This week, 107 States gathered in Warsaw for the first Community of Democracies meeting. This meeting has borrowed what is good from the UN’s approach to promoting democracy and built upon it.
Analysis: There is a growing tendency within the UN to link human rights with democracy. For the last two years the UN Commission on Human Rights has passed a resolution advocating democratic principles as a lasting strategy for guaranteeing human rights norms. This spring, the Commission passed a resolution on the incompatibility of racism and democracy. And in December, the UN will convene its fourth International Conference of New and Restored Democracies.
That UN Member States, with such diverse political systems, adopt resolutions affirming democracy is a promising trend for the world body.
But, States participating in the Warsaw conference are more unified than the UN in their support for democratic principles – although not all are flourishing democracies. The think tank Freedom House produces an index of States’ levels of democracy where 1.1 is the most free, and 7.7 is the most repressive. The average ranking of the 107 States at the Warsaw meeting is 2.7. Fairly encouraging, given that the average for the current 53 members of the UN Commission on Human Rights is 3.7.
The aspirations of the Warsaw group to uphold democratic principles will be reflected in its Warsaw Declaration. This group may be more successful than the UN in promoting and defending democracy for two reasons:
1. The draft Warsaw Declaration calls for concrete commitment and follow-up action: “We will collaborate on democracy-related issues in existing international and regional institutions, forming coalitions and caucuses to support resolutions and other international activities aimed at the promotion of democratic governance.”
2. Theoretically, this meeting convenes States with a shared belief in democratic principles. Whereas competing political ideologies at the UN can result in the watering down of action, the Warsaw group’s collective vision should ensure united support for democracy.
Within the UN, groups of States confer and work along ideological lines, such as the Group of 77 and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The States meeting in Warsaw could form their own UN caucus – The Democracy Group – and project a unified voice in the promotion of democratic principles in all aspects of the UN’s work.