29-30 June 2009
THE NECESSARY STRENGTHENING OF DEMOCRACY
Socialists and social democrats have always stood apart from other political groupings by calling for political democracy, a guarantor of civil justice, accompanied by economic democracy which is a guarantor of social justice.
Democracy, in its political dimension, is based on a multi-party system, with free, transparent and regular elections held on pre-determined dates, and the alternance of power. Democracy must be a guarantor of freedom of expression, the right to association, good governance, the fight against corruption and the exercise of all civic rights. Democracy is inseparable from the Rule of Law which ensures the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and the magistrates.
We affirm as well that democracy, whose basic principles are universal, cannot be imposed based on a model that comes from abroad, nor can it prosper without social justice or without development. The situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan, demonstrates the impossibility of making citizens adhere by force to a model. In Iran, following the recent Presidential elections of 12 June 2009, the Iranian citizens expressed their wish in a massive way for a democratic, pluralist and transparent political system. This was followed by bloody repression against peaceful demonstrators, the arrest of political leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and restrictions imposed on the media and electronic means of communication. The SI calls on the Iranian authorities to free the citizens arrested during the last weeks and to respond to the demands of the Iranian people for an objective and complete examination of all the electoral procedures.
However, democracy is not only the organisation of regular, free and transparent elections, even if this is a pre-requisite. It also involves the democratic organisation of society, politically and legally, with respect for full freedoms, including the economy and social and environmental protection.
In its Dakar Declaration of 20 June, the SI Africa Committee states that democracy in Africa is in danger as a result of pseudo-democratic tyrannies that are kept in power by the perversion of democratic values such as the frequent manipulation of the norms of accession and devolution of power, and the ‘monarchic’ tendencies in some states where designated heirs are installed in public and political office with the aim of preparing or organising "by electoral means" a pre-determined succession to power. This picture is made worse by the breakdown of electoral systems that suffer from a lack of trust and credibility and by the resurgence of military coups that interrupt the democratic process.
Noting that the old institutions and regulations in place are no longer able to face the changes in the world, the Africa Committee considered it necessary to work for the promotion of a truly democratic culture by adopting shared values which are accepted and respected by the political actors, the citizens, the judiciary and the media.
This democratic culture, necessary as it is, will not be able to prosper without development. For how are we to motivate the citizens of countries in favour of development where hunger prevails, where a great part of the population feels threatened by famine and do not have access to education because of a lack of school infrastructure nearby or simply because of great poverty? Free and transparent elections cannot exist without choice, and free choice is not possible where people live in poverty without hope for the future and without access to education.
In addition, how can we organise “education for all” in a world where food security, even when it has been recognised as a human right, is not guaranteed and in which more than a billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition and die of hunger, while others live under threat?
It is our duty to include in our deliberations about democracy, the economic and social dimension and equitable trade and sustainable development, without which our exercise would risk limiting itself to pious words without a real effect for the people who still suffer throughout the world - and not only in Africa - from a democratic deficit. This requires a frank and mutually respectful dialogue between states and continents, including all the aspects involved in this matter.
Our commitment to democracy must be translated into a daily behaviour for the defence not only of human rights with all its components, but also for respecting the environment and biodiversity, because in them rests the survival of our planet, for peace, fraternity among peoples and solidarity.
In this way, we will avoid making democracy, to paraphrase Lafontaine when talking of friendship, a word commonly used because all people call themselves democrats, but instead, the most meaningful word in the world.