MESSAGE FROM KOFI ANNAN TO SANA’A
12 January 2004
RULE OF LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS ARE VITAL FOR DEMOCRACY, ESPECIALLY IN
ARAB WORLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN MESSAGE TO REGIONAL CONFERENCE
Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the
Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights, and
the Role of the International Criminal Court, held in Sana’a, Yemen,
from 10 to 12 January, as delivered by Danilo Turk, Assistant
Secretary-General for Political Affairs:
I send my greetings to all participants in the Inter-Governmental
Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights, and the Role of the
International Criminal Court. I am glad that this conference is being
held in Yemen, where important steps have been taken in recent years
to promote democracy and human rights. I am also particularly pleased
that civil society representatives are taking part in your
discussions, since non-governmental organizations play a crucial role
in promoting theparticipation of all sectors of society.
In recent decades, our world has witnessed a growing and welcome
commitment to democracy. We have seen a steady trend towards the
establishment of democratic forms of government. Today, from Latin
America to Africa, and from Europe to Asia, democracy is more widely
accepted and practised than ever before.
Democracy means more than the functioning of effective representative
institutions. It means upholding fundamental principles particularly
the rule of law and respect for human rights. The rule of law and its
pre-eminent condition, equality before the law is the platform upon
which the edifice of democracy rests. Respect for human rights is
vital for the democratic edifice to stand. In fact, a symbiotic
relation exists between the two: human rights are necessary for the
functioning of democracy, and a functioning democracy is essential to
ensure the full enjoyment of human rights.
Effective democratic systems allow for the peaceful articulation of
demands and resolution of competing claims, thereby promoting a sense
of justice and social unity. They are thus vital antidotes to
extremism and terrorism. Violent extremists find fewer recruits in
societies where government is by the consent of the people, the rule
of law is respected, and human rights are guaranteed and promoted.
Democracy belongs to the people. It cannot be imposed from
theoutside.Different national characters and cultures produce
different sorts of democratic systems. However, effective
international cooperation is important in encouraging the building of
true democracy. Your conference is a welcome instance of this
cooperation. For our part, the United Nations, its agencies and
programmes, give more and more assistance to democratic processes
throughout the world. We stand ready to expand the help we give.
Justice and accountability are essential for the rule of law to be
upheld in democratic societies. At the international level, the
creation of the International Criminal Court was an historic advance
in efforts to support justice and prevent impunity. However, the pace
of ratification of the Rome Statute needs to be stepped up in some
regions. I urge those of you who are government officials to work
towards that goal.
The principles I have mentioned matter in all parts of the world. But
they are particularly vital in your region, where deficits of freedom,
women’s empowerment, education and knowledge continue to impede the
creative potential of societies, breeding frustration and despair.
Strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law is critical
to achieving social progress and modernization, and to meeting the
challenges of development.
That is why I welcome the convening of this conference. It is an
important sign of the commitment of the Arab world to the
strengthening of democracy, and of the support of the international
community for Arab efforts towards that goal. In that spirit of
friendship and respect, I wish you every success in your
deliberations, and I look forward to learning of the results you
achieve and the practical steps you will take.