Joint Statement: UN should appoint rapporteur on democracy


Joint Statement: UN should appoint rapporteur on democracy

A statement calling on the United Nations to appoint a special rapporteur on democracy has been signed by more than 80 civil society organizations, networks, think tanks and institutions as well as numerous individuals from across the world united by their commitment to human rights and democracy. 

According to the document, which was released today and is endorsed by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), “democracy is threatened and authoritarianism is on the rise”. In this situation, the UN “needs to do more to strengthen human rights and democracy”, the statement says. The new rapporteur position would be created by the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva and “mandated to investigate the state of democracy around the world.”

The joint appeal is made ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is coming up on 10 December 2023. Like-minded organizations, policy-makers and individuals are invited to sign on.

  • “The global trend of democratic decline is a serious concern for parliamentarians everywhere, but particularly in Southeast Asia, where young democracies across the region risk backsliding into authoritarianism. We urge the UN to give this issue the serious attention it deserves, starting with the appointment of a Special Rapporteur,” said APHR Board Member and Malaysian Member of Parliament Wong Chen.
  • “In a world facing democratic challenges, Democracy International supports the call for a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy. Despite the evolving threats, this mandate, rooted in UN principles, symbolizes our optimism for a future where strengthened democratic values prevail”, said Eric Bjornlund, CEO and President, Democracy International. 
  • “Democracy is a human right and human rights depend on democracy. The UN can no longer look the other way while this right is being denied, undermined and weakened in many countries around the world. A UN rapporteur on democracy is urgently needed”, said Andreas Bummel, Executive Director, Democracy Without Borders.
  • “In a world where threats to democracy and fundamental freedoms undermine essential human rights, we must continue to support, at the highest levels, those working on the front lines and behind the scenes working on the intersection of human rights and democracy. A UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy will help keep these issues at the forefront and signal to naysayers that democratic principles and practices offer the best conditions for peace and prosperity”, said Dr Ann Hudock, President and CEO, Counterpart International.
  • “Threats to democratic principles and institutions are a global issue. The establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy will support our legislative work, especially when drafting evidence-based legislation and policies that promote integrity in political speech, transparency in government and the protection of fundamental human rights”, said Naveed Qamar, Member of Parliament from Pakistan and President of Parliamentarians for Global Action.
  • “Today more than ever, global citizens and their civil society require focused tools, actions, and actors to effectively counter democratic regression. A UN rapporteur dedicated to this purpose could provide substantial assistance”, said Gina Romero, Executive Director, Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia, the platform for pro-democracy groups in Latin-America and the Caribbean.
  • “In a time when democracy is challenged by autocracies and undermined in many democracies, the proposal of a UN rapporteur on democracy deserves urgent and serious consideration. It is fully endorsed by the V-Dem project and its Steering Committee”, said political scientist Staffan Lindberg, Director, Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-Dem) at the University of Gothenburg.
  • “A robust and healthy civic space forms the cornerstone of accountable and responsive democratic governance. Democracy cannot exist without the protection and promotion of civic space, and a democratic society offers the best conditions for guaranteeing an enabling environment. The mandate of a UN rapporteur on democracy is key to ensuring that civil society and civic space remain at the heart of democracy”, said Sigrid Lipott, UN Advisor in Geneva of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
  • “People believe in democracy. But their hopes are being crushed as states fail to deliver and trample on the rules that protect us. At a time of crisis and contested narratives, the UN must use every possible tool to empower people: a Special Rapporteur on Democracy would be a good start”, said Natalie Samarasinghe, Global Director of Advocacy, Open Society Foundations.
  • “Democracy is a fundamental human right that cannot be taken for granted in any corner of the world. In recent years, we have seen backsliding, erosion, and authoritarian encroachment that democracy champions have bravely stood against across the globe. They must not stand alone. The UN Special Rapporteur system is an invaluable tool for advancing human rights. It is time that this powerful mechanism be deployed in support of democracy,” said Rebecca A. Shoot, Executive Director, Citizens for Global Solutions
  • “At a time when democracy is at threat around the world and authoritarianism is on the rise, the call for the establishment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy has never been more timely. I therefore support this effort and hope that UN member states can consider doing so too”, said Annika​​​​ ​Silva‑Leander, Permanent Observer to the United Nations, International IDEA.
  • “These days we live through a dark period of spreading authoritarianism. We believe a UN rapporteur on democracy will brighten the way to a better world for democracy and human rights”, said Soonsuk Won, Chairperson, The May 18 Foundation, based in Gwangju, South Korea.

The statement points out that the new mandate can be based on UN resolutions that identify and support democratic principles. This includes the “central democratic principle” that “public authority must derive from the will of the people” which is expressed in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to the document, the proposed UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy, assisted by an independent advisory board, would “examine challenges and opportunities related to the realization of democracy”. This would include, among other things, looking into “constitutional and institutional arrangements such as checks and balances; effectiveness of parliaments; free, fair and competitive elections and election environments; political participation including of minorities and women; direct and deliberative mechanisms; as well as civic space and freedoms.”

The new mandate would “go beyond and complement” existing mandates operating under the Human Rights Council. The statement asks “all governments that are committed to democracy” to support its establishment.

Click here to read and endorse the statement.

Click here to see the full list of signatories.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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