Eminent Panel Cautions UN and International Partners Global Spread of Democracy at Risk and Calls for Improvement to Integrity of Elections

NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2012 /CNW/ - Louise Arbour of International Crisis Group spoke in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) today, at an event co-convened by the governments of Australia and Chile to promote Deepening Democracy, the new report of the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security. The report calls for urgent national and international action to protect the integrity of elections.

Mme Arbour noted: "The challenges in ensuring elections with integrity are not unique to emerging or transitioning democracies - even Western countries with a long history of democratic institutions can display serious shortcomings. As elections spread across the world we must do everything it takes to have real, meaningful elections - what we call elections with integrity."

The Hon Richard Marles MP, Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who co-hosted the UNGA event, congratulated the Commission on its work and commended the report's findings. He said: "We all share a responsibility to keep working at democracy and to promote elections with integrity. Democracy is not irreversible. It can be eroded by inequality, by conflict, by corruption and by poor governance. Australia is committed to achieving a peaceful, secure, sustainable and democratic global community and we underscore the importance of political and electoral integrity in doing so."

Deepening Democracy: a Strategy for Improving the Integrity of Elections Worldwide emphasises: elections conducted with integrity promote democratic values and human rights, improve governance, fight corruption, empower minority groups and deliver services to the poor.

If not conducted fairly, elections can undermine democracy, worsen divisions, trigger conflicts and fail to deliver improvements in the lives of people.

The Commission of former world leaders, Nobel Prize winners and leading academics cautions: "The rise of uncontrolled political finance threatens to hollow out democracy everywhere and rob democracy of its unique strengths."

Noting repeated failures within the international community to support elections with integrity, the report provides a comprehensive series of recommendations to strengthen electoral processes and norms.

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Commission, says: "Elections are the indispensable root of democracy. When elections have been free and fair, they can be a powerful catalyst for better governance, greater security and human development. But in the absence of credible elections, citizens have no recourse to peaceful political change. The risk of conflict increases, while corruption, intimidation, and fraud go unchecked, rotting the entire political system slowly from within."

Former Mexican President Dr Ernesto Zedillo comments: "As much as we see vibrant democracies in the world, we also see vulnerabilities in electoral systems - some countries that are trying to be democratic are suffering great failures in electoral processes. Democracy is becoming a universal value but you cannot have a strong democracy if you do not have the rules, institutions, practices and culture to conduct electoral processes."

Media contact: globalcommission@idea.int

Deepening Democracy available at: http://www.global-commission.org

A joint initiative of International IDEA and the Kofi Annan Foundation.

SOURCE: The Secretariat of the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security

For further information:

Zachary Alpern: +46767618491, Alberto Guevara Castro (Spanish): +46727175992

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