Summary of The Interaction Between Democracy and Development"

Summary of

The Interaction Between Democracy and Development

by Boutros Boutros-Ghali et al

Summary written by Brett Reeder, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Boutros-Ghali, et al. The Interaction Between Democracy and Development. Paris, France: United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2002.

In 1998, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established the International Panel on Democracy and Development (IPDD). This panel was made up of international figures and was chaired by Boutros Boutros-Ghali. The Interaction Between Democracy and Development recalls the discussions of this panel and highlights its insights. The panel began by discussing democracy and development separately, and then discussed their interrelation, globalization and the proper role of the international community.

According to The Interaction Between Democracy and Development, democracy embodies four basic principals: freedom, justice, free participation of citizens and human rights. These "democratic principals" are thought to "...constitute a fundamental source of common value that can be described as the common heritage of humankind." Though common to all "true democracies," these principals will take on different forms, and will be realized by different means, in different societies. It is thought that democracy should reflect the specific social, cultural and economic context of a given society.

In doing so, however, a democratic society must be aware of three potential pitfalls. First, the domination of the majority does not constitute democracy. Minority groups deserve representation and without it, democratic governance is simply a tyranny of the majority. Second, minority political representation in and of itself does not guarantee harmony and in some cases can exacerbate problems. Finally, despite a need for cultural diversity in politics, minority status should not be the basis for access to power. That is, ethnicity, cultural or religious ties should not be prerequisites to political power (even for minority groups).

To avoid these pitfalls, a culture of democracy must be established (in addition to the physical structures of democracy such as a parliament). This culture should include a tolerance and respect for others, dialogue between groups, and a sense of pluralism. In other words, democracy only works when people respect differences, discuss them, and are willing to share power. Without these concepts ingrained into a culture, democracy may have free participation of citizens, but the other democratic values of freedom, justice and human rights are likely to be neglected.

In defining development, this book went beyond the common conception of development as economic advancement. According to the IPDD, it includes the "...whole range of economic, social and cultural progress to which peoples aspire." Thus, while economic advancement is a piece of development, the IPDD's definition includes social and cultural advancement as well. As such, development (like democracy) should be tailored to cultural contexts. If local social and cultural contexts are not taken into account during development, an impression of the "colonization" of local culture by "world culture" may result, exacerbating "patterns of withdrawal" and possibly leading to increased violence.

In reference to the relationship between democracy and development, the IPDD stated that there is " widespread agreement that a close relationship exists between them." This relationship is thought to be complementary and mutually reinforcing. A "true democracy" is thought to require a minimum standard of living, which in turn requires a minimum level of development. On the other hand, efficient development is thought to require democratic governance. Further, the IPDD claims that "democracy, development and peace form a trilogy, a common purpose." This is thought to be because democracies generally solve their internal disputes peacefully and because many conflicts have a material root that could be eliminated through successful development. Thus, though distinctly different phenomena, democracy, development, and peace are thought to be highly interrelated.

This interrelation is increasingly important due to globalization. According to the IPDD, globalization can be "...understood to mean increased political, economic and social interdependence between all countries in the world..." and this is thought to be "inevitable". While globalization can be a genuine asset for democracy, it can also threaten "democratic values." The panel recognized that the current form of globalization has had mixed results, in some cases helping to spread democratic values, and in others leading to exploitation. In part, the negative effects of globalization are thought to be a result of the undemocratic nature of international relations.

Currently, international relations are colored by an unequal power relationship based on relative economic and military might. In many cases, globalization has only exacerbated this inequality. In order to prevent this, the IPDD suggests that "...globalization should be subject to democratic regulations." This would require the inclusion of democratic principals in international monetary organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as international political organizations including the UN.

Indeed, the panel questioned the legitimacy of the UN to intervene in democratic affairs, as it lacks "true democracy" internally. In the UN, only the Security Council has the power to pass resolutions backed with coercive force, yet the Security Council is not democratically elected. Additionally, the panel questioned whether it was "...legitimate to encourage democracy through external actions..." since the UN charter "...requires the sovereignty of the state to be respected in accordance with the principle of non-interference." In the end, the panel decided that the UN can, in fact, legitimately encourage both democracy and human rights through external forces.

The rationalization for this legitimacy stems in part from the idea that these "democratic values" (freedom, justice, free participation of citizens and human rights) are part of "common human heritage" and in part from the "inevitability" of globalization. That is, since we are becoming more and more interdependent (due to globalization), and since democratic values are thought to be values common to all people, their encouragement is not seen as a violation of sovereignty. However, the panel was highly critical of the way in which democratic values are currently being encouraged by the international community.

In particular, they questioned the application of economic sanctions. Economic sanctions often hurt the most vulnerable people in society, while leaving the powerful relatively untouched. This increases material disparity and can lead to a relative increase in power for despots, as the citizens become more dependent on them and at the same time lose resources necessary to resist them. Thus the panel suggests that the real effect of economic sanctions be carefully analyzed before implementation. Further, only "targeted sanctions" (sanctions which hurt the powerful, not the powerless) should be employed.

While economic sanctions target individuals impeding democracy and development, the panel identified several cultural impediments including religious fanaticism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, economic inequality and the excessive centralization of power. In order to overcome these impediments, the panel suggested the promotion of education, freedom of communication, free, fair and truly representative government, transparency at every level, a protection of individual and collective rights and judicial reform. Of these, education and judicial reform are seen as the most vital. Education is important because democratic values can literally be taught by an educational system, and education is essential to modern development. Judicial reform is important because a fully functioning judiciary is necessary to establish justice.

According to the IPDD, justice through the rule of law is a necessary precursor to efficient development and effective democracy. This justice must be legitimate, transparent and accountable, and the laws it is based on must be clear, fair and reliable. Without such justice, development will be stymied by corruption, the theft of intellectual property, a lack of international investment and unenforceable contracts. Democracy also suffers from a lack of justice as corrupt and incompetent leaders can take advantage of the populace.

According to The Interaction Between Democracy and Development. "Democracy and development are complementary, and they reinforce each other." Further, both democracy and development are thought to encourage peace. Thus it is thought that,world peace can be achieved more rapidly through the democratization and development of the world. The IPPD views this as the responsibility of the international community and in particular the UN (despite some legitimacy concerns). Thus, according to the IPPD, world peace will be achieved when the international community simultaneously encourages democracy and development throughout the world.