The Special Report

2nd July 2000

Warsaw Declaration on democracy

Help protect democracy in Lanka: Foreign Minister

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Warsaw Declaration on democracy

Seventy Foreign Ministers and envoys participating in Warsaw last week
at the Ministerial Conference

"Towards a community of democracies" adopted a declaration to safeguard democracy. Published below is the the declaration dubbed 'The Warsaw Declaration'.

Expressing our common adherence to the purposes and principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Reaffirming our commitment to respect relevant instruments of international law,

Emphasizing the interdependence between peace, development, human rights and democracy,

Recognizing the universality of democratic values,

Hereby agree to respect and uphold the following core democratic principles and practices:

* The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government, as expressed by exercise of the rights and civic duties of citizens to choose their representatives through regular, free and fair elections with universal and equal suffrage, open to multiple parties, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, and free of fraud and intimidation.

* The right of every person to equal access to pubic service and to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

* The right of every person to equal protection of the law, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

* The right of every person to freedom of opinion and of expression, including to exchange and receive ideas and information through any media, regardless of frontiers.

* The right of every person to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

* The right of every person to equal access to education.

* The right of the press to collect, report and disseminate information, news and opinions, subject only to restrictions necessary in a democratic society and prescribed by law, while bearing in mind evolving international practices in this field.

* The right of every person to respect for private family life, home correspondence, including electronic communications, free of arbitrary or unlawful interference.

* The right of every person to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including to establish or join their own political parties, civic groups, trade unions or other organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to allow them to operate freely on a basis of equal treatment before the law.

* The right of persons belonging to minorities or disadvantaged groups to equal protection of the law, and the freedom to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and use their own language.

*The right of every person to be free form arbitrary arrest or detention; to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; and to receive due process of law; including to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

* That the aforementioned rights, which are essential to full and effective participation in a democratic society be enforced by a competent, independent and impartial judiciary open to the public, established and protected by law.

* That elected leaders uphold the law and function strictly in accordance with the constitution of the country concerned and procedures established by law.

* The right of those duly elected to form a government, assume office and fulfil the term of office as legally established.

* The obligation of an elected government to refrain from extra- constitutional actions, to allow the holding of periodic elections and to respect their results, and to relinquish power when its legal mandate ends.

* That government institutions be transparent, participatory and fully accountable to the citizenry of the country and take steps to combat corruption, which corrodes democracy.

* That the legislature be duly elected and transparent and accountable to the people.

* That civilian, democratic control over the military be established and preserved.

* That all human rights - civil, cultural, economic, political and social - be promoted and protected as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.

The Community of Democracies affirms our determination to work together to promote and strengthen democracy, recognizing that we are at differing stages in our democratic development. We will co-operate to consolidate and strengthen democratic institutions, with due respect for sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in internal affairs. Our goal is to support adherence to common democratic values and standards, as outlined above,

To that end, our governments hereby agree to abide by these principles in practice, and to support one another in meeting these objectives which we set for ourselves today.

We will seek to strengthen institutions and processes of democracy. We appreciate the value of exchanging experiences in the consolidation of democracy and identifying best practices. We will promote discussions and where appropriate, create forums on subjects relevant to democratic governance for the purpose of continuing and deepening our dialogue on democratization. We would focus our deliberations on our common principles and values rather than extraneous bilateral issues between members. We resolve jointly to co-operate to discourage and resist the threat to democracy posed by the overthrow of constitutionally elected governments. We resolve to strengthen co-operation to face the transnational challenges to democracy, such as state sponsored, cross-border and other forms of terrorism, organized crime; corruption; drug trafficking; illegal arms trafficking; trafficking in human beings and money laundering, and to do so in accordance with respect for human rights of all persons and for the norms of international law.

We will encourage political leaders to uphold the values of tolerance and compromise that underpin effective democratic systems, and to promote respect for pluralism so as to enable societies to retain their multi-cultural character, and at the same time maintain stability and social cohesion. We reject ethnic and religious hatred, violence and other forms of extremism.

We will also promote civil society, including women's organizations, non-governmental organizations, labour and business associations, and independent media in their exercise of their democratic rights. Informed participation by all element of society, men and women, in a country's economic and political life, including by persons belonging to minority groups, is fundamental to a vibrant and durable democracy.

We will help to promote government-to-government and people- to-people linkages and promote civic education and literacy, including education for democracy. In these ways we will strengthen democratic institutions and practices and support the diffusion of demarcatic norms and values. We will work with relevant institutions and international organizations, civil society and governments to co-ordinate support for new and emerging democratic societies.

We recognize the importance our citizens place on the improvement of living conditions. We also recognize the mutually -reinforcing benefits the democratic process offers to achieving sustained economic growth.

To that end, we will seek to assist each other in economic and social development, including eradication of poverty, as an essential contributing factor to the promotion and preservation of democratic development.

We will collaborate on democracy-related issues in existing international and regional institutions, forming coalitions and caucuses to support resolutions and other international activities aimed at the promotion of democratic governance. This will help to create an external environment conducive to democratic development.

Help protect democracy in Lanka:Foreign Minister

The following is text of Foreign Affairs Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar's address at the conference in Warsaw:

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over a century ago, democracy began to take root in my country, Sri Lanka. Long before the British left our shores, they began to put in place the rudimentary mechanisms of participatory democracy. First, small steps were taken to acquaint the people in a limited way, the so-called educated class, as they were called at that time with the elements of democratic values. Restricted Legislative Assemblies were established. In due time these were enlarged, until in 1931 an epoch-making event occurred when our people received universal adult franchise, which meant, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, that as far back as seventy years ago women received the right to vote. Thereafter a National State Assembly was established. A full-blown party system emerged. We have always had a strong Bar and an independent Judiciary. In 1948 with the advent of independence our Parliament was established. We have today in our Constitution justiciable human rights enshrined. Sri Lanka may fairly be described, Ladies and Gentlemen, as a vibrant, practising democracy.

But today where do we stand? Our precious democracy is in grave peril. We are under siege, we are under sustained assault, by a fascist terrorist group that is bent on carving out in the North and East of our country a separate state. They want to convert the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, which we have enjoyed for many centuries, into a narrow mono-ethnic, mono-linguistic state. The methods that this group employ have demonstrated a capacity for un-matched savagery and brutality. They use conscripted child soldiers in battle. They use suicide bombers to assassinate our political leaders, even the leaders of their own community. They have murdered a Prime Minister of India and a President of Sri Lanka. They have bombed our Central Bank and murdered hundreds of people. They have bombed a commuter train carrying innocent workers back home in the evening. They have bombed the holiest shrine of Buddhism in the world. At her final election rally last December, they bombed the President of Sri Lanka, causing that courageous lady to lose the sight of her right eye and to escape with her life only through a miracle. A few weeks ago a suicide bomber assassinated one of my colleagues who was leading a peaceful march in the capital city.

How has all this happened, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen? It is because unfortunately, most unfortunately, many of the supporters of this terrorist group make their living, by the hundreds, by the thousands, in the hospitable, generous, tolerant democratic societies of many of the western countries. They are masters at using the laws of asylum to their advantage. They gather funds using spurious front organisations seemingly innocent but well-known to be fund gatherers who fuel the war chest of the despotic leader of this terrorist group. A democracy standing alone Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, cannot possibly survive an onslaught of this kind because democracy is vulnerable. It is fundamentally constrained and limited by the demands of democratic practice and tradition. A democracy even at a time of war has to remember the rule of law, the freedom of the press and all those requisites of a practising democracy that we speak of in the Warsaw Declaration. How then do we fight, how then do we survive? My plea is a very simple one, my plea today in this historic city of Warsaw as we are about to launch what would surely become a famous declaration spelling out the fundamental principles of democracy, my plea is do not please forget that unless the democracies of the world decide to stand together and fight together and always come to the aid of a member in peril, democracy will not survive. A challenge to democracy anywhere in the world is a challenge to democracy everywhere.

The great liberal democracies must wake up to the fact that it is their duty to come to the aid of a democracy in peril in practical ways, with moral support yes, words and declarations, but also by a demonstration of political will that sends a message to the terrorists of the world that the birth of the Warsaw Declaration will see the end of terrorism. Thereafter there will be no succour, no solace, no safe haven, no place to hide, no place to run for the terrorists of the world because all of us of the democratic states will stand together and fight together.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen that is my simple plea this morning in Warsaw.

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