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Human Rights Council holds Panel on challenges to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective

Human Rights Council 
AFTERNOON

11 June 2013

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a panel discussion on common challenges facing States in their efforts to secure democracy and the rule of law from a human rights perspective, and lessons learned and best practices in the engagement of the State with the international community to support such processes.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an opening statement, said that the subject matter of this panel highlighted an important truth that it was impossible to look at democracy in isolation from the rule of law and human rights.  Democracy, the rule of law and human rights were fully interdependent and mutually reinforcing and this had been widely acknowledged. While the practice of democracy could and should be contextualized, its core values were universal.  In recent decades, the world had witnessed a steadily increasing drive towards democracy.  However, this drive had not diminished the considerable risks facing both nascent and established democracies.  The international community had a responsibility to support States in the early stages of a transition to democracy and also in the consolidation phase.

Imogen Foulkes, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, said that the focus of the panel was not only on achieving democracy and rule of law but also sustaining them. 

The panellists were Radu Podgorean, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania; Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris; Vidar Helgesen, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance; Driss el-Yazami, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council; Aisha Al-Mannai, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States; and Brigitte Balipou, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité.
Radu Podgorean, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania, said that for the last two decades Romania had been in the process of transition from dictatorship to democracy and this had been a continuous process of trial and error.  There was a tremendous potential for international cooperation in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and what seemed to be missing was a framework for continuing the debate at the global level for sharing experiences and bringing new ideas.
Aisha Al-Mannai, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States, said that human rights, democracy and the rule of law were beautiful terms which defined the belief in human beings.  The Council did not speak of one single type of democracy and in its resolutions it was clear that the definition of democracy varied from political, economic, social and cultural perspectives and that democracy was a common human denominator.  The major impediment for democracy was to be found in the leadership.
Vidar Helgesen, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that the critical challenge was to turn this debate into real and concrete steps taken by States, and identified four key areas in which democracy could be strengthened through better national and international actions, including the need to better connect international human rights commitments made by States with democracy at the national level, and how crucial it was to respect and promote the integrity of elections.
Brigitte Balipou, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité, said that as a citizen of the Central African Republic, she had first-hand experience of the politicization of State functions.  The transitional Government of the Central African Republic should re-establish transparency, accountability for the management of public affairs, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and should hold transparent, fair and free presidential elections.
Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, said that the structure of the State was vital if they were to have the proper exercise of human rights.  Democracy had seen normative developments over the years, bringing about the right to democracy.  The experience in Latin America could be useful.  They needed to think about international actions and in that regard reference was made to democratic clauses within the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Driss el-Yazami, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, said that the Middle East and North Africa had been going through a socio-political process of change.  These upheavals meant that there were new challenges facing the cause of human rights and its defenders.  This was a complex process with many dimensions.  It was essential to have consistency between different international actors, and to draw up and implement a true international programme for disseminating a human rights culture. 
In the discussion, speakers said that democracy was the best form of governance which could enable citizens to reach their full potential.  The principles of democracy were universal and had taken root around the world, and it was stressed that democracy and the rule of law were complementary.  Guaranteeing freedom and human rights was indispensable and required the establishment of an environment based on the rule of law.  Building or rebuilding a democracy required accountability, and the role of Governments in ensuring accountability was crucial.  Civil society and the media also played an important role and the importance of the active participation of non-governmental organizations, citizens and women was stressed.  The United Nations had a unique role to play as the elaborator of norms on the rule of law and to make sure that those norms were understood, recognized and respected.
Speaking in the discussion were: European Union, United States, Algeria on behalf of Arab Group, Peru, Romania on behalf of a group of six States, Austria on behalf of a group of four States, Thailand, Morocco on behalf of Groupe Francophone, Tunisia, Bulgaria, Uruguay on behalf of Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, Maldives, Poland, Ethiopia, Australia, Angola, Sweden, Cuba, Sierra Leone, Bahrain, Indonesia, Iran, United Kingdom, Algeria, China and Norway.
Also speaking in the discussion were European Disability Forum, Indian Council of South America, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development and Association of World Citizens.
The Human Rights Council will resume its work on Wednesday, 12 June, at 11 a.m. to hear the presentation of the reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on South Sudan and Mali, as well as hear a presentation on the services of the Office of the High Commissioner in relation to technical assistance and capacity-building. 
Opening Statement

NAVI PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an opening statement, said that the subject matter of this panel highlighted an important truth that it was impossible to look at democracy in isolation from the rule of law and human rights.  Democracy, the rule of law and human rights were fully interdependent and mutually reinforcing and this had been widely acknowledged.  The symbiotic relationship between democracy, the rule of law and human rights was embodied in key features of democracy.  Effectively functioning oversight processes and mechanisms, which could provide accountability and constitute safeguards against abuse of power, were equally indispensable.  While the practice of democracy could and should be contextualized, its core values were universal.  As for the rule of law and human rights, guaranteeing respect for democracy often required determination and vigilance in the face of significant challenges.  In recent decades, the world had witnessed a steadily increasing drive towards democracy.  However, this drive had not diminished the considerable risks facing both nascent and established democracies.  It was hoped that today’s panel would allow for the sharing of many experiences and good practices on ways to overcome these various challenges. 

Experience had shown that new democracies had to address past human rights violations and prioritize the fight against impunity.  Transitional justice processes, whether judicial or non-judicial, were crucial in this regard.  Be they new or mature democracies, States had to ensure that their governing institutions were sufficiently strong to maintain order and preserve political stability.  However, they must do so while at all times complying with international human rights law.  Socio-economic inequalities also constituted key challenges to democracy.  Measures which undermined the fundamental principle of equality between all individuals constituted a threat to democracy.  Corruption was also a serious challenge to democratic values.  The international community had a responsibility to support States not only in the early stages of a transition to democracy, but also in the consolidation phase.  Supporting national efforts in this regard was an integral component of the Office’s programme and would continue to be a priority in the next few years.  The Universal Periodic Review had the potential to become a powerful tool in promoting democracy.  At the last session of the Human Rights Council a study was submitted by the Office, on the subject of today’s panel.  It was hoped that its findings would assist in enhancing mutual understanding of the challenges that hindered democracy.  The High Commissioner was confident that today’s panel would provide a solid basis for formulating strong, action-oriented recommendations to the Council with respect to the ways and means to overcome these challenges and for providing adequate assistance when needed. 

Statements by Panellists

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, said that the focus of the panel was not only on achieving democracy and the rule of law but also sustaining them. 

RADU PODGOREAN, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania, said that for the last two decades Romania had been in the process of transition from dictatorship to democracy and this had been a continuous process of trial and error.  The main challenges were of a political nature and consisted of the inherited communist law system and mentalities, an authoritarian-shaped political culture, and mistrust in public institutions.  The essential elements that had contributed to the success of democratization were the guarantee of all human rights for citizens in legislation and practice, the setting up of strong and accountable institutions, and the creation of a legal and judicial system defined by the rule of law.  The society had strongly acknowledged the need for a strong and independent justice system to ensure the accountability of officials and prevent misuses of power.  Romania had benefitted from cooperation with international partners, support from traditional democracies and partnership from the Council of Europe.  There was a tremendous potential for international cooperation in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and what seemed to be missing was a framework for continuing the debate at the global level for sharing experiences and bringing new ideas; this was the role that the Human Rights Council could play.

AISHA AL-MANNAI, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States, said that human rights, democracy and the rule of law were beautiful terms which defined the belief in human beings.  Ms. Al-Mannai noted that the Human Rights Council did not speak of one single type of democracy and said that in its resolutions it was clear that the definition of democracy varied from political, economic, social and cultural perspectives and that democracy was a common human denominator.  The study of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the subject could be used as a reference point for all countries.  The major impediment for democracy was to be found in the leadership and this had been manifested by the Arab revolution and by unimaginable human rights violations that were occurring in Syria and several other Arab countries.  Ms. Al-Mannai  then outlined an agenda to democracy and the rule of law which included a need to train leadership, including political, religious and the media; promote mutual respect and ensure fair and equal treatment of all people, which required the recognition of Palestinians right to an independent State; and fight all forms of extremism.

VIDAR HELGESEN, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that the critical challenge was to turn this debate into real and concrete steps taken by States, and identified four key areas in which democracy could be strengthened through better national and international actions.  First, there was a need to better connect international human rights commitments made by States with democracy at the national level.  Second, it was crucial to respect and promote the integrity of elections so they could serve to build and consolidate democracy.  Third, the United Nations needed to coordinate its work more effectively and step up efforts in order to provide long-term support to countries engaged in constitution building.  This should be done through a non-prescriptive approach, based on the inclusion of citizens and other relevant actors in the political process.  Fourth, the role of democracy, human rights and the rule of law should be enhanced in the post-2015 development framework.    

BRIGITTE BALIPOU, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité, said that human rights had always guided her work as a law practitioner, and that as a citizen of the Central African Republic she had first-hand experience of the politicization of State functions, impunity, lack of dialogue and independence of the judiciary, corruption, restrictions imposed on the freedom of speech of the press, and summary executions.  The collapse of the State and the disappearance of defence forces had left a void in terms of security in her country.  As a result, the State was no longer able to control its own territory and anarchy prevailed.  Public sexual violence was used as a means of humiliating women and entire communities, and a massive displacement of persons had taken place.  The transitional Government should re-establish security throughout the country and return to constitutional order.  It should also re-establish transparency, accountability for the management of public affairs, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and should hold transparent, fair and free presidential elections.

MANUEL RODRIGUEZ CUADROS, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, believed the relationship between democracy, the rule of law and human rights mutually fed into each other.  States had a duty and obligation to guarantee the full exercise of individual and civil and political rights, and to promote the achievement of social, cultural and environmental rights.  The structure of the State was vital if they were to have the proper exercise of human rights.  Democracy had seen normative developments over the years, bringing about the right to democracy.  This emerging right could be traced back to the Universal Declaration of Human Right, but there was also a case in the Inter-American Court that found that the State was duty bound to organise itself in such a way that the exercise of public power was done in a way that ensured the effective enjoyment of human Rights.  The experience in Latin America could be useful.  The main problems observed in the region had to do with the division of powers and with the representative nature of democracy in so far as political parties sometimes saw their capacity to represent their electorate diluted.  They needed to think about international actions and in that regard over the last two decades they did have something that was now established globally, that was democratic clauses within the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  These also existed in Europe and Asia, for example.  
DRISS EL-YAZAMI, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, Morocco, said that while this panel was being held it was true that the Middle East and North Africa had been going through a socio-political process of change.  These upheavals meant that there were new challenges facing the cause of human rights and its defenders.  The upheavals and reforms had made young people visible.  There had been a demographic and educational transition.  There was also accelerated urbanisation.  This was a complex process with many dimensions.  The actors in this new era had quickly realised that they were not speaking the same language or referring to the same concept of man, time, or the border lines of what was public and private.  Building institutions required elections, the elaboration of constitutions, drafting of new laws, and a reconfiguration of the relations between the State and citizens, inter-alia.  It seemed that rigorous country by country diagnoses should be drawn up by the United Nations and the Universal Periodic Review could help in this regard.  Mr. El-Yazami said it was essential to have consistency between different international actors, and that it was also essential to draw up and implement a true international programme for disseminating a human rights culture. 
Discussion

European Union said that democracy was the best form of governance which could enable citizens to reach their full potential.  Promoting human rights and democracy was echoed in all European Union policies.  United States said that democracy did not belong to a single region, because its principles were universal and had taken root around the world, and stressed that democracy and the rule of law were complementary.  Algeria, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that guaranteeing freedom and human rights was indispensable and required the establishment of an environment based on the rule of law.  The Arab Human Rights Court of Justice was working to fulfil the aspirations of the Arab countries.  Peru said that democracy must go beyond periodic elections.  Governments could play a major role in strengthening democracy, which was the most civilized way of resolving disputes.  Romania, speaking on behalf of a group of six States, said that building or rebuilding a democracy required accountability, and the role of Governments in ensuring accountability was crucial.  Civil society and the media also played an important role, so States should take measures to facilitate their work.  Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of four States, said that democracy had always been closely interlinked with human rights, and these were not mere aspirations.  States had the responsibility to ensure that their judiciary was independent and that the civil society and media could function in a free environment.  Thailand said that democracy and human rights were interdependent and that the participation of individuals in free and transparent elections was key to protecting human rights.  Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Groupe Francophone, said that the effective implementation of international instruments was not always respected by all States.  Its Member States had undertaken a series of commitments and measures to strengthen human rights and to promote democracy and the supremacy of law.     

Tunisia said that democracy and the rule of law were inextricably linked with the protection of human rights, and wondered what the responsibility of States was regarding the activities of private companies within and outside their borders.  Bulgaria said that a functioning democracy and an effective rule of law were interdependent.  Bulgaria’s measures to strengthen democracy included the preservation and enhancement of dialogue between the country’s ethnic and religious communities.  Uruguay, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, said that democracy was a universal value which was based on the free expression of the will of the population.  Countries of the region had made a series of agreements to strengthen democratic institutions and to make sure that there would be no repeat of any of the serious human rights violations of the past.  Maldives said that respect for human rights and democracy were interlinked and mutually reinforcing, and emphasized that capacity building in domestic mechanisms and awareness raising were an effective way of promoting the rule of law.  European Disability Forum said that all individuals, including persons with disabilities, should have the same rights.  Unfortunately, only very few persons with disabilities participated in Governments and the right of persons with disabilities to vote was often restricted because of their disability.  Indian Council of South America said that democracy and the rule of law must be exercised based on the will of the people, and stressed that the right to self-determination was a major issue facing countries which still had unresolved issues with regard to indigenous communities living within their borders.

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, said that speakers asked a number of interesting questions and the most fundamental to this discussion was how to ensure the sustainability of democracy.

VIDAR HELGESEN, Secretary-General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that democracy must be owned by citizens and for this to happen, inclusive institutions must be in place; exclusion was typical for dictatorial societies.  It was important to note that dismantling an architecture of exclusion and building inclusivity took time and this was an important message for the international community: do not rush into promulgating constitutions or into holding elections just for sake of doing it.

BRIGITTE BALIPOU, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité, stressed that institutions needed to be inclusive and robust and that participation of everyone must be ensured, particularly in post-conflict situations.  It was worth mentioning that lack of good governance in one country in a region could have a knock-off effect on another State in that region and that was why the international community must be mobilized to establish and maintain democracy.  Combating impunity must be a priority in countries where human rights violations had taken place

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, asked what national priorities should be, particularly in countries in transition; what should be done first?

MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, said that it was essential to legally and constitutionally respond to two requirements of democracy.  First, it was necessary to establish the rule of law because without it, exercise of human rights and democracy was inexistent.  Secondly, access to power through democratic means and channels must be opened and this needed to happen on the basis of free and fair elections. 

AISHA AL-MANNAI, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States, said that she was a strong believer in good governance, which was the basis of democracy and the rule of law.  The Heads of State were the basic tool for the making and development of democracy.  If a Head of State was corrupt then corruption was likely to prevail in the country.  The majority of constitutions in the world contained democracy and the rule of law, but the situation on the ground was sometimes completely different.  It was impossible to have democracy if people could not live in dignity.  Poverty, lack of education and lack of medical services and access to healthcare could affect democracy in practice. 

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and Moderator of the discussion, asked what could be done at the international level and what the United Nations could do.

RADU PODGOREAN, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania, said that best practices and the exchange of information could play an important role in enhancing the role of the United Nations and of regional organizations in the development of democracy and the protection of human rights around the world.  However, for the general framework to function properly peace was important.

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and Moderator of the discussion, asked the next panellist to expand on his experience of action taken at the domestic level. 

DRISS EL-YAZAMI, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, said that the Council had played an important role in helping Morocco to strengthen its own democracy through a participatory process which involved civil society.  An inter-ministerial strategic plan had also been put in place to follow up on recommendations received through the Universal Periodic Review process.  The idea was to create a roadmap with specific paths which the Government could follow.  Coordination, consistency and cooperation with external bodies such as the European Union and other countries such as France and Spain had also played an important role. 

Angola considered that the full exercise of democracy depended upon functional and transparent institutions which took into account inclusive decision making processes and human rights protection, while Australia stressed the importance of the active participation of non-governmental organizations, citizens and women.  The United Nations had a unique role to play as the elaborator of norms on the rule of law and to make sure that those norms were understood, recognized and respected, said Sweden.  Bahrain said that it was strengthening its institutions on the basis of human rights, while Cuba warned that the pressure to impose a Western model of democracy was unacceptable as there was not a single model of democracy and that democracy did not belong to a single nation or region.

Speakers asked for panellists’ comments and thoughts concerning several issues: Poland and Ethiopia asked what further action could be envisaged by the United Nations, Human Rights Council and regional organizations in supporting their members in establishing and maintaining democracy and the rule of law on national and regional levels.  Sierra Leone wished to hear about the experience of the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in documenting the experiences of countries emerging from conflict in building democracy and establishing the rule of law.  What were the means to strengthen the participation of civil society, private sector, communities and religious leaders in promoting democracy and the rule of law, asked Indonesia?

Iran said that no single model could become the trademark of a country or region and that the good and bad democracy game was not acceptable.  United Kingdom said that, while there was no single model of democracy, respect for human rights was a universal value and it was crucial that States upheld the rule of law and prevented abuses of State power and freedom of expression was a key element contributing to good governance.   Algeria said that while countries in its region were pursuing their democratic aspirations it was important to recognise that there was no one model for democracy and the assistance of the international community should be delivered with respect for States’ sovereignty.  China said that promoting and protecting human rights was closely related to democracy and the rule of law, which were a common aspiration of all peoples but there was not a single model; the decision belonged to the people and China was building a socialist system in which the rule of law was respected.  Norway said that democracy and human rights were inseparable, there was no workable definition of democracy that did not take rule of law into account, and broad participation meant that the government had to respond to the needs of its citizens; a human rights based democracy was the best guarantee for stability.  Maarij Foundation said that democracy was the government of the majority but human rights was the other side of the equation and the promotion of equality; it expressed concern about the situation of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar; and the Association of World Citizens, in relation to calls for the development of a universal culture of human rights, highlighted efforts needed for a global awareness moving towards a new humanism for the twenty-first century.

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, said that it was a very interesting debate and it had been interesting to see that there were different views of what democracy was and how it could be achieved.  The discussion had ranged from literacy to freedom of the press.  How important was freedom of the press to democracy, human rights and the rule of law?

AISHA AL-MANNAI, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States, said that of course the press played a vital role.  In training workshops it was important to include programmes for journalists and the media.  It was vital and yet there were certain safeguards, certain restrictions that had to be complied with.  There was a certain degree of consensus on the point that there was no single model of democracy.  Democracy in general was based on foundations that were universally shared and these should be respected by all, just like the foundations of the house, even though there was no single model.  In her Parliament, a number of committees had been set up, including one on legislative matters and human rights, and on the rights of women and rights of the child.  The Arab Parliament did not have the power to take decisions per se but it did have the authority to provide guidance and hold workshops.

VIDAR HELGESEN, Secretary General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said that freedom of expression was the single most important catalyst for other freedoms and human rights and therefore freedom of the press was absolutely essential as an enabler of this.  In practical terms, it shed light on secret abuse or excessive use of Government power, as had been seen recently.  Media and press freedom could also give a voice to marginalised groups and enhance their voice in political processes. 

MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, noted the importance of the capacity and ability of individuals and groups from society to be able to express their thoughts and views freely without any restriction from the State, in order to contribute to good governance, through transparency and open debate and discussion of all issues regarding society as a whole.  Freedom of expression in all countries had limitations but these could not be such that they would run in the face of the values of a democratic society.  In many countries freedom of expression was sometimes at odds with expression that may contain within them racist views of racial discrimination and this had to be understood to be a democratic value.  There could be many models of democracy.  They needed to take out ideology from the debate.  What was important was the separation of power, without which democratic space was reduced. 

RADU PODGOREAN, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania, said that the freedom of the media was a precondition for the respect of human rights, and that it was impossible to speak of fair and free elections without freedom of expression.  It was therefore essential for States to protect and promote the freedom of the media. 

BRIGITTE BALIPOU, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité, said that transitional justice was of vital importance for countries which had just come out of conflict or a dictatorship.  The specificities of each country should be taken into account when devising mechanisms which would deal with crimes and reconciliation.  

DRISS EL-YAZAMI, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, said that it was important to stress the idea that certain rights could not be rejected because of religious or cultural differences.  There were rights which had been fundamental throughout history.

Concluding Remarks

IMOGEN FOULKES, BBC correspondent based in Geneva and panel Moderator, requested panellists, in their closing remarks, to aim to summarise the discussion and to provide some key recommendations for the Council.

DRISS EL-YAZAMI, President of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council, said that a lot had been said about elections during the discussion; however, the question of participation remained.  The question was how to ensure that people participated in democracy, including elections, and human rights institutions were an important component in this regard.  According to the World Health Organization, 10 to 15 per cent of the population suffered from disabilities so it was important to think of ways and means to include persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Governments were active in this regard but it was also important to engage the business world, parliaments and other stakeholders.

MANUEL RODRIGUEZ CUADROS, Ambassador of Peru to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, addressed what the United Nations and the Council should do to promote democracy.  Since the 1990s a number of normative instruments had been taken, on democracy, rule of law and human rights.  In order to have a holistic approach to human rights, which reflected the interrelations between these aspects, the exercise of democracy and the rule of law and its impact on human rights could be introduced as a unique point of reference.

BRIGITTE BALIPOU, Member of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité, emphasised resolution 13/25 which was causing real problems in certain countries.  It made it obligatory for States to include certain provisions but in Africa it had unfortunately not all been incorporated in legislation.  There were difficulties in involving women in the management and settlement of disputes.  In the area of impunity in certain African countries, there were many difficulties when it came to punishing perpetrators of human rights violations.  Civil society organizations had to take a strong stance to denounce all violations of human rights which the people were subjected to.

VIDAR HELGESEN, Secretary General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, in response to the question about what could be done, saw the strong need to move from the normative to the realities on the ground, and that intense international discussion that would be on the post-2015 agenda would be an important move in that respect.  The United Nations and the international community must move in this direction in order to address the critical crisis of representation and participation.  Interestingly, the United Nations had carried out two surveys, one among citizens, and one for Governments on what their priorities were for the post-2015 agenda.

AISHA AL-MANNAI, Vice-President of Arab Parliament, League of the Arab States, said that a body should be established to supervise the enforcement of laws in every country, and underlined the importance of dialogue.  A meeting was underway between the Americas and the Islamic world and that type of dialogue could not but strengthen democracy and offer assistance to vulnerable people. 

RADU PODGOREAN, Secretary of State for Political Analysis and Relations with Parliament of Romania, said that it was important to understand what democracy stood for and what human rights were.

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For use of the information media; not an official record