Democracy's Global Quest: A Noble Crusade Wrapped in Dirty Reality?


The end of the Cold War and the apparent "victory" of democracy witnessed a dramatic increase in the number, diversity and proportion of states formally committed to democratic principles. Prominent international law scholars argued vigorously that representative government was now an international legal entitlement.

It is debatable that a right to pro-democratic action, that is intervention to promote democracy exist. The determined reaction of the United Nations and the Organization of American States to the September 1991 overthrow of popularly-elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the attendant discussion within the Organization of American States about the possible use of force to restore the "legitimate" government, certainly created the impression that such action -was becoming politically palatable. An impression seemingly reinforced by the recent democratic crusade in Iraq under the banner of "regime change" in Iraq.

However, the developing world is especially wary of the new world order democratic discourse which is seen as promoting a conservative and protective form of liberal democracy hostile to the evolution of other popular and participatory democratic processes and thus part of a subtle Western expansionist agenda. The paper argues for a recognition that liberal democracy should adopt a composite and heterogeneous, dimension that acknowledges democratic diversity. Further, for democracy to "work" it must be the preference of a given citizenry and be anchored in the socio-political landscape of of the specific community rather than be imposed from above by a third party. This crucial point has been overlooked by many proponents of the right to democracy. It is argued that the direct replication of the Western liberal democratic model should be alive to the reality that good governance is a complex relationship between the government and governed not guaranteed simply by "importing" successful and neutral "universalized" democratic norms .


International Law

Date of this Version

September 2003