Documents on Democracy

Issue Date January 2002
Volume 13
Issue 1
Page Numbers 184-88
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

September 11

At the conference of the British Labour Party on October 2, Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke on the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Excerpts from his remarks follow:

In retrospect, the Millennium marked only a moment in time. It was the events of September 11 that marked a turning point in history, where we confront the dangers of the future and assess the choices facing humankind.

It was a tragedy. An act of evil. From this nation, goes our deepest sympathy and prayers for the victims and our profound solidarity with the American people. . . .

When we act to bring to account those that committed the atrocity of September 11, we do so not out of bloodlust.

We do so because it is just. We do not act against Islam. The true followers of Islam are our brothers and sisters in this struggle. Bin Laden is no more obedient to the proper teaching of the Koran than those Crusaders of the twelfth century who pillaged and murdered represented the teaching of the Gospel.

It is time the West confronted its ignorance of Islam. Jews, Muslims and Christians are all children of Abraham.

This is the moment to bring the faiths closer together in understanding of our common values and heritage, a source of unity and strength.

It is time also for parts of Islam to confront prejudice against America, and not only Islam but parts of Western societies too.

America has its faults as a society, as we have ours.

But I think of the Union of America born out of the defeat of slavery.

I think of its Constitution, with its inalienable rights granted to every citizen, still a model for the world.

I think of a black man, born in poverty, who became chief of their armed forces and is now secretary of state–Colin Powell–and I wonder frankly whether such a thing could have happened here. [End Page 184]

I think of the Statue of Liberty and how many refugees, migrants and the impoverished passed its light and felt that, if not for them, for their children, a new world could indeed be theirs.

I think of a country where people who do well don’t have questions asked about their accent, their class, their beginnings, but have admiration for what they have done and the success they’ve achieved.

I think of those New Yorkers I met, still in shock, but resolute; the fire fighters and police, mourning their comrades but still head held high.

I think of all this and I reflect: Yes, America has its faults, but it is a free country, a democracy, it is our ally and some of the reaction to September 11 betrays a hatred of America that shames those that feel it.

So I believe this is a fight for freedom. And I want to make it a fight for justice too. Justice not only to punish the guilty. But justice to bring those same values of democracy and freedom to people round the world.

The Americas

On September 11, the Organization of American States adopted the “Inter-American Democratic Charter” in Lima, Peru. The document, which can be found in full on the OAS website (, is excerpted below:


The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it. . . .

The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law and of the constitutional regimes of the member states of the Organization of American States. Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened by permanent, ethical, and responsible participation of the citizenry within a legal framework conforming to the respective constitutional order.

Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.

Transparency in government activities, probity, responsible public administration on the part of governments, respect for social rights, and freedom of expression and of the press are essential components of the exercise of democracy.

The constitutional subordination of all state institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority and respect for the rule of law on the part of all institutions and sectors of society are equally essential to democracy. [End Page 185]

The strengthening of political parties and other political organizations is a priority for democracy. Special attention will be paid to the problems associated with the high cost of election campaigns and the establishment of a balanced and transparent system for their financing. . . .

Based on the principles of the Charter of the OAS and subject to its norms, and in accordance with the democracy clause contained in the Declaration of Quebec City, an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, constitutes, while it persists, an insurmountable obstacle to its government’s participation in sessions of the General Assembly . . . and other bodies of the Organization.

In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.

The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy.

If such diplomatic initiatives prove unsuccessful, or if the urgency of the situation so warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly. The General Assembly will adopt the decisions it deems appropriate, including the undertaking of diplomatic initiatives, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization, international law, and the provisions of this Democratic Charter. . . .

Member states are responsible for organizing, conducting, and ensuring free and fair electoral processes.

Member states, in the exercise of their sovereignty, may request that the Organization of American States provide advisory services or assistance for strengthening and developing their electoral institutions and processes, including sending preliminary missions for that purpose.

The United Nations

On November 28, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) gave UN secretary-general Kofi Annan its Averell Harriman Award in recognition of “his global leadership in advancing peace, democratic governance, the rule of law, and human rights.” Excerpts from the secretary-general’s acceptance speech appear below:

Where are peace and reconciliation most needed? The answer, in almost every case, is where democracy, too, has been trampled or threatened–where citizens do not enjoy the basic right to choose their government, or the right to change it regularly and predictably. The [End Page 186] principle of democracy is today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, universally recognized. The right of all people to take part in the government of their country through free and regular elections, enshrined in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is not peculiar to any culture. People of all cultures value their freedom of choice, and feel the need to have a say in decisions affecting their lives. Increasingly, they understand that democracy, properly implemented, provides the best guarantee of a climate of free discussion, in which people can learn from each other’s ideas, and reach agreement on solutions to their common problems.

One of the greatest challenges to humankind in the new century will be the struggle to make the practice of democracy truly universal. The NDI is rising to this challenge every day, by helping to build political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections and promoting citizen participation in government. Collectively, we have seen great progress in expanding democracy, and today more people than ever are able to claim the rights and privileges of living in a democratic system. And yet, as you in this audience know well, the work of democracy is never done. Too many people are still denied the most basic human rights, including the right to free expression and assembly, while too many democracies remain imperfect and vulnerable to subversion by ruthless leaders.

Democratic accountability requires more than just an electoral mandate. For elections to be genuinely free, and for people to feel genuinely represented in government, much more is needed: institutional checks and balances, an independent judiciary, viable political parties, a free press and the freedom of each individual to express his or her ideas without fear of retribution. . . .

The appalling 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States focused the world’s attention on the reality that a collapsed and destitute State–such as Afghanistan–provides fertile ground for armed groups to plan and prepare unspeakable acts of terror, at home and abroad. It must bring home a second reality, too–that the answer to such violence and to sources of grievance which provide an excuse for such acts is more democracy, not less; more freedom, not less; more development aid, not less; more solidarity with the poor and dispossessed of our world, not less. . . .

Even as we are focusing our immediate efforts on helping the Afghan people create the kind of representative, accountable government they deserve, we are also mindful of the need for democracy in other parts of the world. The obstacles to democracy have nothing to do with culture or religion, and everything to do with the desire of those in power to maintain their position at any cost. This is, sadly, neither a new phenomenon nor one limited to a particular part of the world. Equally, however, democracy’s heroes can be found among all faiths and creeds. [End Page 187] What they need to succeed is our help, and the clear message from the community of democracies that its doors are open to any people able to escape the cycle of tyranny, misrule and conflict.


Following parliamentary elections on October 1, Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia was sworn in as prime minister of Bangladesh on October 10. (See the article by Howard B. Schaffer on pp. 76-83 in this issue.) Her October 19 “Speech for the Nation” is excerpted below:

The developing countries are facing difficult situations amid multifaceted changes and new equations across the globe at the beginning of the twenty-first century. These countries will go backwards unless democracy marches ahead. Liberal democracy is absent from many third world countries.

But from that point of view, Bangladesh has great potential. Bangladesh remains at the forefront of the few Muslim countries that have a democratic system and change governments through elections. But, this is not enough. Our democracy has to flourish and the process of democratization has to be introduced in every sphere.

The balance of world politics changed forever after the September 11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and Pentagon in Washington. Especially, the Muslim countries are facing an adverse situation. So now opportunities for us have emerged to play a significant role in international politics as a liberal Muslim democratic country. We have to avail ourselves of the opportunity. . . .

Now, it is imperative to bring back political activities to the Jatiya Sangsad [parliament] from the fields and streets. And for this, we have to change our political attitude and language. . . . It is impossible to practice parliamentary politics without having patience, decency, politeness and courtesy. So, we want to introduce a contest of knowledge, merit, logic and tolerance of all opinions in the parliament.

We all have come out forever from the destructive political programmes of hartal (general strikes), anarchic movement and street agitations. The general public and well-wishers of Bangladesh outside the country want to see this wish realised.

So, I assure you all today that we shall ensure a conducive atmosphere for making the parliament meaningful and lively through effective participation of the opposition. The opposition will get scope to raise their allegations, protests, indignations, opinions, and recommendations before the parliament. But our government will not allow any attempt to create anarchy and disorder outside the parliament in the name of movements. People have given that mandate to us through a ballot revolution.