H.E. Ms N.TUYA, Minister for External Relations of Mongolia
on Agenda Item 39:
Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate
new or restored democracies
54th UNGA Session , New York, 29 November 1999
As I address this august assembly on the issue of New and Restored Democracies, my mind goes back to the events of ten years ago, when the first winds of change came to blow across my homeland, Mongolia, when, defying the winter cold, crowds gathered in the streets to attend the first ever rallies for democracy. It was in December 1989. At that time we, in Mongolia, knew little about democracy; we were profoundly unfamiliar with the concept of human rights; and our knowledge about the world around us was utterly biased. Today, as we look back, we can see that what we have achieved in Mongolia, over the past decade, in building the institutions of democracy, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, unleashing private initiative, and developing our external relations has constituted a major advance towards a self-governing democratic society, a private sector-led economy, and a closer association with the international community. The past ten years have been for all of us in Mongolia a demanding yet rewarding decade of learning - and unlearning – which greatly broadened our understanding of the policies we should be pursuing to ensure a better life for us and was marked, as a whole, by a significant progress in our drive to simultaneously reform the nation’s political and economic system. As a citizen of Mongolia, I feel proud that my country has shown such a robust commitment to change and is willing to persevere on the reform path.
In the area of political reform we introduced and could sustain a vibrant multiparty democracy. Democratic institutions have been solidly installed. Through periodic, free and fair elections, through free press and media, through various NGOs, the people are exercising their sovereign right of participation in national decision-making. The stability and viability of Mongolia’s democratic institutions, the solidity of the culture of popular participation have passed a test of time in 3 parliamentary and 3 presidential elections, all held in a free and fair manner since 1990. The new Constitution of Mongolia, incorporating and reflecting these fundamental changes, was adopted on 16 January 1992. It guarantees all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, of the press, equality before the law as well as the independence of the judiciary. The Constitutional Court has emerged as a strong defender of democracy and human rights. Informed civil society has emerged. Local self-governance is being strengthened. National debate on various policy issues has become a normal feature of life introducing transparency in policy-making.
One of the most valuable achievements of the democratization was the change in the people's attitude and mentality. Political freedom and democracy empowered the people and released their entrepreneurial and creative energy, thus facilitating their active participation in the economic, social and political processes. We firmly believe that the feeling of being able to influence decisions that directly affect one’s life is one of the sweetest rewards of democracy.
The Government of the Democratic Coalition, which came to power as a result of the 1996 parliamentary elections, set forth an ambitious program of democratization, good governance and economic liberalization. Over the recent years Mongolia has been able, inter alia, to sustain an average annual growth rate of 3.5 per cent and ensure a steady decrease of inflation from 53 percent in 1996 down to 6 percent in 1998. As a result of the privatization process and efforts to support the development of private enterprises, the private sector produces today over 60 per cent of the country's GDP. Almost all of the 32 mln heads of livestock is privately owned. Land privatization, where feasible, is being contemplated.
We firmly believe that transparency and accountability, better public management and robust civil society are the essential ingredients of a sustained development. The on-going public administration reform envisages enactment of a bill on public sector financing and management, anti-corruption policies, continued legal reform, improved law enforcement and further decentralization.
All in all, it could be concluded that the main political and legal foundation has been put in place for consolidating democratic transformations. Here, I wish to emphasize that our accomplishments of today were made possible with the unreserved support and assistance of the international community. On behalf of the Government of Mongolia I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the organizations of the United Nations system, multilateral and bilateral donors for their support of our efforts to build a democratic society. By embarking on the road of democracy, pursuing open, multi-pillared and mutually beneficial foreign policy, my country has acquired new partners, both among the established and emerging democracies.
Still, as we assess our achievements - ten years later – from the perspective of what has been delivered in terms of reducing poverty, creating jobs, and ensuring better living standards for the population we feel that there is still a long way to go for us to fulfil the promise of democracy. In Bucharest, Romania, two years ago, the representatives of new and restored democracies noted that ”a democratic system of government is the best model to ensure a framework of liberties for lasting solutions to the political, economic and social problems that our societies face”. We fully endorse that statement which, in fact, called on new and restored democracies to take responsibility not only for political affairs of their societies but also for ensuring better living standards for their populations, providing better health, better education and better environment for them. If the promise of democracy were to be gauged in terms of its contribution to all these, we, indeed, have a lot more to do. As our experience suggests, the greatest challenge that committed leaders of a developing country with a transitional economy and a new democracy face is to manage the tension that exists between democracy seen and perceived as better life and the harsh reality of financial constraints, lack of resources, structural inefficiencies and bad practices that need time to be fully addressed and resolved. In that sense, the 10th anniversary of the democratic movement in Mongolia to be observed on 10 December, represents an important opportunity for us to take stock of the past experience and draw lessons with a view to formulating a better vision for future.
Since the first international conference of new or restored democracies held in Manila back in 1988, democracy has emerged as a strongly pronounced phenomenon on a global scene. Many States and their peoples have embarked upon a process of democratization for the first time. Others have moved to restore their democratic roots. Hence, gaining a growing number of adherents across cultural, social and economic lines, democracy is increasingly being recognized as an appropriate response to a wide range of human concerns, and an ingredient for both sustainable development and lasting peace.
The globalization of economic activity and communications, continued and evolving threats to security, progress and development have generated a host of multifaceted challenges to both new and established democracies at the dawn of the new millennium. Here, I fully concur with the Secretary-General’s conclusion contained in his report (A/54/492) that while assistance to new or restored democracies should continue and increase in scope and magnitude, debate about the measures to be taken by established democracies to address the above challenges in the coming decades should not be neglected.
The international conferences of new or restored democracies, as an open forum with an active participation of Governments, intergovernmental bodies, academia and NGOs, represent a fitting assembly to share experiences and lessons learned as well as to explore innovative approaches in meeting the existing and emerging challenges to democracy. In this respect, we believe that the upcoming Fourth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, to be held in early December 2000 in Cotonou, Benin under the theme “Democracy, Peace, Security and Development” will enrich our understanding of democracy and of its many components, of the linkages between democracy and development, and of the ways and means to better address the above challenges. My delegation also shares the hope expressed by the Secretary-General that the Benin conference will, inter alia, examine imaginative ways and means to cooperate with other initiatives to strengthen democratic transformation throughout the world. One such initiative is the Emerging Democracies Forum held in Sana’a, Yemen last June, which brought together a diverse group of countries whose democratic advances are less known. The statement in the Sana’a Declaration to the effect that the international community has tended to focus on countries that are considered strategically more important or are in crisis, deserves, in our view, a closer consideration.
Mongolia wishes to commend the efforts exerted by the Government of Romania since the Third International Conference of the New or Restored Democracies to implement its important recommendations, including creation of a follow-up mechanism and elaboration of a code of democratic conduct. We believe that today’s deliberations will help command an effective support on the part of the international community for the “Code of Democratic Conduct”, which represents a basic set of democratic norms for Governments. It will, in our view, also contribute to the affirmation of a culture of democracy.
The Government of Mongolia commends the manifold assistance provided by the United Nations to new or restored democracies ranging from support for promoting a culture of democracy through electoral assistance to institution-and-capacity building for democratization. In Mongolia, for one, the programme on “Decentralization and Democracy Support” is being actively implemented in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme. With its impartiality and universal legitimacy as well as its Charter-based purpose of promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, the United Nations is, in our view, uniquely placed to provide such assistance at the request of Member States.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I wish to emphasize the importance of holding an open dialogue, as we are having today, on challenges faced by countries in their efforts to develop, restore and consolidate democracy. There is much we can learn from each other, there is more we can achieve together.