Saturday, June 18, 2011

Should the UN Allow Non-Democratic Nations?

Blog reader Gary Stark sent us a short video in which he argues that the United Nations should not permit the participation of non-democratic nations.   The video is two-and-a-half minutes long.  Law professors might consider using it as a discussion tool for classes on international law or international organizations.

 

(mew)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/international_law/2011/06/stark.html

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Interesting but how do we define democratic vs non-democratic nations?
- Go ask the people in Cameroon who are still reeking of anger over the French intervention in Ivory Coast, if they see the big deciders of the UN as democratic countries
- Is democracy measured by the free exercise of rights such as freedom of speech? If so, what was the big deal with Wikileaks?
- I recently attended a Worldbank presentation about the 2011 development report. There was an ambassador of a Middle-East country who has been experiencing some turmoil since the beginning of the year. He officially defected and he asked: "When we talk about democracy, how do we explain the fact that some countries have been holding elections, with the same people ruling the country for several decades, and then we have the international community saying that the whole process is a democratic one? Was it democratic for the populations or for the international community?"
- Let's go back to Ivory Coast with the 2010 presidential elections. Laurent Gbagbo is out and that makes me one happy Ivorian citizen. However, would we call the current regime a democratic one?

If the UN decided to allow non-democratic countries, there would be no UN because let's be serious and have a good look at the countries which make the bulk of the general assembly or even the security council, how many could be called democratic?

Posted by: A passerby | Jun 19, 2011 4:51:55 PM


> Interesting but how do we define democratic vs non-democratic nations?

How do we define the rule of law or freedom of speech? Just because democracy is difficult to quantify doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I propose we vote on the specifics. Define democracy through democracy.

Actually a group within the UN did a reasonable job...
http://www.demcoalition.org/pdf/CD_participation_criteria.pdf

> Go ask the people in Cameroon who are still reeking of anger over the French intervention in Ivory Coast, if they see the big deciders of the UN as democratic countries

I didn't say they were democracies. And btw, the purpose of a United Democratic Nations would be to improve existing democracies, not just create new ones.

> Is democracy measured by the free exercise of rights such as freedom of speech? If so, what was the big deal with Wikileaks?

I would say that freedom of speech is clearly a criteria for democracy. And even though someone likely broke US law in the Wikileaks case and would legitimately be subject to prosecution, I was happy to see it happen. I personally believe in 100% transparency of governance. As for Julian, I don't see that anything can be done to him since he's not bound by US law to my understanding.

> how do we explain the fact that some countries have been holding elections, with the same people ruling the country for several decades

While it's possible for someone to be legitimately elected multiple times, long terms are certainly an warning sign of dictatorship. No doubt one of the criteria for membership in the UDN would be an electoral process that's verifiable.

Another warning sign? When the president's son becomes president. Oops.

> Let's go back to Ivory Coast with the 2010 presidential elections. Laurent Gbagbo is out and that makes me one happy Ivorian citizen. However, would we call the current regime a democratic one?

I don't follow Ivorian politics. You tell us.

> If the UN decided to allow non-democratic countries, there would be no UN because let's be serious and have a good look at the countries which make the bulk of the general assembly or even the security council, how many could be called democratic?

I would support a United Democratic Nations even if it had only a handful of members. A United Democratic Nations would not be about leading by force, but by example. I would be happy even if that was the ONLY result. We need to start walking the walk, actually acting democratic in our foreign policy if we're ever to see a more peaceful world.

gary
http://www.UnitedDemocraticNations.org

Posted by: gary | Jun 22, 2011 10:30:12 PM

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