Developing Equality and Transparency

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Platon School Model United Nations 2014 | 7th –9th March 2014

Forum: Special Political & Decolonisation Committee

Issue: Promoting good governance and democracy through transparency and equality

Student Officer: Anastasios Kardamakis

Position: Chair

PERSONAL INTRODUCTION

Esteemed Delegates,

My name is Anastasis Kardamakis and it is an honour to serve as a chairman in the fore coming 4th PS Model United Nations Conference. I am 16 years old and I am currently a student of the second class of the Arsakeio High School of Patras. hope that you will all take particular interest in the issues of the Political committee since they are crucial and affect us today. I would like to endorse personal research on the multiple aspects of the issues and come prepared to the conference acknowledging your countries’ policies as well as current affairs. My final advice will be to come up with creative solutions and have a strong will for participation in all procedures.

INTRODUCING TOPIC

Addressing today’s inter-linked challenges requires sound, forward-looking public policies and transparent, accountable governance structures that embody solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable”

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.

Former Secretary General Kofi Annan

 The dawn of the 21st century has been marked by the unlimited access to information and international efforts aiming at the protection of human rights and equality of all forms. Both the aforementioned social trends are key aspects of the universally recognized ideal of democracy as well as the so called good governance in the community of nations. Therefore, it is the duty of every national government and a responsibility of the United Nations system to ensure that every governmental activity is transparent and every group has equal rights with the others regardless of their origin, religious beliefs, social status, sex, educational and financial background as ways to promote democracy and good governance.

DEFINITION OF KEY-TERMS

Governance: the activity of governing a country (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). Governance is considered «good” to the degree in which a country’s institutions and processes are transparent.

Democracy: a system of government in which all the people of a country can vote to elect their representatives (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

Transparency: the fact of being transparent (Longman dictionary of contemporary English). In the context of the state “transparency” means that the citizens are aware of the plans and actions of the government and its institutions.

Equality: the fact of being equal in rights, status, advantages etc ( Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).The equality forms that are associated with the issue are gender,political,religious,racial and legal ones.

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HISTORICAL AND BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Good democratic governance and Equality

“In a democracy there is, first that most splendid of virtues, equality before the Law”

Herodotus, ancient Greek historian

Equality is a key aspect of democracy and good governance. When the mob revolted in France in 1789, among others, they demanded equal status of all the citizens before the law and human rights .The female movements all over Europe and America in the 19th and 20th centuries called for gender equality and the African people rose their arms against the western colonizers because the wanted to gain their independence and bring an end to the discrimination owing to their origin. These examples from human history confirm how important gender, social, racial and legal equality is for the progress of humanity and the promotion of democratic reforms. When all the citizens of a nation are equal, then all the opinions on collective matters can be heard and therefore the purpose of pluralism is served. Many conventions have been signed and ratified by States aiming at the maintenance of equal rights such as but not limited to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Those treaties protect and cordially endorse the aforementioned forms of equality. When women are empowered and able to vote and work, foreign nationals are not afraid to practice their cultural and religious beliefs in public. Everyone is subject to the same laws and their personal freedom is ensured, then the states are able to achieve sustainable development, the economy flourishes and the ties between the members of a society are tight. In essence, these are the characteristics of good governance. So it is apparent to anyone that strengthening equality of every form is a solid way to promote good governance and democracy.

Good democratic governance and transparency

“Information is the currency of democracy”

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President

According to the United Nations, democracy and good governance must be characterized by transparency. Transparency and more specifically social transparency is the cornerstone of democratic governance as it enables citizens everywhere to hold institutions and governments accountable for their policies and performance. It is based on a combination of politics and ethics in which the interests and needs are focused in the citizen. When the citizens are fully aware of the implementation of national policies, the work of institutions and the actions of their elected governments, there is trust and better cooperation between individuals and the authorities, the public sector is free of corruption and bribery and the right of every person to know the way his government acts is not being abused. The new technologies allow the continuous flow of information regarding a country’s policies and as a result everyone can be informed about the latest updates. In other words, transparency provides “a universal rationale for the provision of good records management systems, archives, and financial regulatory and monitoring systems” whilst fighting corruption which hinders the right of knowledge of the society. Last but not least it has to be mentioned that the large movement toward transparency dates back only in 1990s when international organizations such the UN,IMF ( International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank wanted to see democratic practices and stable political Leadership in various Member States.

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TIMELINE OF IMPORTANT INCIDENTS

Events related to equality

1787: United States constitution was the first to include equality before God and Law as the Founding fathers realised that this was a way to promote democracy in the newly founded State. However, this was a premature statement because it lacked basic forms of equality such as racial and gender one and it would take many years to develop as a constitutional idea.

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1789: This year the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was signed. Its first article reads “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” .This declaration was the foundation of the brief French Republic.

Neither the French nor the American revolutions and their philosophical foundations however led to full gender or political equality. It would take many years of revolutions, feminist and anti-discrimination movements as well as wars until equality became a basic concept of legislation.

1948: The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Universal declaration of Human Rights. Its first article reads “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

This phrase is not just important because it stated that any form of discrimination towards an individual is outlaw. It also promoted democracy as most constitutions today include it as their first clause.

Many Member States of the UN have signed acts or treaties so as to end inequality. One example is the United Kingdom which in 2010 implemented Equality Act 2010 that aimed at reducing socio-economic inequalities, reforming and harmonising equality law and eradicating differences in pay between male and female employees.

Events related to transparency

Some extent of transparency existed in the Athenian democracy where there was a system of civilian oversight of public funds and the wealth and incomes of all public figures (including generals), so that they did not benefit from their public positions. In the 18th and 19th centuries with a rise in representative government accountability and transparency became much broader in scope. The U.S. Constitution required the legislative and executive branches to publish laws, regulations, and proceedings. Most western countries though began to adopt domestic legislation for accountability and transparency in the 1950s.In addition to that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has adopted standards and proposes model legislation to govern institutions, such as corporations, nonprofit organizations, and trade unions. The United Kingdom has also enacted comprehensive freedom of information legislation for the public sector. In 1996, the IMF stressed the importance of “promoting good governance in all its aspects, including by ensuring the rule of law, improving the efficiency and accountability of the public sector, and tackling corruption, as essential elements of a framework within which economies can prosper. Finally, in 2003 the United Nations adopted the United Nations Convention against corruption (UNCAC) which proposed mechanisms to combat corruption.

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MAJOR PARTIES INVOLVED IN THE ISSUE

Organisations and agencies

United Nations: Through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for the Human Rights (OHCHR), promote human rights, the rule of law, and women’s participation in political life to ensure the access to information by strengthening legislation and media capacities. In particular, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has adopted the resolution A/RES/55/96 which promotes and consolidates democracy. Moreover in 2007 the UN adopted resolution A/RES/61/245 making the organization more transparent.

Countries

This issue is general and therefore affects all countries both those which need a political transition to democracy and those which are in need of democratic reforms.

Countries with non democratic systems: In this category belong states with authoritarian regimes, monarchic, communistic or theocratic ones. In order to exemplify, some of these countries are DPR Korea, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ,the Peoples’ Republic of China ,Kazakhstan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Because of their political system freedom of expression and participation in democratic procedures do not exist. There is no transparency or equality, even legal or gender one which have been deemed fundamental nowadays. United Nations statistics show that in these Member States high levels of corruption especially among high officials and poverty problems have not been eradicated.

Democratic Nations: The majority of the modern states fall into this category. However, there is always the prospect of reforms so as to ensure that all governmental actions are transparent and the human rights in terms of equality are not violated. This is because many cases of suspicious illegal governmental actions have been reported among with human rights abuse ones. States have to realize that so as for them to savour the benefits of good governance, fundamental human rights must be respected.

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POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

All delegates are highly encouraged to find their own solutions to this issue after taking into consideration their countries policies. This study guide is purely to help them gain an insight into this political topic but some realistic and possible solutions would be that all Member States ,despite their different views about politics, engage in negotiations for better equality of their citizens and also agree on the establishment of an independent UN agency under the Secretary General whose main responsibility will be to promote transparency by encouraging and consulting governments to publish their decisions on line and in newspapers as well as combat corruption and bribery because both actions undermine good governance. Also, each Member State can open a national-level dialogue with individuals in order to increase participation of all national groups to governance and become more transparent. Finally, Non-Governmental organizations such as Transparency International and Human Rights Watch can assist the Member States’ work by organizing educational campaigns and reporting any case of corruption, lack of accountability and inequality to the United Nations and its relevant agencies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

AFRICAN CHARTER ON DEMOCRACY, ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE 28 Dec. 2013 http://www.achpr.org/instruments/charter-democracy/

Democracy Web 28 Dec.2013 http://www.democracyweb.org/accountability/history.php

UN adopted resolution A/RES/61/245 28 Dec. 2013 http://www.un.org/ga/president/62/issues/resolutions/a-res-61-245.pdf

United Nations cyberschoolbus 28 Dec. 2013 https://cyberschoolbus.un.org/briefing/governance/gvprogress.htm

United Nations global issues /governance 28 Dec. 2013 http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/governance/

United Nations global issues/ democracy 28 Dec. 2013 http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/democracy/index.shtml

Wikipedia / Equality Act 2010 28 Dec.2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_Act_2010

Multimedia resources

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoQFKv7SFzA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao0qAoApT1M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV6epYm5h18

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