The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality

The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality

The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality

The UN Role in Promoting Democracy: Between Ideals and Reality

Synopsis

The role of the UN in the promotion of democracy is significant but also sometimes problematic. Almost a third of its members have requested its assistance in conducting elections, and it is supporting a new wave of democracy -although not without difficulty -in places such as East Timor, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Kosovo. This book considers the effectiveness and controversy of the UN's work in promoting and assisting democracy. It asks if the UN can help to build the foundations of democracy and whether, as an external actor, it can have a substantive positive impact upon the development of democratic governance inside societies. Set against a background of political science and international relations, The UN Role in Promoting Democracy explores how the ideals of democracy interact with the realities of power in the international arena and in the societies in which the UN works. The book provides a timely analysis of the prospects and limitations of the UN's work, and of the broader field of democracy promotion.

Excerpt

Roland Rich and Edward Newman

Democracy, in both theory and practice, is the subject of a huge field of literature. Within this literature, the international dimensions of democracy are increasingly understood and explored. Democracy has even come to be seen by some practitioners as something of a political panacea. It is widely accepted as a universal value. Yet the role of the United Nations – the embodiment of international society – in the promotion of democracy remains understudied, even though the organization has adopted democracy promotion as an important objective:

The phenomenon of democratization has had a marked impact on the United
Nations. Just as newly-independent States turned to the United Nations for sup
port during the era of decolonization, so today, following another wave of ac
cessions to Statehood and political independence, Member States are turning to
the United Nations for support in democratization. While this has been most
visible in the requests for electoral assistance received since 1989 from more than
60 States – nearly one-third of the Organization's Membership – virtually no area
of United Nations activity has been left untouched. The peace-keeping mandates
entrusted to the United Nations now often include both the restoration of de
mocracy and the protection of human rights. United Nations departments, agen
cies and programmes have been called on to help States draft constitutions, create
independent systems for the administration of justice, provide police forces that
respect and enforce the rule of law, de-politicize military establishments, and es
tablish national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights.
They also have been asked by many States engaged in democratization to help . . .

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