Program Areas

Program Areas

A United Nations Special Rapporteur on Democracy

Opening of the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, 2019. UN Photo/Violaine Martin

A United Nations Special Rapporteur on Democracy

by Maartje Mensink

February 2023

Encouraged by support for a new mandate to be established by the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) of a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy (UNRoD) ahead of the Summit for Democracy in 2021, Democracy Without Borders (DWB) performed extensive research on the possibility of such a rapporteur which is combined in this report. Among other things, an expert round table was held in January 2023, the first of its kind to focus on this proposal.

A variety of UN resolutions and international instruments express democratic rights

This assessment demonstrates the long standing relationship between the UN and democracy, and shows that the UN has been vocal in its support for democracy from its foundation up to the present. The democratic rights expressed in a variety of UN resolutions and international instruments are under threat in many countries and a UNRoD could help protect and strengthen democracy if the mandate is set up in the right way.

The report analyzes the Special Procedures system of the HRC in general. Keeping its in-built limitations in mind, the study suggests a UNRoD mandate that works similar to the other Special Rapporteurs, as an ombudsperson and expert who provides an institutional and structural analysis of the state of democratic rights, makes recommendations for improvements, and identifies best practices with the help of an advisory board, in close collaboration with the other rapporteurs and based on broad input from citizens, civil society groups and other stakeholders. For the purpose of this mandate, a definition of democracy can be built upon language included in collectively agreed UN resolutions and take a rights-based approach.

Support of the creation of the mandate

The report includes official conclusions and recommendations of DWB which are also available as a separate policy brief. Based on its research and consultations, the organization supports the creation of a UNRoD mandate. Among other things, the organization “recommends that like-minded states committed to democracy seek a swift establishment of the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on Democracy by the UN Human Rights Council. Negotiations on this new mandate should include relevant experts, researchers, civil society representatives, parliamentarians and other stakeholders.” Further, DWB “welcomes and joins coordinated civil society efforts for the establishment of this mandate.”

Maartje Mensink
Maartje Mensink is a third year BA International Studies student at Leiden University, where she specializes in the region East Asia with the study of mandarin. At Democracy Without Borders she was investigating the possibility of a new UN mandate, that of Special Rapporteur on Democracy.