Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 1992
Volume 3
Issue 2
Page Numbers 125-131
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El Salvador

On 16 January 1992, representatives of the government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (FMLN) met in Mexico City to sign a peace agreement bringing to an end 12 years of civil war. (See Enrique Baloyra’s essay on pp. 70-80 above.) The signing ceremony was attended by the UN secretary general, the presidents of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, and the Central American countries, as well as the prime minister of Spain. Excerpts from some of the principal speeches delivered at the ceremony appear below:

Secretary General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali: The peace agreement must be seen in conjunction with the agreements reached in San José, Mexico, and New York in July 1990, April 1991, and September 1991, respectively. It is not exaggerating to say that taken together and realizing their breadth and scope, these agreements will cause a revolution, brought on by negotiation.

The armed forces are to be given a role clearly subordinated to the civilian authorities, proportionate to their responsibilities as stated in the new constitution. Consequently, the armed forces will be modernized, reformed, and restructured. The judicial branch will be reformed and reinforced, and its independence will be strengthened with a provision that I percent of the national budget will be automatically designated for it. People without party affiliation are to participate in the Electoral Tribunal, and the system will be reviewed to render it more reliable than in the past . . . . The parties have also agreed to create the Truth Commission, the members of which were designated by my predecessor.

This commission will be tasked with the essential goal of bringing about reconciliation and discovering the truth regarding the most violent actions of the past decade. The New York agreement of September also called for the establishment of a National Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (Copaz), which is already operating and will play a prominent role in the upcoming transition stage. [End Page 125]

I salute the Salvadoran government and President Cristiani in particular for his prudence and foresight. I also pay homage to the FMLN for its political imagination. A new and much better El Salvador will emerge from these agreements, whose implementation will end the Salvadoran armed conflict . . . .

The implementation of government strategies to improve the welfare and dignity of men can only take place in an atmosphere of genuine democracy and respect for the law and human rights. Democracy allows for the identification and destination of the people’s will. The enforcement of the law stops the arbitrary exercise of power, and the respect for human rights allows each person to develop and blossom in accordance with his personality. From these points of view, today’s agreements are a good reason to congratulate the Salvadoran people.

The new challenges inherent in the establishment, maintenance, and strengthening of peace in our time make it necessary for us to pay more attention to the ties between the international and internal aspects of security; the observance of the principles of rightfulness, democracy, and lawfulness in the handling of international and national affairs; and the interconnection between peace, development, and liberty.

Member of the general command of the FMLN Jorge Shafik Handal: The FMLN has attained peace. It is stretching out its hand that has been a fist and extending it to those against whom we have fought. This should be the case in the culmination of a situation where there have not been any victors or vanquished and where the firm purpose is to initiate the unification of the Salvadoran family.

We also want to extend our hand to the U.S. government in the search for a new relationship based on dignity and cooperation. We are walking down the path of the peace accords to modernize the state and the economy; to create a politically, ideologically, economically, and socially pluralist country as the basis for participative and representative democracy and stable peace; and to rejoin the world in an open and plural manner. This will allow Salvadorans to display their hardworking and creative nature to promote development and ensure broad and various means of development at a high rate.

President Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador: We realize that what is henceforth taking place in El Salvador is not the reinstatement of the peace that existed before, but the inauguration of an authentic peace based on social consensus; on fundamental harmony among social, political, and ideological sectors; and, most of all, on a concept that regards the country as a whole without exclusions of any kind . . . .

The profound crisis made real the possibility for democracy to emerge in our country. If we used to talk about an incipient democracy, now, after the agreements that were solemnly formalized today, we can say that the Salvadoran democracy belongs to all of us . . . .

The new Salvadoran society which now emerges stronger from the [End Page 126] peace efforts is, undeniably, the greatest protagonist of the new period that we are beginning. This is a reality that will help give our democracy more viability and vitality. We want a democracy with no limits other than the law. We want it to be extremely democratic. We are committed to promoting human rights, not only political but social and economic rights. The truth is that we are announcing to the world a new plan for overall coexistence in El Salvador.

South Africa

Negotiations for the creation of a new South African constitution began on 20-21 December 1991 at the first meeting of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) in Johannesburg. Despite a boycott by both the right-wing Conservative Party and black nationalist groups, 240 delegates from 19 parties, including the government and the ANC, represented South Africans of all races and creeds at the convention. At the opening session, 16 parties signed a Declaration of Intent. Excerpts from this declaration appear below:

We, the duly authorized representatives of political parties, political organizations, administrations, and the South African government, coming together at this first meeting of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, mindful of the awesome responsibility that rests on us at this moment in the history of our country, declare our solemn commitment:

  1. To bring about an undivided South Africa with one nation sharing a common citizenship, patriotism, and loyalty, pursuing amid our diversity, freedom, equality, and security for all irrespective of race, color, sex, or creed; a country free from apartheid or any other form of discrimination or domination.
  2. To work to heal the divisions of the past, to secure the advancement of all, and to establish a free and open society based on democratic values where the dignity, worth, and rights of every South African are protected by law.
  3. To strive to improve the quality of life of our people through policies that will promote economic growth and human development, and ensure equal opportunities and social justice for all South Africans.
  4. To create a climate conducive to peaceful constitutional change by eliminating violence, intimidation, and destabilization, and by promoting free political participation, discussion, and debate.
  5. To set in motion the process of drawing up and establishing a constitution that will ensure:
    1. That South Africa will be a united, democratic, nonracial, and nonsexist state in which sovereign authority is exercised over the whole of its territory. [End Page 127]
    2. That the constitution will be the supreme law and that it will be guarded over by an independent, nonracial, and impartial judiciary.
    3. That there will be a multiparty democracy with the right to form and join political parties and with regular elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage on a common voters’ roll; in general, the basic electoral system shall be that of proportional representation.
    4. That there shall be a separation of powers between the legislature, executive, and judiciary with appropriate checks and balances.
    5. That the diversity of languages, cultures, and religions of the people of South Africa shall be acknowledged.
    6. That all shall enjoy accepted human rights, freedoms, and civil liberties including freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, protected by an entrenched and justiciable bill of rights and legal system that guarantees equality of all . . . .


After several years of negotiations, representatives from the Vietnamese-backed communist government in Phnom Penh and three rebel groups (two noncommunist resistance fronts plus the Khmer Rouge) met in Paris on 23 October 1991 to sign an Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict. Designed to put an end to the country’s 16-year-old civil war and pave the way for democracy, the Agreement calls for cooperation between a transitional Supreme National Council (SNC)-a body led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and composed of delegates from the Phnom Penh regime and each of the rebel formations-and the newly created UN Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC). Other provisions mandate the disarmament and partial demobilization of all warring parties under the supervision of an international peacekeeping force, as well as the establishment of badly needed safeguards for basic human rights. At the heart of the settlement is the election, set for late April or early May 1993, of a 120-member constituent assembly. Excerpts from this agreement dealing with the election follow:

Part II. Article 12. The Cambodian people shall have the right to determine their own political future through the free and fair election of a constituent assembly, which will draft and approve a new Cambodian Constitution . . . and transform itself into a legislative assembly, which will create the new Cambodian government. This election will be held under United Nations auspices in a neutral political environment with full respect for the national sovereignty of Cambodia . . . .

Article 14. All signatories commit themselves to respect the results of these elections once certified as free and fair by the United Nations. [End Page 128]

Annex 1. Section D. Elections. 1. UNTAC [United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia] will organize and conduct the election referred to in Part II of this Agreement in accordance with this section and annex 3.

2. UNTAC may consult with the SNC regarding the organization and conduct of the electoral process.

3. In the exercise of its responsibilities in relation to the electoral process, the specific authority of UNTAC will include the following:

  1. The establishment, in consultation with the SNC, of a system of laws, procedures, and administrative measures necessary for the holding of a free and fair election in Cambodia, including the adoption of an electoral law and of a code of conduct regulating participation in the election in a manner consistent with respect for human rights and prohibiting coercion or financial inducement in order to influence voter preference;
  2. The suspension or abrogation, in consultation with the SNC, of provisions of existing laws which could defeat the objects and purposes of this Agreement;
  3. The design and implementation of a voter education program, covering all aspects of the election, to support the election process;
  4. The design and implementation of a system of voter registration, as a first phase of the electoral process, to ensure that eligible voters have the opportunity to register, and the subsequent preparation of verified voter registration lists;
  5. The design and implementation of a system of registration of political parties and lists of candidates;
  6. Ensuring fair access to the media, including press, television, and radio, for all political parties contesting in the election;
  7. The adoption and implementation of measures to monitor and facilitate the participation of Cambodians in the elections, the political campaign, and the balloting procedures;
  8. The design and implementation of a system of balloting and polling, to ensure that registered voters have the opportunity to vote;
  9. The establishment, in consultation with the SNC, of coordinated arrangements to facilitate the presence of foreign observers wishing to observe the campaign and voting;
  10. Overall direction of polling and the vote count;
  11. The identification and investigation of complaints of electoral irregularities, and the taking of appropriate corrective action;
  12. Determining whether or not the election was free and fair and, if so, certification of the list of persons duly elected . . . .

5. The timetable for the various phases of the electoral process will be determined by UNTAC, in consultation with the SNC as provided in paragraph 2 of this section. The duration of the electoral process will not exceed nine months from the commencement of voter registration . . . . [End Page 129]

Annex 3. Elections. 1. The constituent assembly referred to in Article 12 of the Agreement shall consist of 120 members. Within three months from the date of the election, it shall complete its tasks of drafting and adopting a new Cambodian Constitution and transform itself into a legislative assembly which will form a new Cambodian government.

2. The election referred to in Article 12 of the Agreement will be held throughout Cambodia on a provincial basis in accordance with a system of proportional representation on the basis of lists of candidates put forward by political parties . . . .

Annex 5. Principles for a new constitution for Cambodia . . . . 4. The constitution will state that Cambodia will follow a system of liberal democracy, on the basis of pluralism. It will provide for periodic and genuine elections. It will provide for the right to vote and to be elected by universal and equal suffrage. It will provide for voting by secret ballot, with a requirement that electoral procedures provide a full and fair opportunity to organize and participate in the electoral process . . . .


On 31 January 1992, Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin addressed the first-ever summit meeting of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Excerpts from his speech appear below:

This summit meeting of the Security Council, the first of its kind on the political Olympus of the contemporary world, is a historic and unprecedented event. The end of the twentieth century is a time of great promise and new anxieties. The never-ending search for truth and an insight into what the future has in store for humanity seems to be getting its second wind.

Perhaps for the first time, ever there is now a real chance to put an end to despotism and to dismantle the totalitarian order, whatever shape it may take. I trust that after all the unthinkable tragedies and tremendous losses that it has suffered, mankind will reject this legacy. It will not allow the twenty-first century to bring new suffering and deprivations to our children and grandchildren.

The process of profound change is already under way in various spheres of life and above all in the economy. It is a problem that concerns not just individual nations or states, but all of humanity. After all, an economy mutilated by ideological diktat and built contrary to all common sense forms the principal material basis of totalitarianism.

A profound awareness of this causal relationship has led the Russian leadership to embark upon a most difficult economic reform. We have taken that risk in a country where an all-out war was waged against [End Page 130] economic interests for many decades. I am grateful to the world community for its support of our efforts and for understanding that the future of not only the people of Russia, but also that of the entire planet depends on whether or not the reforms are successful . . . .

Democracy is one of the major assets of human civilization. All times and all countries have known people who stood up to defend it without sparing themselves. The people of Russia defended democracy near the walls of our Moscow White House.

Now we must accomplish the most difficult tasks, that is, the creation of legal, political, and socioeconomic guarantees to make democratic changes irreversible . . . .

Russia considers the United States, the West, and the East not as mere partners but rather as allies. It is a basic prerequisite for, I would say, a revolution in peaceful cooperation among civilized nations.

We reject any subordination of foreign policy to pure ideology or ideological doctrines. Our principles are clear and simple: supremacy of democracy, human rights and freedoms, legal and moral standards.

I hope this is something that our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States also hold dear. We support their earliest admission to the United Nations and believe that this will have a beneficial impact on the evolution of the Commonwealth itself. The Commonwealth has been formed by the participating states on the basis of full equality and of their own free will; it rests on natural human ties among tens of millions of people . . . .

Our topmost priority is to ensure all human rights and freedoms in their entirety, including political and civil rights and decent socioeconomic and environmental living standards. I believe that those questions are not an internal matter of states but rather their obligations under the UN charter and international covenants and conventions. We want to see this approach become a universal norm. The Security Council is called upon to underscore the civilized world’s collective responsibility for the protection of human rights and freedoms.

In the near future, Russia intends to adopt legislative acts that will reflect the highest international standards in the field of protection of human freedom, honor, and dignity. This applies to ensuring personal security, the criminal and corrective labor codes, protection of Russian citizens abroad, alternative military service, and other issues . . . .

A few days ago, the ten remaining political prisoners were granted pardon by a decree of the president of the Russian Federation. There are no more prisoners of conscience in free Russia . . . .

It is a historical irony that the Russian Federation, a state with age-old experience in foreign policy and diplomacy, has only just appeared on the political map of the world. I am confident that the world community will find in Russia a firm and steadfast champion of freedom, democracy, and humanism. [End Page 131]