Documents on Democracy

Issue Date January 1992
Volume 3
Issue 1
Page Numbers 127-34
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On 29 November 1991, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) of the United Nations adopted by consensus a resolution welcoming the secretary general’s appeals for the release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and expressing its concern over “the grave human rights situation” in Burma (Myanmar). The full text appears below:

The General Assembly, Reaffirming that all Member States have an obligation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms stated in the Charter of the United Nations and elaborated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenants on Human Rights and other applicable human rights instruments,

Aware that, in accordance with the Charter, the Organization promotes and encourages respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government,”

Recalling that the Government of Myanmar has assured the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies of its intentions to take all necessary steps towards democracy in the light of elections held in 1990,

Noting with concern substantive available information indicating a grave human rights situation in Myanmar,

Welcoming the Secretary General’s statement on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi and his repeated appeals for her early release from house arrest,

  1. Takes note of the assurances of the Government of Myanmar to take firm steps towards the establishment of a democratic state and looks forward to the early implementation of this commitment;
  2. Expresses its concern at the information on the grave human rights situation and stresses the need for an early improvement of this situation;
  3. Urges the Government of Myanmar to allow all citizens to [End Page 127] participate freely in the political process in accordance with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  4. Decides to continue its consideration of this question at its forty-seventh session.

Organization of American States/Haiti

Meeting in Santiago, Chile, on 5 June 1991, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved Resolution 1080, creating a new mechanism for convening foreign ministers in response to an irregular interruption of the democratic process in any member state. The full text of this resolution appears below:

Whereas: The Preamble of the Charter of the OAS establishes that representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the stability, peace, and development of the region;

Under the provisions of the Charter, one of the basic purposes of the Organization of American States is to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention;

Due respect must be observed for the policies of each member country in regard to the recognition of states and governments;

Bearing in mind the widespread existence of democratic governments in the hemisphere, the principle enshrined in the Charter—namely, that the solidarity of the American States and the high aims which it pursues require the political organization of those States to be based on effective exercise of representative democracy—must be made operative; the region faces serious political, social, and economic problems that may threaten the stability of democratic governments,

The General Assembly resolves:

  1. To instruct the secretary general to call for the immediate convocation of a meeting of the Permanent Council in the case of any event giving rise to the sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise of power by the democratically elected government in any of the Organization’s member states, in order, within the framework of the Charter, to examine the situation, decide on and convene an ad hoc meeting of the ministers of foreign affairs, or a special session of the General Assembly, all of which must take place within a ten-day period.
  2. To determine that the purpose of the ad hoc meeting of ministers of foreign affairs or the special session of the General Assembly shall be to look into the events collectively and adopt any decisions deemed appropriate, in accordance with the Charter and international law. [End Page 128]
  3. To instruct the Permanent Council to devise a set of proposals that will serve as incentives to preserve and strengthen democratic systems, based on international solidarity and cooperation, and to apprise the General Assembly thereof at its twenty-second regular session.

Following the arrest of Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide by rebel soldiers, the OAS Permanent Council approved a resolution on September 30 condemning the coup and convening an ad hoc meeting of foreign ministers pursuant to Resolution 1080. The foreign ministers quickly assembled and adopted a resolution on October 3, excerpts from which appear below:

Reaffirming: That the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man;

That one of the essential purposes of the Organization of American States is to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention; and

That the solidarity of the American states and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those states on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy; . . .

Resolves: 1. To reiterate the vigorous condemnation voiced by the Permanent Council of the grave events taking place in Haiti, which deny the right of the people to self-determination, and to demand full restoration of the rule of law and of constitutional order and the immediate reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the exercise of his legitimate authority.

2. To request that the secretary general of the Organization, together with a group of ministers of foreign affairs of member states, go to Haiti immediately to inform those who hold power illegally that the American states reject the disruption of constitutional order and to advise them of the decisions adopted by this meeting . . . .

10 . . . . to adopt, in accordance with the Charter of the OAS and international law, any additional measures that may be necessary and appropriate to ensure the immediate reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the exercise of his legitimate authority.

After the failure of the OAS diplomatic mission, the ministers of foreign affairs reassembled on October 8 and passed another resolution, excerpts from which follow:

Resolves: . . . I. 4. To urge the Member states to proceed immediately to freeze the assets of the Haitian State and to impose a trade embargo [End Page 129] on Haiti, except for humanitarian aid. All humanitarian assistance must be channeled through international agencies or nongovernmental organizations.

II. 1. To accede to the request of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that a civilian mission be constituted to reestablish and strengthen constitutional democracy in Haiti (OEA-DEMOC), which should go to that country in order to facilitate the reestablishment and strengthening of democratic institutions . . . .

III. 3. To request the secretary general to keep open channels of communication with the democratically constituted political institutions and other sectors in Haiti in order to facilitate dialogue with a view to ensuring the modalities and guarantees that will make it possible for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to return to office . . . .


In the first peaceful transition from one-party rule in Anglophone Africa, trade union leader Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) was elected to the presidency of Zambia. His landslide victory brought to an end the 27-year rule of outgoing president Kenneth Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP). The following are excerpts from President Chiluba’s inauguration speech delivered on 2 November 1991:

To us here today, this is a sobering, most momentous occasion. To the nation, it is an affirmation of the power of patience and forbearance. This ceremony is indeed testimony to the will of the people. Zambia demanded democracy. Today, Zambia achieved that goal . . . .

In this present crisis, government alone is not the solution to our problems. For too long, government was the problem. This crisis needs discipline, hard work, honesty, clean government, and a determination to grit our teeth, to look our problems squarely in the face, and to tackle them head on . . . .

For the first time in the history of this country, the Zambian citizens do not have to invent a system by which to live. We don’t have to wrest justice from the kings or the chiefs. We only have to summon it from within ourselves.

For we know what works—freedom works. We know what is right—democracy is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on earth—through the freedom to work, the freedom to toil, through free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state. We know that upon the individual rests the ability to make his own dreams come true. The state must allow every individual that freedom in security and in justice. The [End Page 130] greatest lesson we can learn from the past 27 years is that freedom is at the core of every successful nation in the world and in Africa today.

The great nations, the prosperous nations, are the free nations. A new breeze is blowing in Zambia. The breeze of democracy and freedom. The breeze of human rights. The winds of change predicted for Africa decades ago have finally reached our land . . . .

No government can change a country on its own. I am asking you, Zambians of all political persuasions, friends and neighbors, UNIP and MMD, and those who want to start new parties still, let there no longer be enemies in this land. At the most let there be political opponents, free to speak their minds, but free to be Zambians . . . .

In our time of need, we will look to the world. Not for handouts, but for help to stand on our own feet again. To get well. We will look to our neighbors—not to strut around on the stage of the world, like a king without clothes, but to look them in the eye and to take their hands. In Africa today the era of dictators, of hypocrisy and lies is over. As usual, the Zambians realize that first. We will therefore not share in the hypocrisy and the self-deceit, but we will say to our neighbors, let us live in peace. Let us trade. Let us get to work.


On 28 October 1991 Russian president Boris Yeltsin delivered a major address to the Fifth Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Republic, in which he outlined his plans for far-reaching economic reform. Excerpts from his speech follow:

Esteemed people’s deputies, citizens of the Russian Federation! I am speaking to you at one of the most critical moments of Russia’s history: the moment when it is being decided what Russia, and indeed the country as a whole, will be like in the coming years and decades, and how the present and future generations of Russia’s people will live. I resolutely call on you to embark unconditionally upon the path of deep reforms, and I ask all sections of the population for support in that determination.

Now is the time to make the principal decisions and begin to act. For two months we have been living in what is practically a new country. The collapse of the antistate coup turned out to be the collapse of the entire totalitarian system founded on the diktat of the CPSU and the dominion of the conservative center. This repressive system of government ravaged the Soviet Union and devastated its economy, and has crumbled of its own accord. The time has come for resolute, tough, and unwavering action . . . .

We have a unique opportunity over the next few months to stabilize [End Page 131] the economic situation and begin the process of restoring it to health. We have won political freedom. Now we have to get back our economic freedom. We must remove all obstacles to freedom for enterprises and entrepreneurship, and give people the opportunity to work and enjoy everything they have earned, freeing them from the bureaucratic straitjacket . . . .

The Russian economy is in serious disarray. It cannot be led out of the crisis by means of commands, state orders, or timid half-measures. We are at last switching over to a new economic course . . . .

Specific measures have been prepared, the implementation of which will begin in the very near future. Among them, the hardest . . . is liberalization of prices. No official can think up fair prices that will be a real measure of labor. The experience of world civilization shows that only the market can solve this problem . . . .

The dynamic process of liberating the institutions of power from under the heel of the CPSU is under way. We are not afraid of accusations of lack of democracy and we will act resolutely in this area. From now on, no party will be self-appointed mistress of the Russian state. The main burden of carrying out reforms lies with the government of Russia. It is not up to this in its present composition and with its unwieldy structure. Only a government of popular trust, which people will believe in, which will convince people of the correctness of its actions, will be able to withstand this burden. Only such a government, which will work harmoniously and not be subject to internal fighting, will be able to bear this burden . . . .

The emergence of a large number of political parties and movements reflecting the multiplicity of views, stands, and demands of the citizens of Russia has become a characteristic of the times. The president of Russia is ready to build his relations with the political parties of Russia on the principles of dialogue and partnership.

In order for the new economic policy to be implemented, it is necessary for each of the political parties of Russia to make its own choice in regard to these reforms. Those parties and movements that support the proposed measures can consider the matter of establishing a single political bloc. This is necessary to mobilize mass support for the policy of transformations and to ensure political stability in the republic. In turn, the president is ready to provide feedback to the political forces and facilitate their systematic dialogue with state structures. We are ready to brief the main political forces on major state decisions being planned and to amend these, depending upon the results of this sociopolitical consultation with experts. This bloc of political parties, having concluded a strategic union with the president, would become a major source of ideas, suggestions, and plans for implementing reforms . . . .

In Russia, foreign countries will find a partner who is true to the international obligations of the Union and ready to move resolutely [End Page 132] forward along the road of openness, mutual trust, and mutually advantageous cooperation. We firmly intend to occupy a worthy place among the world’s democratic states . . . .

Commonwealth of Independent States

On 1 December 1991, Ukraine overwhelmingly approved a referendum in favor of independence, delivering an apparently fatal blow to efforts to reach a new Union treaty among former republics of the USSR. A week later the leaders of the three Slavic republics, President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, President Boris Yeltsin of Russia, and Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich of Byelorussia, signed an accord liquidating the USSR and forming a new “commonwealth.” The agreement calls for coordination in foreign and defense policies, economic matters, transport, communications, and the environment, but does not create a central state. Excerpts from the “Agreement on the Creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States,” signed in Minsk on 8 December 1991, appear below:

We, the Republic of Byelorussia, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, as founding members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, having signed the Union Treaty of 1922 . . . state that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality has ceased to exist . . . .

Striving to found democratic legal states and intending to develop our relations on the basis of mutual recognition and the respect of state sovereignty, the integral right to self-determination, the principles of equality and noninterference in internal affairs, the refusal to use force or pressure by economic or other means, the settlement of controversial problems through agreement, other common principles, and norms of international law . . . .

Obliging to observe common international norms on human and national rights,

We agree on the following:

Article 1. The Agreeing Parties are founding a Commonwealth of Independent States.

Article 2. The Agreeing Parties guarantee their citizens, regardless of nationality or other differences, equal rights and freedoms. Each of the Agreeing Parties guarantees citizens of other parties and also people without citizenship who reside on its territory, regardless of nationality or other differences, civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights and freedoms in accordance with common international norms on human rights . . . .

Article 10. Each Party reserves the right to suspend the current [End Page 133] Agreement or its individual articles by notifying the Agreement’s participants a year in advance . . . .

Article 13 . . . . The current Agreement is open to all state members of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and also to other states that share the goals and principles of the current Agreement.

Article 14. The official location to station the coordinating organs of the Commonwealth is the city of Minsk.

The activities of the organs of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the territories of state members of the Commonwealth are stopped . . . .


In May 1991, after 12 months of negotiations, a set of accords, including a cease-fire agreement, was signed in Lisbon by President José Eduardo dos Santos of the People’s Republic of Angola and Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), ending 16 years of civil war. The accords establish a settlement process culminating in elections to be held between 1 September and 30 November 1992. Excerpts from the portion of the accords on “Fundamental Principles for the Establishment of Peace in Angola” follow:

Point 1. Recognition by UNITA of the Angolan state, of President José Eduardo dos Santos, and of the Angolan government until the general elections are held.

Point 2. At the moment the cease-fire enters into force, UNITA will acquire the right to conduct and freely participate in political activities in accordance with the revised Constitution and the pertinent laws for the creation of a multiparty democracy.

Point 3. The Angolan government will hold discussions with all political forces . . . concerning the proposed changes in the Constitution. The Angolan government will then work with all the parties to draft the laws that will regulate the electoral process.

Point 4. Free and fair elections for a new government will take place following voter registration conducted under the supervision of international elections observers, who will remain in Angola until they certify that the elections were free and fair and that the results have been officially announced. At the time of the signature of the cease-fire, the parties will determine the period within which free and fair elections must be held. The exact date of said elections will be established through consultation with all political forces in Angola.

Point 5. Respect for human rights and basic freedoms, including the right of free association . . . . [End Page 134]