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close this bookThe Courier N 138 - March - April 1993 Dossier: Africa's New Democracies - Country Reports : Jamaica - Zambia (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderDossier: Africa's new democracies
View the documentAfrica's new democracies
View the documentThe patterns of transition to democracy
View the documentAfrica in search of institutional revival
View the documentThe future for the new democratic regimes
View the documentApplying the solutions of the 21st century to 10th century problems
View the documentDemocracy and structural adjustment in Africa
View the documentCommunity support for setting up and strengthening democracies
View the documentAutopsy of a Transition
View the documentA society full of tensions
View the documentA survival economy

Community support for setting up and strengthening democracies

by Hans SMIDA

Development cooperation must promote democracy

The Community's support for the democratisation processes in Africa is a practical illustration of its determination to make the promotion of human rights and democracy one of the linchpins of its development cooperation policy.

This is the logical conclusion of recognising the fact that human rights and democratic principles are vital to fair, balanced and sustainable development. Statements, resolutions and conclusions produced by the various Community bodies over the past few years have highlighted the importance of this recognition and made it clear that the demands arising from it are one of the cornerstones of cooperation and of the Communtiy's relations with the developing countries.

It is indeed the importance of the link between human rights and participatory development focused on man himself that is behind the principles and objectives of the cooperation which the Community and the ACP States have agreed on in LomV (Article 5).

The idea that development cooperation policy should put more emphasis on human rights and democracy took practical shape in the Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht, which makes one of the aims of Community policy in this field to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council of Development Ministers' recent statement (18 November 1992) on aspects of development cooperation for the year 2000 brought further confirmation of this in asserting that the development programmes of Community and Member States alike had to pursue these aims.

Resolution of November 1991 and priority for the positive approach

The 28 November 1991 Resolution on human rights, democracy and development is of course still the reference text in the field, as it lays down specific policies, procedures and lines of action. It is also important because in it, for the first time, the Community and the Member States expressly recognise the need for a common, consistent approach in this area.

The November 1991 Resolution suggests giving high priority to a positive approach which will promote and encourage the establishment and strengthening of democracy in the developing nations, although it also makes it clear that the Community may react to any serious hiatus in the democratic process and even suspend cooperation if this is appropriate (as in the event of serious and persistent violations of human rights, obviously). The most important thing is therefore to set up and maintain an open, constructive dialogue with the governments of the developing nations. Practical steps should also be taken to provide active support for countries setting out on the path to democracy and, therefore, for their efforts to do such things as hold elections, create new, democratic institutions and consolidate the rule of law.

Another very important thing is for developing countries which are making positive, substantial changes on the democracy-human rights front to receive extra Community aid.

When governments and NGOs run proper schemes to promote democracy in the developing world, they must be given the right financial assistance by the Community - and that is why the November 1991 Resolution stresses the need for an increase in the resources earmaked for this to be envisaged, in so far as the general development budget will allow, so that the Community can support operations designed to encourage the democratic process (and promote human rights and good governance) in the developing countries.

Positive action-means and priorities

It is with this in mind that, in addition to the series of changes and improvements to the use of existing resources, a new heading to cover support for schemes to promote human rights and democracy in the developing world was included in the budget last year. There was ECU 10 million for this budget heading in 1992 (most of which, as will emerge below, went towards supporting the democratisation process in Africa) and there will be ECU 16 million in commitment appropriations in 1993.

Community support for positive schemes of this sort in the developing nations should also be entitled to draw on the general financial and technical cooperation funds (EDF, counterpart funds etc.) in addition to the resources under specific budget headings.

Combined, complementary use of these two types of financial instruments seems the proper course to take, particularly since the amounts available under the specific budget headings are often fairly limited.

The promotion of democratisation (and human rights) in the developing countries is one of the essential aims of our development aid policy, so we must go for a constructive and efficient approach, not just in specific and one-off schemes run with the various sources of financing available, but in the design and implementation of the Community's development cooperation projects and programmes.

As part of the positive approach, the Community intends to give preference to schemes which are basically essential to sustainable development. The key is for every operation to generate lasting effects when it comes to development and human rights and democracy.

In addition to the heavy priority given to strengthening the democratic bases of society, establishing a state based on the rule of law and encouraging good governance, special attention has also been paid to schemes to support the transition to democracy which has recently been and still is under way in a number of developing countries, especially in Africa.

In the short term, and because it received specific requests for help, the Community had no choice but to give support for the preparation and running of a whole series of elections, since it saw these formal political processes as the first practical expression of a desire for change and, therefore, as the first essential step towards more lasting democratic change.

Support for democratic processes

In 1992, then, the Commission decided to commit some ECU 6 million of the resources earmarked for support (through the provision of material and technical assistance and by means of prior or flanking measures) for human rights and democracy schemes in the developing countries, to help with the preparation, organisation or conduct of elections in a whole series of countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Angola, Madagascar, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Guinea, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, the CAR, Mozambique and others).

In some cases, it was also decided to finance this type of support scheme through the development cooperation funds-using about ECU 6.7 million from the EDF national indicative programmes and about ECU 3.5 million in counterpart funds-either in addition to the special budget heading already mentioned (Angola, Madagascar, Senegal, Lesotho etc.) or as the only source of financing (Togo, Mali, Gabon and Zaire).

These various election support schemes were of course undertaken in close coordination with the Member States and the main funders.

Although at this stage it is fairly difficult (and in some cases premature) to draw final conclusions as to the practical effect of each of these schemes, it is nonetheless important to realise that the Community contribution has had a fairly important part to play in most of the countries concerned.

Difficulties and the risk of backsliding

It is well known that the results of the drive to start the move to democracy in some African countries have not lived up to expectations, despite initial hopes, and that there have been serious hold-ups and even a risk of backsliding, with opposition parties questioning the honesty of the count, reports of massive irregularity and fraud, refusal to accept the outcome of the polls, persecution and suppression of opposition supporters, the use of force and fresh take-overs by leaders representing the old political and ethnically based structures, a return to armed confrontation and so on.

Events that have given cause for concern in Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Zaire and elsewhere reveal the scale of the difficulties which various African countries have to tackle if they are to make a successful start on a proper democratisation process.

Generally speaking, the conclusion is that there is more to it than voting. The count has to be honest, the results have to be accepted with a good grace and the majority has to respect the rights of the minority

A look at Angola, Cameroon and all other countries in the same situation should at least lead us to the conclusion that the future of the democratic process in Africa has less to do with what happens at the elections than with what agreements are put together afterwards and, most importantly, with the pre-existing balance of power.

This is a bitter lesson to learn, and an old one, but unless people actually learn it, it is likely to crop up again in other countries (the CAR or Mozambique, for example) where general elections are on the drawing board.

The difficulties and dangers of backsliding to be seen in various countries prove that, although the commitment to democracy which has taken hold of the continent of Africa over the past two or three years is by no means running out of steam, the path to democracy will be a far more tortuous one than was originally thought.

But there is an encouraging sign. The political consensus on the fundamental link between multi-party democracy, respect for human rights and development as a fair and sustainable process centred on the individual is gaining strength all the time.

The right conditions for democratisation and the role of the EEC

The Community knows that the political, economic and social structures on which democracy has to be based can only be set up gradually and sometimes fairly slowly, and it will have to look for the best way of achieving lasting results as quickly as possible while sustaining the African countries' drive to achieve this. So, as well as maintaining an active dialogue on these questions, the Community has to do its best to mobilise all its support, assistance and cooperation potential in the most consistent and effective way possible.

But it must also be aware of the fact that the success of a genuine process of democratisation has, above all, to be the result of moves made within the country concerned. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. Nor can it get a hold if it has no anchor in each country's domestic structures. It is up to the Africans, in fact, to shape their own history.

Although it is generally agreed that democracy, multi-party politics, respect for human rights, institutions which are part of a constitutional system, accountable governments appointed after regular, honest elections and an acknowledgement of the legitimate importance of the individual in society are basic conditions for sustained economic and social development, the African countries must still be free to choose the particular forms of political democracy which are best suited to their social and cultural structures.

When looking at ways of providing the proper support for the African countries' quest for the most suitable form of political democracy, the Community should be careful to be politically neutral and strictly non-partisan in its assistance, and it must take far greater care than it has so far to establish whether the processes of democratisation in certain countries are genuine ones or merely facades.

Just one of the things this means is that it has to beware of political changes which are mere window-dressing. It must avoid rubber-stamping the sort of situation which occurs when the leaders of some authoritarian regimes try to mislead the outside world or to counter international pressure by setting up pretences at parliamentary democracies, capitalising on the immaturity of the opposition and hanging on to the reins of power with the help of their former single parties.

Greater Community commitment called for

The Community should respect the principles and policies behind earlier developments, take every proper precaution and be even more determined than before in its continuing provision of every kind of support for the democratisation of the developing countries on the African continent.

This is the background against which the conclusions of the Development Council of 18 November 1992 must be viewed. These emphasised the need for the Community and the Member States to follow the guidelines of the November 1991 Resolution and devise strategies which give priority to positive action for the establishment of new democratic institutions, the strengthening of the rule of law and the promotion of greater popular involvement.

The recent Edinburgh Summit (December 1992) reiterated this determination in its conclusions on the situation in Africa, which made it clear that the Community and the Member States would continue to support the efforts which a number of African States are making to apply the principles of democracy, ensure the proper management of public affairs, respect human rights and apply sound economic policies.

One more demonstration of the need for the Community to step up its commitment is the European Parliament's major resolution (16 December) on the conclusions of the Edinburgh Summit, which calls on the Council to take its common policy of support for democratisation in various countries of Africa further and to pursue a firm common policy towards African countries where the human rights situation is cause for major concern. H.S.

Mali: The other side of the pattern

To many Africans, the first thing about the Malian model of democratisation is the determination and heroism shown by demonstrators who took their lives in their hands and managed to overthrow a dictatorship they could no longer stand.

The next thing they think of is the transition to democracy, carried through at the double and culminating in a smooth transfer of power to the election victor.

The Malian model does have that bright side. But it also has a darker side to it, one where demands of every kind are being made against a backdrop of economic crisis.

This is the side which The Courier shows in the analyses which follow, by two leading observers of Mali's political scene-Gaoussou Drabo, head of the Agence Malienne de Presse et Publicite, and Souleymane Drabo, Editor of l'Essor. A. T.