Report of the Parliamentary Forum on the occasion of the Fifth Conference of New or Restored Democracies Ulaanbaatar ( Mongolia ) 11 September 2003
We, Members of Parliament, meeting on the occasion of the Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, hereby adopt the following Declaration and urge Governments and Parliaments to be guided by it as they work together for the furtherance of democracy worldwide.
We reassert our commitment to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Democracy adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and we urge parliaments and governments to continue to be inspired by these principles.
Democracy is a universally recognised ideal, based on values common to people everywhere regardless of cultural, political, social and economic differences. Democracy is equally a political system that enables people to choose freely an effective, honest, transparent and accountable government.
Democracy is based on two core principles: accountability and participation. Everyone has the right to access information on government activities, to petition government and to seek redress through impartial administrative and judicial mechanisms. Likewise, everyone has the right to participate in the management of public affairs. Thus, democracy requires representative institutions at all levels and, in particular a Parliament in which all components of society are represented.
Holding free and fair elections at regular intervals enabling the people's will to be expressed represents a key element in the exercise of democracy. They must be held on the basis of universal, equal and secret suffrage so that all voters can choose their representatives in conditions of equality, openness and transparency that stimulate political competition.
Democracy is inseparable from human rights and is founded on the rule of law. It aims essentially to preserve and promote the dignity and fundamental human rights of the individual, to achieve social justice and foster economic and social development. Judicial institutions and independent, impartial, effective oversight mechanisms are guarantors of the rule of law.
We undertake to continue to work towards the defence and promotion of human rights. In this context, special attention shall be paid to the protection of the rights of minorities and the disadvantaged in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect.
Partnership between men and women
Democracy cannot be achieved without a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society in which they work in equality and complementarity, drawing mutual enrichment from their differences. Indeed, we consider gender justice and equity as an essential ingredient of democracy. We pledge therefore to continue to work towards greater participation of women in decision-making processes. To this effect, we undertake to promote the necessary structural and legislative measures and to ensure that these are actually implemented.
Freedom of expression and role of media
The free flow of ideas by word and by image is a key element of democracy. Democracy must therefore guarantee the freedom to hold opinions without interference as well as the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. We stress the important role of the media in this respect. We pledge to enact effective laws and regulations to maximise the freedom of information. We further encourage plurality in the ownership of the media as a means of promoting greater freedom of expression.
Transparency and accountability
Democracy thrives on effective, honest and transparent government, freely chosen and accountable for its management of public affairs. We reassert our determination to promote a sense of ethics and integrity in public life and to combat corruption. We undertake to strengthen internal mechanisms, including preventive, investigative and enforcement capacity and guaranteeing public access to information.
As representatives of the people, we should set the example and we hereby undertake to establish codes of conduct for parliamentarians and other public officials (or strengthen existing ones as the case may be) and to implement them in a manner that fosters integrity and public trust and confidence in public institutions.
We undertake to work towards more effective parliamentary oversight processes and structures, including strong committees, parliamentary hearings, and efficient auditing mechanisms. We shall continue to guarantee a role for the opposition and to institute parliamentary procedures and propitious conditions that enable them to participate fully in the decision-making process at all levels in parliament.
Democracy and sustainable development
For democracy to develop, it needs to be accompanied by sustainable economic and social development that eradicates illiteracy, hunger and abject poverty. We pledge to work towards systems of democratic governance that lay emphasis on the welfare of the people and the protection of their interests, on the basis of political freedom, popular participation, respect for human rights, justice and equality.
We stress the important role of the UN and urge it to take a leading role in supporting developing democracies with a view to achieving sustainable development. We urge the more developed democracies to continue to provide special assistance to the developing democracies so as to enable them to meet the challenges of national development.
We request international organisations such as the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to undertake studies that establish the clear linkages between democracy and development and propose concrete measures for ensuring effective synergies between the two.
We stress the need for democracy to be implemented not only at the national and international levels but also at the grassroots level. We therefore call for greater decentralisation of the government decision-making processes, more effective systems of local governance as essential factors for development and the full enjoyment of the fruits of democracy.
Terrorism: a threat to democracy
We recognise that terrorism is a major threat to democracy. It undermines the functioning of democratic institutions and poses a threat to world peace and stability. We pledge our support for the continued effort to combat terrorism, notably in the framework of the United Nations. We stress that terrorism should not be linked to any particular race or religion and that the war on terrorism should not be used as a pretext to violate human rights and freedoms .
International co-operation and globalisation
Democracy needs to be applied not only at the national but also at international level. This means that the functioning of state institutions as well as that of international organisations should be based on the founding principles of democracy, that include transparency and accountability.
We stress the importance of parliaments' participation in the international decision-making process, including in the field of trade, to ensure that decisions thus taken are commensurate with the interests and aspirations of the people. Parliaments have a pivotal role in monitoring and overseeing international agreements negotiated by governments, through participation in representative parliamentary assemblies.
Role of parliaments
Parliament plays a primordial role in the promotion of democracy. It must be representative of the will of the people and therefore reflect the diversity of all components of society. It must have constitutionally guaranteed powers to legislate and oversee government action.
We stress the importance of guaranteeing the independence of parliament and ensuring that its members enjoy freedom of expression. We consider it crucial that parliaments be a forum for the expression of the plurality of opinions that reflect the divergent interests of society. Respect for parliamentary immunities and ensuring the security of the parliamentary mandate are essential.
Parliament must also have access to adequate material, human and financial resources. It is important for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to have adequate capacity to perform their functions effectively. We encourage donors to continue to provide capacity-building assistance to parliaments in developing countries and emerging democracies to enable them to establish effective parliamentary processes and structures.
It is important that, in the interest of the people, the Government and Parliament work in a spirit of healthy co-operation, while respecting each other's prerogatives, powers and independence. We encourage governments to continue to co-operate with parliaments in this spirit, including through enhancing parliament's access to information necessary for parliamentarians to perform their functions effectively.
Civil society plays a major role in the promotion of democracy by articulating diverse socio-cultural, political and economic issues. Non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, professional groups, trade unions and other society-based groups are an important source of policy ideas and information on government performance at grassroots level and can help promote public awareness essential for transparency.
As intermediaries between the State and the citizen, we undertake to continue to work with civil society and to forge stronger partnerships with civil society in strengthening the institutions of democracy, notably through promoting human rights, supporting peaceful settlement of conflicts, promoting more transparent and accountable governance at both national and international levels.
Role of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
We recognise the important role played by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organisation of parliaments, in promoting democracy worldwide. We pledge our continued support to this Organisation and encourage it to pursue its efforts in this field, including through strengthening the capacity of parliaments, promoting respect for human rights, encouraging gender partnership in public life and promoting more transparent and accountable governance at the international level.
We request that this Declaration be brought to the attention of the participants at the Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies and that it be published as part of the official records of the Conference. We will bring this Declaration to the attention of our respective Parliaments and Governments and promote measures to give concrete expression to its provisions.
We request that parliaments, notably through their world organisation, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, be involved in and participate actively in the mechanisms established for the follow-up of the International Conferences of New or Restored Democracies. In this context, parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union should participate in the identification and formulation of democracy indicators. We consider this participation consistent with the need for parliaments to be active partners in promoting democracy and international democratic governance as reiterated in the resolution adopted by the 108th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
We urge that the Parliamentarians` Forum become a permanent feature of the International Conference of New or Restored Democracies. We entrust the Parliament of Mongolia and the Inter-Parliamentary Union with the responsibility of identifying effective ways of ensuring the achievement of this objective. We request the Chairman of the State Great Hural of Mongolia to report to the next Parliamentarians` Forum on progress in the implementation of this Declaration.