World's Democracies, United Nations Must Cooperate, Official Says
21 November 2005; US State Department
Washington -- The United States wants the United Nations to assume a more active and prominent role in promoting democracy around the world, says Mark P. Lagon, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for international organization affairs. Central to America’s foreign policy, he said, is the belief that democracy is "the system of government most consistent with peace and prosperity" as it facilitates economic growth through "choice, opportunity, transparency, and predictable rule of law." Lagon said this is the most realistic of policy to pursue as "Democratic governments do not go to war with each other.
"While delivering a lecture to the Georgetown University’s Institute of International Law and Politics November 15, he said that the U.N. Charter was founded on the principles of democracy, freedom and human rights and called on democratic states to remember those principles by actively fulfilling their responsibility to build "a meaningful rule of law internationally." Although the United Nations has some strong mechanisms for promoting democracy, poverty-alleviation and development, Lagon said the Commission on Human Rights is not one of them. Some governments on the 53-member commission, and in the General Assembly, are not democratically elected and do not necessarily represent the interests of their citizens, he said. Lagon said these countries, working through the commission, seek to undermine U.N. action on human-rights abuses because they themselves are at risk of coming under its scrutiny. He cited the case when commission members refused to pass a strong resolution regarding atrocities occurring in Sudan’s Darfur region and then re-elected that nation to the human-rights body.
"It is inappropriate for countries lacking the will to protect the human rights of their own people to be making decisions about human rights in the rest of the world," Lagon said. the United States and others have called for the creation of the Human Rights Council, which would use monitors and investigators to draw attention to urgent or continuous violations and put pressure on offending governments to change these behaviors.
Lagon called on other democracies to gather together in a Democracy Caucus at the world body "because we share more than a form of government accountable to the people. We share a vision and an experience of people free, prosperous and secure. We share strong commitments to human right, the rule of law and development."
Islamic radicals, he said, are attempting to put forth an alternative world vision that denigrates these values as immoral and hypocritical. "As wrong as we may think they are, we underestimate them at our peril if we do not realize that behind their terrorist deeds is an ideology intended to convert people to a cause," Lagon said.
The deputy assistant secretary praised the establishment of the U.N. Democracy Fund, which provides grants to groups carrying out programs to assist in building democratic civil societies. Money for its agenda comes from voluntary contributions, not general U.N. budget assessments. Fifteen nations have pledged over $43 million to the fund since it became operational in 2005, he said. "We believe the expansion of ordered liberty to be the most effective long-term solution to the security threats posed by religious extremism, terrorism, failed states, and bloodthirsty dictatorships," he said.
"By not letting the useful presence of universal membership cripple the United Nations, the world’s democracies can work to have the U.N. achieve the vision its founders anticipated -- to advance peace, economic development, and human rights," he said. The United States is not bothered, Lagon explained, by complaints that it is attempting to use the United Nations to further its own foreign policy goals. He quoted the Bush administration’s 2002 National Security Strategy as focused on "extending the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent because freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity.""It is only logical that we would take that message to the United Nations as well," he said.
The full text (http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rm/56971.htm) of Lagon’s remarks is available on the State Department Web site.