Program Areas

Program Areas

Group calls for “swift establishment” of UN Rapporteur on Democracy

The UN headquarters in Geneva, seat of the Human Rights Council. Image: John Samuel, Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Democracy Without Borders, a civil society group dedicated to promoting global democracy, calls on “like-minded states committed to democracy” to seek “a swift establishment of the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on Democracy by the UN Human Rights Council.”

In a statement released today, Democracy Without Borders (DWB) expresses its belief that “a UN-mandated Special Rapporteur on Democracy can help strengthen and protect democratic rights and institutions, revitalize democracy and promote improvements.” According to recent assessments, many of the world’s countries either experienced a democratic decline or moved further towards authoritarianism over the past years. The new mandate is suggested as a potential way to help “counter this trend”, the group’s Executive Director, Andreas Bummel, explained.

The call for a Special Rapporteur is extremely important and very timely

According to DWB, there is a broad agreement among experts and pro-democracy groups that the mandate is needed. “The call for establishing the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on Democracy is extremely important and very timely”, said Gulnara Shahinian who was the UN’s first Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. At an expert roundtable convened recently by DWB in collaboration with a number of pro-democracy groups from across the world, Staffan Lindberg, Director of the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg, noted that the need “couldn’t be greater”. 

The policy statement released by DWB notes that “the work of this rapporteur can be based on the UN’s support of democracy and numerous resolutions and instruments adopted in this regard continuously up to the present”.

An additional research paper published by DWB refers to democratic rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The Human Rights Council and its predecessor have been outlining and reaffirming the UN’s support of these democratic rights continuously”, said Maartje Mensink, DWB associate and student of the International Studies program of Leiden University, who drafted the paper. Among other things, it refers to a resolution adopted unanimously by the Human Rights Council two years ago.

According to DWB, “the Special Rapporteur will be in a position to conduct investigations, consultations, and research, to publish assessments and reports and to make statements and recommendations related to the state of democratic rights and institutions in UN member states and in general. While the rapporteur will need to address infringements, limitations and deficiencies and how those could be overcome, the mandate on the other hand should also include identifying and highlighting good practices and innovations in improving the quality of democracy.”

The organization suggests that the mandate needs to include “an advisory board composed of experts and practitioners in democracy research, monitoring and promotion”. It calls on like-minded states to “include relevant experts, researchers, civil society representatives, parliamentarians and other stakeholders” in negotiations on the new mandate and “welcomes and joins coordinated civil society efforts” for its establishment.

“This year the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated. This needs to be used as an opportunity to reinforce the UN’s commitment to democratic rights and principles. The creation of a UN Rapporteur on Democracy would be a major step forward in this regard”, said Bummel.