Documents on Democracy

Issue Date October 1999
Volume 10
Issue 4
Page Numbers 177-83
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On June 27–30 the Washington-based National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Republic of Yemen cosponsored an Emerging Democracies Forum in Sana’a (see News and Notes below, pp. 184–85). At the close of the meeting, participants approved the “Sana’a Declaration,” which is excerpted below:

We recognize that the transition process is not complete and that much needs to be done to consolidate our democratic systems and to implement further political and economic reforms. While we are proud to have joined the growing community of democracies, the international community has tended to focus on countries that are considered strategically more important or are in crisis. However, democratic progress in our states contributes to peace, stability and prosperity both within and beyond our borders. . . .

[T]he Forum included government officials, members of governing and opposition parties, and representatives of labor, business and civic groups from Benin, Bolivia, El Salvador, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal and Yemen. We represent a diversity of democratic experience, but our attendance at this Forum demonstrates the universality of the democratic idea. This group of nations with different traditions, cultures and historical experiences was brought together by a shared commitment to democracy and a belief that the promise of economic prosperity enjoyed by all citizens is more likely realized in a democratic political environment based on respect for human rights, popular participation and the rule of law. Further we share a commitment to:

  • pursue economic reforms and secure fundamental workers’ rights, while making every effort to educate and build widespread consensus for these goals;
  • improve protections for human rights for all our people; [End Page 177]
  • hold regular free and fair elections, with special attention to the need to build public confidence in the process;
  • develop our legislatures as an essential instrument for broad public participation and representation as well as for policy debate and oversight of government;
  • empower democratic governance at local levels;
  • deepen our commitment to, and implement measures to ensure, the full participation of women in political life;
  • ensure that the rights of minorities are respected and that every effort is made to engage marginalized groups in the political process;
  • broaden the democratic experience by adopting all reasonable means to encourage public access to, and participation in, the policy making process;
  • support the strengthening of civil society;
  • uphold the freedom of the press;
  • address the urgent challenge of corruption by instituting meaningful reforms, including those that increase governmental transparency; and
  • foster judicial independence, enhance public access to legal redress and ensure that the laws are fairly applied to all. . . .

As a result of this conference, we hope to establish mechanisms between our countries to continue the sharing of ideas and experiences through consultations, exchange programs, an interactive web site and other means. We also look forward to working together in a variety of international fora to promote democratic principles and practices. We intend to support the efforts of other countries that are beginning the process of democratic transition.

The international community should renew its commitment to countries working to build democratic institutions and processes and dedicate the resources for this task. In particular, the donor community and the international financial institutions, in considering loans, aid and debt policy, should give priority to those countries implementing political as well as economic reforms. These political reforms would include measures that advance popular participation, build public trust in elections and legislatures, and enhance government transparency and accountability.

Abdul Karim Al-Eryani, prime minister of Yemen, addressed the conference. Excerpts from his remarks follow:

We are all aware that each emerging democracy based on the principles of political pluralism and free and just elections has its own specificities in view of the nature of its own problems and constraints. There are, however, common denominators which contribute to bringing us together and uniting us. . . . [T]he most significant tasks which may unite us on the path of democracy and development are the following: [End Page 178]

1. We must continually reaffirm that democratic government as an integral system is the only way for fulfilling the political and economic aspirations of our peoples and for realizing social justice, and that this system is the key to sustainable development. . . .

4. We must reassert our firm commitment to protecting human rights and preserving fundamental freedoms, first and foremost the principle of pluralism, the right to set up civil society organizations, the freedoms of press and speech.

5. We must also endeavor to develop and consolidate electoral mechanisms which are likely to guarantee a free and fair competition to all citizens.

6. We also certainly need to strengthen the role of law in providing equal protection for all citizens, as much as we need to institute the necessary legal framework and mechanisms for promoting civil society.

7. The consolidation of economic freedoms, the quest for sustainable development and liberation of individuals from the social impediments which hinder their capacity to fulfil their economic, political and cultural aspirations within a free and democratic climate is one of the most important common denominators which brought us together to this forum.


On July 29, Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), gave her first speech following her party’s victory in the June 7 elections (see the article by Bambang Harymurti, pp. 69–83 above). Excerpts from her remarks follow:

Today I invite and urge each and every member of this nation, together with the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI Perjuangan) under my leadership, to develop a new consciousness. A new consciousness that places the sovereignty of the people in the most respected position in this country. The moment is upon us to declare that the humiliations against the people’s sovereignty must finally come to an end. In their place, let us welcome the arrival of a new era of people’s empowerment born of a new consciousness for the whole Indonesian people.

Toward that end, let us review and learn from the history of this nation. The bitter experience of the Indonesian people during 32 years of New Order rule should make us all the more certain that any country developed through authoritarianism ends up causing untold suffering for its people. . . .

As the chairwoman of the PDI Perjuangan, and in light of the victory we gained through the voting process, I emphasize that this triumph [End Page 179] is a victory given to the PDI Perjuangan by the people. This victory truly represents a victory on behalf of the people who desire a change of regime.

We welcome this mandate from the people, and as the chairwoman of the party that won in the national election, I declare here that the chairwoman of the PDI Perjuangan is fully prepared to lead this nation into a new future and history. The first step in this new chapter in our history must be the formation of a government that is free of all practices of collusion, corruption and nepotism, as preparation to lead Indonesia out of its extended crisis. I shall turn this victory over to the people by offering to them a new Indonesia, an era of people’s empowerment that will restore the dignity and pride of the nation, as well as our respect in the eyes of nations around the world.

Why do I say this? Because the results of the national election have conferred a clear mandate to all party leaders who are proreform and anti-status quo to carry out, without delay, the demands and will of the people for a change of regime—from the current troubled government, which is incapable of emerging from the crisis of confidence that engulfs it, to a new government that is clean and has the people’s confidence and support. . . .

I say this because as the leader of the party that won the election, I have been given a mandate from the people to form a new government that conforms with the will and aspirations of the people. . . .

I want to express my congratulations and boundless appreciation to the whole Indonesian people, who, by giving the largest share of their support to the PDI Perjuangan, have rejected all manner of violations against the democratic process while they have defended the principle of a state based on the rule of law and shown a commitment to basic human rights. This choice by the people once again reflects how strong the aspirations of the people are to live in peace and harmony within a democracy that guarantees the freedom of every member of society, whether in the positions they take or their allegiances, or in their exchanges and differences of opinion.

The maturity shown in the political behavior of the people has improved the image of the Republic of Indonesia in the eyes of nations around the world, indeed making us the third largest democracy on the face of the Earth. . . .

The defense of human rights is one of the core elements of the working program of PDI Perjuangan which has been especially mandated to me to be given the fullest attention when I am entrusted as the leader of this country. Human rights as the essence of democracy must be guaranteed through laws that genuinely side with the upholding of the people’s rights as citizens and as the dignified creations of God. Thus the profile of the National Commission on Human Rights must be raised to a position of the highest honor so that it can [End Page 180] be legitimate and free of co-optation from centers of power as it carries out its charge to defend and uphold basic human rights in this country. . . .

Goodbye to the New Order and welcome to the era of people’s empowerment!

South Africa

Thabo Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as president of South Africa on June 16 (see the article by Steven Friedman on pp 3–18 above). Excerpts from his inaugural speech follow:

The full meaning of liberation will not be realised until our people are freed both from oppression and from the dehumanising legacy of deprivation we inherited from our past. What we did in 1994 was to begin the long journey towards the realisation of this goal. When the millions of our people went to the polls 12 days ago, they mandated us to pursue this outcome. . . .

[W]e will have to nurture the spirit among our people which made it possible for many to describe the transition of 1994 as a miracle—the same spirit which, in many respects, turned this year’s election campaign into a festival in clebration of democracy.

As Africans, we are the children of the abyss, who have sustained a backward march for half-a-millennium. We have been a source for human slaves. Our countries were turned into the patrimony of colonial powers. We have been victim to our own African predators. . . .

Being certain that not always were we children of the abyss, we will do what we have to do to achieve our own Renaissance. We trust that what we will do will not only better our own condition as a people, but will also make a contribution, however small, to the success of Africa’s Renaissance, towards the identification of the century ahead as the African Century.

On June 25, Mbeki spoke at the opening session of the National Assembly. Excerpts from his remarks follow:

What will guide us in everything we do will be the challenge to build a caring society. This society must guarantee the dignity of every citizen on the basis of a good quality of life for every woman, man and child, without regard to race, colour or disability. . . .

The society we seek to replace entrenched corruption in all areas of human activity, informed by the notion that concepts of right and wrong are dead and, therefore, that everything that serves my personal interests is permissible. What we have said shows the enormity of the challenge we face to succeed in creating the caring society we have spoken of. [End Page 181]

For this reason this is not a task that can be carried out by the government alone. The challenge of the reconstruction and development of our society into one which guarantees human dignity, faces the entirety of our people. It is a national task that calls for the mobilisation of the whole nation into united people’s action, into a partnership with government for progressive change and a better life for all, for a common effort to build a winning nation. The Government therefore commits itself to work in a close partnership with all our people . . . to ensure that we draw on the energy and genius of the nation to give birth to something that will surely be new, good and beautiful. We invite all those in our country who occupy positions of authority and responsibility to join in this new way of doing things, by engaging the people whom they serve and lead in the common effort to transform all of us into a people at work for a better South Africa.

One of the central features of the brutish society we seek to bring to an end is the impermissible level of crime and violence. Acting together with the people, we will heighten our efforts radically to improve the safety and security of all our citizens. This will entail a variety of initiatives focussed on ensuring the effective implementation of the national crime prevention strategy. . . .

For us to succeed in our work, both as a Government and a people, will require that we approach the tasks ahead with all due seriousness and a sense of discipline which recognises the fact that all rights are accompanied by obligations. It will require that all of us defend the freedoms and the system of governance guaranteed and created by our Constitution, underpinned by the understanding that the people are the final guarantors of our democracy, the subject of all government policies and their own liberators.


On June 28–29, leaders from the European Union and from Latin America and the Caribbean met in Rio de Janeiro to discuss increased economic and political cooperation between their regions. The “Rio de Janeiro Declaration,” issued at the summit, is excerpted below:

We, the Heads of State and Government of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, have decided to promote and develop our relations towards a strategic biregional partnership, based upon the profound cultural heritage that unites us, and on the wealth and diversity of our respective cultural expressions. These have endowed us with strong multi-faceted identities, as well as the will to create an international environment which allows us to raise the level of the well-being of our societies and meet the principle of sustainable [End Page 182] development, seizing the opportunities offered by an increasingly globalised world, in a spirit of equality, respect, alliance and cooperation between our regions.

The strategic partnership gathers together two important actors on the current international stage. Latin America and the Caribbean is set to be one of the most flourishing regions in the 21st century as a result of important progress made in the political, economic and social spheres in recent years. For this reason, the region is determined to persevere in the advancement of democratic processes, social equality, modernisation efforts, trade liberalisation and broad-based structural reforms. The European Union, in its turn, has advanced towards a historic integration. . . .

This partnership is built upon and will contribute to the furthering of common objectives, such as strengthening representative and participatory democracy and individual freedom, the rule of law, good governance, pluralism, international peace and security, political stability and building confidence among nations.

We highlight the universality of all human rights. . . .

In this context, we commit ourselves to: . . .

Preserve democracy and the full and unrestricted functioning of democratic institutions, pluralism and the rule of law, by guaranteeing the holding of free, fair and open electoral processes based on universal suffrage as fundamental elements for economic and social development and strengthening of peace and stability.

Promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, taking into account their universal, interdependent and indivisible character, recognising that their promotion and protection is a responsibility of States and of all citizens. We stress that the international community has a legitimate interest in this task, under the Charter of the United Nations, with emphasis on the implementation of universal and regional human rights instruments and standards. . . .

Defend the principles of an independent and impartial judiciary, to promote, implement and uphold International Law and international humanitarian law. . . .

Underline the importance of the contribution of new actors, partners and resources from civil society with the objective of consolidating democracy, social and economic development and deepening respect for human rights. . . .

Strengthen individual and joint actions and increase collaboration among our Governments to face corruption in all its forms, taking into account the important instruments recently adopted in both regions, since this serious problem erodes the legitimacy and functioning of institutions and represents a threat to democracy, society, the rule of law and development.