Documents on Democracy

Issue Date January 1994
Volume 5
Issue 1
Page Numbers 151-54
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Israel/West Bank and Gaza

On September 13, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yassir Arafat signed a historic peace accord committing the parties to a set of principles that includes the establishment of an elected Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Excerpts from this agreement appear below:

The aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is among other things to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the elected Council (the “Council”) for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. . . .

Article III. Elections

  1. In order that the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip may govern themselves according to democratic principles, direct, free, and general political elections will be held for the Council under agreed supervision and international observation, while the Palestinian police will insure public order.
  2. An agreement will be concluded on the exact mode and conditions of the elections in accordance with the protocol attached as Annex I, with the goal of holding the elections not later than nine months after the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles.
  3. These elections will constitute a significant interim preparatory step toward the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements . . . .

Annex L Protocol on the Mode and Conditions of Elections

. . . the election agreement should cover, among other things, the following issues:

  1. the system of elections
  2. the mode of the agreed supervision and international observation and their personal composition, and [End Page 151]
  3. rules and regulations regarding the election campaign, including agreed arrangements for the organizing of mass media, and the possibility of licensing a broadcasting and TV station.


In Havana on September 8, the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops issued a message to the nation entitled “There is Nothing Love Cannot Face.” The document, which calls upon all Cubans both inside and outside the country to engage in a “free dialogue,” is excerpted below:

It is we Cubans who have to resolve the problems among ourselves, inside Cuba. It is we who must seriously ask ourselves, Why are there so many Cubans who want to go, who leave the country, who give up their nationality, who adopt a foreign nationality? . . .

Nobody can close his heart or his eyes to our country’s current situation, painfully recognizing that Cuba is in need. Things are not going well: this is an issue discussed on the streets which directly affects the people. There is dissatisfaction, uncertainty, desperation among the people at large. The official speeches, appearances in the mass media, newspaper articles mention something, but the situation worsens quickly and progressively and it seems that the only solution available is resistance, without there being any hint of how long this resistance will have to last.

Thirty-four years is a long enough lapse for historical perspective to be taken rather than a mere glimpse at trends. It is sufficient time for us to take stock of the history of a process which started full of promises and ideals. Some of them were achieved, but as happens so often, reality does not always meet up with our original idea since it is not always possible to adapt it to our dreams.

On the economic front, the material and basic necessities have reached a point of extreme gravity . . . . The gravity of the economic situation in Cuba also has political ramifications since the political and the economic are inextricably linked.

It seems to us that . . . some irritating policies which affect daily life in the country should be eradicated. This would bring about undeniable relief and a source of hope to the national soul:

  • The exclusive and omnipresent character of the official ideology which includes the identification of twin terms which do not necessarily mean the same (e.g., Motherland and socialism, state and government, authority and power, legality and morality, Cuban and revolutionary). . . .
  • The restrictions imposed, not only on the practice of certain liberties, which might be admissible at certain times, but on freedom itself. . . .
  • The excessive control by the State Security Forces, which sometimes even reaches into people’s private lives. . . . [End Page 152]
  • The multitude of people imprisoned for actions which could be decriminalized or in some cases reconsidered. This would mean that many of those who are serving jail sentences for economic, political, and similar crimes could be freed.
  • Discrimination on the grounds of philosophical or political ideas or of religious creed. The proper elimination of such discrimination would enable all Cubans to participate in the country’s life without distinction . . . .

We would like to say something about dialogue. . . . No human reality is totally unquestionable. We must recognize that there are varying criteria in Cuba regarding the country’s current situation as well as the possible solutions. Dialogue takes place in a whisper on the streets, at the workplace and in people’s homes. It is apparent that the road to reconciliation and peace, like dialogue, has undeniable public support as well as sympathy and prestige. . . .

The Cuban people . . . want to see a frank, friendly, and free dialogue in which everyone can verbally and cordially express their feelings. . . . In Cuba there is only one political party, only one newspaper, only one radio station and only one television channel. But the dialogue we refer to should take into account the diversity of means and people. . . . The Cuban people are a mature people and if we want to be citizens of tomorrow’s world then it would be worth putting our maturity to the test. We should recognize that the right to diversity is not only a legal right but is also a basic, ethical, human right because it is founded on man’s dignity above all other values.

United Nations

In his 1993 annual “Report on the Work of the Organization,” UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali emphasized the mutually reinforcing nature of what he cited as the organization’s three main objectives: peace, development, and democracy. Excerpts from this document follow:

There can be no flowering of development without the parallel advance of another key concept: democratization. Peace is a prerequisite to development; democracy is essential if development is to succeed over the long term.

The real development of a State must be based on the participation of its population; that requires human rights and democracy. To ensure such an achievement, democratization must not only take hold inside a State, but among States in the international community. And democracy within States can be fully sustained over time only if it is linked to expanding democratization among States and at all levels of the international system.

Without peace, there can be no development and there can be no [End Page 153] democracy. Without development, the basis for democracy will be lacking and societies will tend to fall into conflict. And without democracy, no sustainable development can occur; without such development, peace cannot long be maintained. . . .

The process of democratization cannot be separated from the protection of human rights. More precisely, the effective safeguarding of human rights is possible only in a democratic framework. It is therefore not possible to separate the United Nations promotion of human rights from the global trend towards democratization.


On November 14, nine leading Chinese prodemocracy activists announced the formation of a group seeking additional signatories to a “Peace Charter,” which calls, among other things, for a peaceful transition to democracy. The next day, two of the Charter’s original signatories, Yang Zhou and Qin Yongmin, were arrested by the police. Several passages from the Charter follow:

Over the past ten years and more, great changes have occurred in the economic structure of the mainland, and we deeply appreciate this. However, as the historical facts of the contemporary world have fully shown, the rapid development of the market economy inevitably requires the adoption of political pluralization and democracy. . . . As political pluralization and democracy are irresistible necessities of history, we have to ask ourselves whether this will proceed in a peaceful form or in a nonpeaceful form. . . .

First, we hold that the mainland government . . . is obliged to observe all resolutions on human rights adopted by the United Nations. . . .

Second, we call on the mainland government authorities to show their grand boldness of vision in guiding the historic change by formulating and implementing strategic measures for the transition from an autocracy to pluralism and for the establishment and perfection of democratic politics, thus creating the conditions for always keeping the process of transforming the political system within a scope that the central government can control and adjust. . . .

Fourth, we urge the mainland government to take the first necessary step for reconciliation, that is, to immediately redress the wrongs clone in the June 4 Incident [i.e., the Tiananmen Square massacre]. . . .

Today we call on all quarters to take openness, legality, and nonviolence as their principles . . . [and to] launch an ideological movement which will not lead to social turbulence, and regard this as the proper and most limited means of pressure required to strive for human rights and a democratic movement. . . . [End Page 154]