UNPO: "Democracy Promotion: The European Way"
(published by Burma.UNPO)
Members of the European Parliament Marco Pannella MEP, Marco Cappato MEP, and Annemie Neyts-Uytterbroeck MEP, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and in partnership with UNPO, the Transnational Radical Party and No Peace Without Justice, have organised a conference on “Democracy Promotion: The European Way” held at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium from 6 – 7，December 2006.
The Conference aims to contribute to the process of Europe articulating and funding a new and distinctive strategy for the promotion of democracy, centred explicitly on the principle of non-violence, and sensitive always to the importance of promoting democracy locally, through the support and promotion of grass-roots organisations, instead of attempting to impose it from afar.
The Conference was Chaired and addressed by a number of leading Members of the European Parliament, as well as representatives from the European Commission, including: Edward Mc-Millan Scott MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Graham Watson MEP, Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Marco Pannella MEP, Leader of the Transnational Radical Party, Alessandro Battilocchio MEP, Annemie Neyts MEP, Leader of the ELDR Party, Hélène Flautre MEP, Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Human Rights, Marco Cappato MEP, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations, and Emma Bonino, Minister of Italy for International Trade and European Affairs.
As leading policy makers in the field of democratisation, all noted the numerous benefits of promoting democracy world-wide, not least with respect to security and the promotion of Human Rights, but also acknowledged the complexity and uncertainty that always accompanies this process. This underlined the necessity of reflecting upon the most effective strategies available to policy makers, as well as the importance of learning from the valuable experiences and knowledge of grass-roots practitioners in the field of democratisation.
As a first step of this learning process, and under the banner of “urgent messages to Europe from the World’s dissidents”, a number UNPO Members, as well as other prominent activists and practitioners in the field of democratisation, shared their views and experiences on the process of democratisation.
From the Ogoni, the President of the UNPO General Assembly Mr. Ledum Mitee stressed the importance of focusing not only on elections when promoting democracy, but also of supporting and strengthening the institutions and values that uphold and constitute a genuine democracy during the time in between elections.
From Taiwan, Dr. Parris Chang, Honorary President of UNPO, and Dr. Wen-Cheng Lin, both emphasised the need to support emerging and practicing democracies whilst they remain fragile, both from internal and external threats, and drew attention to the work UNPO is conducting in this respect.
From the Ahwazi, Dr. Karim Abdian spoke with great passion about the situation faced by minorities in Iran, as well as elsewhere in the world, and urged members of the parliament to inform themselves of the ethnic and political situation within countries such as Iran, so as enable better identification and support of emerging non-violent democratic forces.
From East Turkestan, Mr. Dolkun Isa and Enver Can also echoed views about the valuable role NGOs and grass-roots organisations play in the promotion of democracy, and highlighted the successes they have had in particular with respect to putting pressure on Chinese authorities to reform.
Their calls and proposals were also echoed by other UNPO Member：representatives from the Khmer-Krom, Mr. Thach Thach, Mr. Giap Tran, and Mr. Thach Vien, the Iraqi Turkmen, Dr. Sheth Jerjism, the Montegnards, Mr. Kok Ksor, Somaliland, Mr. Mohammoud Daar, and Chechnya, Dr. Umar Khanbiev.
UNPO Members were joined also by representatives from other groups working to promote democracy: Marco Perduca, Executive Director of the International Antiprohibitionist League, Osvaldo Alfonso, Former President of the Liberal Democratic Party of Cuba, Evgheny Zhovtis, Director of the International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Walid Salem, Palestinian Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, Vanida Tephsouvanh, Lao Movement for Human Rights, Vo Van Ai, President of Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, Carl Gershman, Director of the National Endowment for Democracy, Roel Van Meijenfeld, Director of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, Scott Carpenter, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, and Wei Jingsheng, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition and 1996 Sakharov Prize Laureate.
In his address to the Conference, UNPO General Secretary Marino Busdachin joined UNPO Members and the MEPs present in expressing UNPO’s strong support for this initiative, emphasising that it marks a positive first step in the crucial process of reflecting upon and developing a new policy for democracy promotion, in particular with respect to recognising and incorporating the contributions of NGOs and grass-roots organisations, such as those represented at UNPO.
Following two days of debate and discussion, the conclusions of the Conference were summarised in a document circulated to all participants. These recommendations, based substantially on the views and experiences of the grass-roots practitioners who attended, will undoubtedly play a valuable role in the ongoing process of articulating a viable European strategy for the promotion of democracy.
Conclusions of the ALDE Conference on Democracy Promotion
Democracy Promotion: the European Way
1.The conference on Democracy promotion convened by the ALDE Group in the European Parliament on 6-7 December 2006, in partnership with the Transnational Radical Party (TRP), No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), has gathered democracy advocates from both democratic and non-democratic countries.
2.As the European Union is evaluating the effectiveness of its instruments to promote democracy and human rights outside its borders, participants discussed on the methods and mechanisms that can prove most effective, taking into account the obstacles that face the action of agents for democratic change.
3.The conference reaffirmed that democracy and rule of law are established universal individual rights, and as such need to be defended and promoted by transnational institutions and transnational application of the rule of law. The European Union is based on the principles of democracy, and the role of the European Union in respect of democracy should go beyond its immediate geographic proximity and prospective members.
4.The conference recognizes that the European Union has been an engine for the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, through different means – and in particular in its bilateral pre-accession strategies and Neighbourhood Policy with their specific programs for democracy and human rights. These methods have proven to be particularly effective in accession or pre-accession countries.
5.The conference reaffirms that the “democratic clause” of co-operation agreements between the European Union and third countries, should be enforced, strictly linking respect for democratic principles and human rights with co-operation. The European Union policy on democracy should affirm unequivocally the principle of universality of democracy as a right in itself; that good governance is not a substitute for democracy; that democracy is not simply a by-product of cooperation, trade and development policies, but requires specific political support and funding.
6.Notwithstanding the improvement to the EIDHR, in its current form it is not currently able to assist those whom the European Union specifically needs to reach most.
7.An effective democracy promotion mechanism should act independently of the European Commission and European Council, and should be able to focus its action on the promotion of political rights of individuals against internal obstacles to democratic development and the empowerment of non-government actors, even when European Governments and Governments in third countries have other priorities without the need to balance the principles of democracy against other bilateral priorities of the European Union or Member States;