In the twentieth century claims for democracy were made by many, yet few states became democracies. In the early twenty-first century democracy appears to be ubiquitous. Western European and North American states have been joined by former communist states and dictatorships in the ‘family of democracies’, while wars continue to be waged to depose dictators and to bring democracy and freedom to previously suppressed people. In addition to this, democracy can be found in classrooms or workplaces. Not all democracies are the same – a
Whether called pressure groups, NGOs, social movement organisations or organised civil society, the value of ‘groups’ to the policy process, to economic growth, to governance, to political representation and to democracy has always been contested. However, there seems to be a contemporary resurgence in this debate, largely centred on their democratising potential: can groups effectively link citizens to political institutions and policy processes? Are groups an antidote to emerging democratic deficits? Or do they themselves face challenges in demonstrating their legitimacy and representativeness? This book debates the democratic potential and practice of groups, focusing on the vibrancy of internal democracies, and modes of accountability with those who join such groups and to the constituencies they advocate for. It draws on literatures covering national, European and global levels, and presents empirical material from the UK and Australia.
Democracy is a powerful idea with deep historical roots. Emancipatory in character, claims for democracy have instigated and responded to considerable social and political change, challenging established ideas of political rule and the nature of society. Yet active engagement in democracy support has long been anathema to the UN because democracy support in a world of sovereign states means intervention in domestic political affairs and, worse for some, the promotion of Western ideas. Despite this, today democracy has an international
The idea that democracy encompasses more than processes and structures has been expressed by the UN and its Secretaries-General on several occasions. However, while the three visions of democracy explored thus far – civilisation, elections, governance – have all found expression at the UN in both ideational and practice form, democracy as governance did mark a conceptual and practical endpoint for the UN democracy agenda. This chapter then takes a different turn and looks towards the future, analysing the shape a UN democracy agenda
The ‘internationalisation’ of democracy continued apace through the 1990s. Fukuyama’s claim that liberalism, and with it democracy, had prevailed over other ideologies appeared to come true as democracy became a major force in the new world order. Now with the support of the UN and UN missions as a broad platform for implementation, democracy became a cornerstone of what the UN did and how it expected to solve the problems it faced. The institutionalisation of an election-focussed democracy practice had been determined not only by
This book provides a critical, conceptual-historical analysis of democracy at the United Nations, detailed in four ‘visions’ of democracy: civilization, elections, governance and developmental democracy. ‘I know it when I see it’ were the famous words of US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on defining obscenity. It is with the same conviction and (un)certainty that liberal peacebuilders and democracy promoters have used democracy to achieve both the immediate goals of peacekeeping and the broader, global mission of the UN. Today, democracy may have gained an international dimension, yet its success as an organizational practice depends on how it has been defined. Drawing on political theory and democratization scholarship, the book questions the meaning of this well-‘known’ idea. It analyses the way in which the UN, through its Secretary-General, relevant agencies and organizational practices, have thought about, conceptualized and used democracy. The book shows that while the idea of democracy's ‘civilizing’ nature has played a prominent part in its use by the UN, an early focus on sovereignty and self-determination delayed the emergence of the democracy agenda until the 1990s. Today, a comprehensive democracy agenda incorporates not only elections but a broad range of liberal-democratic institutions. Despite this, the agenda is at an impasse, both practically and philosophically. The book questions whether an extension of the UN democracy agenda to include ‘developmental democracy’ is feasible.
As the previous chapter showed, the role and place of democracy have always been expressions of its time and the historic, systemic constraints placed upon it. To understand the limitations of democracy in today’s international dimension, be that a ‘right to democratic governance’ or the promotion of democratic statehood through international organisations such as the UN, is to understand the limitations it faced in its historical development. As the UN is as much a result of its historical context and changes as it is a vehicle for them
The idea of democracy clearly has been an integral part of the UN since its inception. Yet the meaning of democracy has evolved over time through its development and application as a UN practice. Definitions of democracy have been shaped in reaction to the organisation’s changing environment, be that in the context of decolonisation, ethnic wars or the process of democratisation (the Third Wave). In this sense, democracy, or the practice of democracy assistance, was part of an attempt at problem-solving. Because democracy served a
In the 1990s democracy gained an international dimension. Democracy became part of the UN agenda as the end of the Cold War promised not only an end to the stalemate between East and West at the UN, but also the possibility to pursue the liberal ideas which had underpinned the very idea of international organisation itself. Disregarding any explicit mention of democracy – indeed steering away from democracy – had served a vital political function during the Cold War, while interpreting principles such as self-determination in terms of
The role of interest groups in political life, and public policy making in particular, is well established. Yet research on groups has been, for a long time, a low status form of scholarship in contrast to electoral studies and the study of political parties. While there has been talk of post-parliamentary democracies for several decades (see Jordan and Richardson 1987) – the implication being that groups and not parties or parliaments are the key actors – there has been little discernable sea