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NYTimes.com Article: U.N. Report Says New Democracies Falter
by alvi_saima
02 August 2002 09:22 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by alvi_saima@yahoo.com.

U.N. Report Says New Democracies Falter

July 24, 2002


UNITED NATIONS, July 23 - The United Nations is warning
this week that gains made with the emergence of dozens of
democracies over the past decade now risk being reversed,
with authoritarian leaders manipulating elections and
millions losing faith in democratic systems. 

In dozens of nations, democratic culture - allowing room
for political opposition, a free press and robust citizens'
action groups - is failing to develop or is being stifled,
a report to be released on Wednesday concludes. 

The study, "Human Development Report 2002: Deepening
Democracy in a Fragmented World," also found that economic
slowdowns in many countries add to a popular perception
that democracies cannot deliver better lives. 

"Since 1980, 81 countries have moved into the democratic
column and, indeed, some 33 military governments have been
replaced by civilian governments," said Mark Malloch Brown,
administrator of the United Nations Development Program,
which published the report. In comments to reporters last
week, he added that 140 of about 200 countries have held
multiparty elections. 

"The concern is that one multiparty election does not a
democracy make," he said. "The international cheerleaders
for democracy have underestimated what it takes to build a
functioning, properly rooted democracy." 

The program's annual Human Development Report was created
in 1990 to measure the progress of nations not in dry
economic statistics but in the lives of ordinary citizens.
Over the objections of some governments, in rich as well as
poor countries, the report has become increasingly pointed
in its criticisms of political chicanery, corruption and
human rights abuses. 

The report ranks countries by quality of life, based
largely on life expectancy, education and personal incomes.
This year Norway ranks first, as it did last year, followed
by Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia and the United

The countries at the bottom of the index are all
sub-Saharan African. Sierra Leone, where life expectancy
stands at barely 39 years, is worst, followed by Niger,
Burundi, Mozambique and Burkina Faso. The report will be
available at www.undp.org. 

Choosing democracy as its focus this year, the report
concluded that although a majority of the world's people
live in at least nominal democracies, in 106 countries
political freedoms and civil rights are limited, and, since
1990, civil wars have cost 3.6 million lives. About 2.8
billion of the world's 6 billion people live on less than
$2 a day. More than 60 countries have lower per capita
incomes now than they did in 1990. 

"Democracy doesn't seem to be responding to the real agenda
of the world's poor," Mr. Malloch Brown said. The report
says that money politics serving special interest groups is
of concern to voters in democracies as divergent as the
United States, where corporate contributions rose to $1.2
billion in the 2000 election, and India, where 80 percent
of funds for major political parties in a 1996 election
came from large corporations. 

Voter turnout seems to be declining everywhere, the report
found. Polls often show a dwindling confidence in democracy
and the free market, most recently in Latin America, the
report said. The failure of rich nations to expand free
trade rapidly enough to make a difference to struggling
economies is a factor in this, United Nations officials

Sometimes, the report found, new democratic hopes unmet by
elected governments lead to public disgust for the system
and regression to military rule. Experts often cite the
example of Pakistan, where corrupt and inefficient elected
governments in the 1990's were exposed and hammered by a
free press. One result was little public opposition to the
takeover of government by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 1999. 

More recently in Zimbabwe, a suspect election has
contributed to a precipitous economic slide and laid the
ground for political strife. 

Looking around the world, the 2002 Human Development report
found banks, courts and government institutions under
strain, often because of corruption or political pressures.
It found electoral processes subverted by fraud and
heavy-handed politics. 

Perhaps sensing their vulnerability, many governments are
asking the United Nations Development Program for more help
in handling law and order. 

The organization, which is involved in training police
officers in Afghanistan, Mozambique and Haiti, will spend
60 percent of its aid budget this year on supporting what
is generally called "good governance" - the proper
functioning of democratic institutions, including
parliaments. Only a few decades ago, the bulk of the money
went to more traditional development projects like drilling
wells or aiding local public services. 


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