Finally the UN is speaking Democracy and Freedom
Just to irritate anti-freedom folks, the origins of the Fund were suggested by the George W. Bush administration. In his speech at the 2004 United Nations General Assembly, Bush declared that the Fund "would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law, independent courts, a free press, political parties, and trade unions".
The United Nations has garnered more than 42 million dollars in pledges to create a new Democracy Fund (UNDEF) that would help countries transitioning from authoritarian regimes to free societies.
Victor Arango of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) said that "the Fund will complement current U.N. efforts" and should be up and running by next year.
The Fund's main objectives are to strengthen democratic institutions and governance in countries seeking to establish or restore democracies including grants for projects to build civil society, strengthen the rule of law, establish political parties and independent courts, or develop free press and trade unions.
Simon Weber of Citizens for Global Solutions, a U.S.-based human rights
group, told that 13 countries have kicked off the funding, with the United States, India, and Australia comprising the largest contributions with 10 million dollars each.
"Thus far, only five million has actually been paid, but most observers are optimistic that pledges will be honoured," he said.
Another 26 countries have expressed support and pledges, including Britain, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Portugal, Qatar, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and South Korea.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed UNDEF on Jul. 4 at a meeting
of the African Summit in Libya. He told the assembled members that the Fund
would assist in alleviating the potential strain of maintaining and constructing democratic institutions.
Arango said that the Fund would "fill gaps, and respond to requests that go beyond the reach of existing mechanisms. It will work closely, in a structured manner, with other U.N. bodies to ensure coordination and avoid overlap."
He said an advisory board of "geographically diverse" member states under the secretary-general's authority will oversee the Fund and recommend proposals for funding.
The United Nations Fund for International Partnership will also be involved with the Fund by providing administrative and financial support. Other departments and agencies, such as the Department of Political Affairs, UNDP, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, are to review applications and forward recommendations to the advisory board.
In addition to the United States, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
has strongly endorsed UNDEF, signaled by India's large pledge. In his speech at the official launch of the Fund on Sep. 14, Singh highlighted his democratic ideals.
"A strong and independent judiciary, a free press, professional civil and military establishments, constitutionally empowered institutions to safeguard the rights of minorities, of women and children and an independent electoral mechanism; these constitute the veritable nuts and bolts of democracy."
Annan, also speaking at the launch, acknowledged that not all United
Nations member states were democracies. However, he maintained that all of them "accept democratisation as something desirable, at least in principle".
He also declared that "there is no single model of democracy", a
Statement echoed in the secretary-general's recent report, "In Larger Freedom". In a section titled "Freedom to Live in Dignity", Annan stated, "The United
Nations should not restrict its role to norm-setting but should expand
Its help to its members to further broaden and deepen democratic trends
throughout the world."
According to Citizens for Global Solutions, any country, non-governmental organisation, or U.N. body may apply for funding with proposals weighed on their merits.
Arango affirmed to that the Fund would not endorse any single model of democracy, nor would there be any basis of conditionality. "Under no circumstance could activities undertaken by the Fund be 'imposed' on a country. The approach will be one of collaboration and support."
The Fund is still in the formulation stages, but appears to have wide international support, as indicated by language in the outcome document signed by heads of state at the World Summit this September.
"We renew our commitment to support democracy by strengthening countries' capacity to implement the principles and practices of democracy and resolve to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to assist Member States upontheir request. We welcome the establishment of a Democracy Fund at the United Nations."