties are indivisible, on the supremacy of law and justice, and on the possibility for everyone to participate in the life and development of society, in peace, in the awareness of the equal dignity and interdependence of human beings, and in a favourable cultural and natural environment.
II. Political democracy
Article 2: Political democracy is an objective based on values common to all peoples that it is therefore a fundamental right of every human being, to be exercised in conditions of freedom, equality and responsibility, with respect for the plurality of opinions and the common interest.
Article 3: Since it is based on the right of everyone to participate in the management of public affairs, political democracy implies the existence of representative institutions at all levels and, in particular, of a Parliament representative of all components of society, endowed with real powers and having the necessary means to express the will of the people, exercising for this purpose its functions of legislation and control of government action.
Participatory democracy will be fully effective when there are channels that allow civil society to express its priorities in order to harmonize the expenditures and investments of public institutions with the interests and needs of the community.
The modalities of participation offered by the new communication and information technologies will undoubtedly contribute to broadening the capacity of the citizens to express themselves freely, thus reaffirming a genuine democracy.
Article 4: An essential element in the democratic exercise of political power is the holding of free and regular elections at regular intervals, which enable the will of the people to be expressed in the election of the legislature and other organs of political power within the State.
Article 5: Elections shall be held on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, with secret ballot, by men and women without any restriction, in conditions which guarantee the possibility of a real choice for the benefit of the electors and respect for their opinions. The political authorities shall pay constant attention to citizens who express their opinions.
Article 6: The presence of election observers and national and international media should not be considered as interference in the affairs of the state.
Article 7: A democratic society presupposes the existence of multipartyism, which must operate in a spirit of tolerance: the formation of political parties and other political groupings must be free and in accordance with the rules of international law. Their prohibition may intervene only in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law. Even if democratically elected, the majority must not govern without permanent consideration for the legitimate rights of the minority. The presence of parliamentarians and members of any other representative body must be constant in all debates.
Article 8: Political democracy requires the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers. The role of the legislature as the representative of the citizens is to make and vote on laws, to vote on taxes and to control the executive. The executive branch must, in particular, ensure that the laws are strictly respected by the security institutions responsible for enforcing them.
Article 9: The judiciary should be exercised by independent judges who are impartial and whose decisions are not conditioned by the interests of the executive, the legislature or any other public authority, or any other private group.
Article 10: Political democracy must guarantee everyone equal and effective protection against all forms of discrimination and ensure full equality of opportunity in life for all. Any temporary measure aimed at correcting any kind of discrimination or accelerating the achievement of equality among citizens may not be considered discriminatory.
III. Economic democracy
Article 11: Democracy must develop economic systems based on social justice, to which all other aspects and dimensions of economic life will always be subordinated, aiming at free and fair competition, as well as indispensable cooperation, in order to achieve sustainable economic development, shared prosperity, the promotion of employment and work, and the rational use of economic, food, natural and energy resources; the fundamental objective of which is that every person should have access to the goods and services necessary for a life worth living.
The principles of responsibility in relation to society — transparency, permanence, fiscal justice — must always be taken into account, in order to avoid the hegemony of profit.
Article 12: The democratic process presupposes the existence of an economic environment that favours the development of all social strata and, in particular, the satisfaction of the basic economic needs of the most disadvantaged groups to enable their full integration and participation in democratic life.
Article 13: Economic democracy requires the recognition of the economic rights of all human beings including, first and foremost, the right to property, both individual and collective, of which no one shall be deprived except in the public interest and under the conditions provided for by law and international law.
At the same time and with equal emphasis, it requires the recognition of the right of every person to receive from the State the minimum aid and income that, in case of need, allow the full fulfilment of fundamental human rights.
Article 14: Freedom of trade and commerce is crucial to democracy both nationally and internationally; everyone should be free, so long as it does not harm the general interest, to carry on the business or pursue the profession, art or trade that he or she considers best suited to it.
Article 15: Contractual freedom, which is the basis of life in society, is particularly important for economic democracy, whose free functioning in the national and international framework depends on it, always with respect for the general interest and the requirements of the democratic process.
Article 16: Freedom of enterprise, recognized today as the indispensable engine of economic and social development and, consequently, of economic democracy, is the result of the freedom of every person to exercise his or her rights, provided that it does not infringe on the rights of others, and is subject only to such limits as are established by national and international law.
Article 17: The freedom to invest is a particularly important factor for the economic development of a country, without which economic rights would be incomplete, since they would not have the capacity to provide individual initiatives with the guarantee and protection that must always accompany human rights, a condition for the very existence of a democratic regime in a country.
IV. Social democracy
Article 18: Democracy has an essential social dimension, in accordance with the requirements defined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the violation of fundamental social rights threatens the equal dignity and opportunities of all human beings, equality being the very basis of democracy.
Article 19: Freedom of association should enable workers to act fully and without hindrance in the defence of their interests, thus enabling them to participate, on an equal footing, in free discussions with representatives of employers and governments in order to reach democratic decisions that promote the common good and guarantee the exercise of their work under acceptable conditions.
Article 20: Social democracy requires that all citizens contribute, through taxes established for this purpose, to solidarity and the fair distribution of resources of all kinds. Strict measures should be taken to eliminate extreme poverty and economic, social and cultural exclusion, as well as all forms of marginalization, in particular by providing people in difficult circumstances with the means to be informed of their rights and to make their voices heard, and by offering them a range of appropriate services, including appropriate training to enable them to develop their capacities.
V. Cultural democracy
Article 21: For the regime of democracy to be sustainable, a democratic culture nurtured and enhanced on a permanent basis by education and other cultural and information media is indispensable. A democratic society therefore has a duty to promote education in its broadest sense, which includes, in particular, civic education and training for responsible citizenship. Democracy implies, therefore, to realize the right to education as an integral part of human rights in a lifelong learning perspective.
Article 22: Education for all throughout life is essential to ensure true democracy. No one can be deprived of the right to education. The free education system , at different levels, will be an objective priority of democratic states, considering it as a fundamental investment in the quality of life together, in development and in peace.
Article 23: In exercising its functions in the field of education and knowledge, the State shall respect the right of parents to choose the education their children receive in accordance with their religious, philosophical, ideological and cultural convictions.
Article 24: Democracy implies access and participation of all, without any discrimination, in cultural life, in information and social communication. All cultural communities, including those which are disadvantaged by their size or by their cultural or religious specificity, shall have the right to develop their own cultural policies within the framework of respect for human rights and the rights of other communities. Because of their rich variety and diversity and the reciprocal influence they exert on one another, all cultures form part of the common heritage of humanity.
A major objective of cultural democracy is to associate identities that are very different from one another with the belonging of all to the same citizenship, which entails equal rights for all, without gender discrimination, the rejection of the death penalty and of any humiliating form of detention.
VI. International democracy
Article 25: Democracy must be recognized as an international principle applicable to international organizations and to states in their international relations. International democracy does not mean the right of States to equal and equitable representation extends only to their social, economic and cultural rights and duties.
At the level of the United Nations system, whose Charter aims to act on behalf of "We the peoples of the United Nations," the representatives of the Governments of the Member States must always take into account the just demands of civil society, expressed through various channels, such as associations, professional associations, public and private entities, social networks, etc, and, in particular, elected representatives at the national and regional levels.
Article 26: International democracy requires that States ensure that their behaviour conforms to international law; that they refrain from the threat or use of force, and from endangering or violating the sovereignty and political and territorial integrity of other States; and, finally, that they endeavour to settle their differences by peaceful means, in accordance with international law, by having recourse to international jurisdictions and, in particular, to the International Court of Justice. High-level and highly effective legal institutions should ensure the fully democratic functioning of international organizations in order to avoid the existence of undemocratic entities at the global level.
Article 27: Democracy should play an increasingly important role in the conduct of regional and international affairs. To that end, the international community has a duty to support States in transition to democracy. It also has a duty to lend its solidarity to peoples who are oppressed or living in conditions that are detrimental to their human development.
Article 28: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the present Declaration can be fully realized. No State may invoke the principle of non-interference in its internal affairs in the face of allegations of human rights violations.
VII. Duties towards democracy
Article 29: Everyone has the duty to respect and defend democracy and peace in their different manifestations: political, economic, social, cultural and international. In no case shall they exercise and defend their rights in a manner contrary to the objectives and principles of the United Nations.
Article 30: Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.