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Democratic Participation Should be Key Element in Post-2015 Agenda

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 2013 (IPS) - The United Nations and the international community have been urged to make democratic participation a key element  in the U.N.’s post-2015 economic agenda.

The appeal was made at the fifth international conference on a UN Parliamentary Assembly held in the European Parliament in Brussels last week.

In a final declaration, participants from around 30 countries unanimously expressed concern that “no adequate measures have been taken to address the democratic deficit of global governance in general and of the United Nations in particular.”

The conference suggested that “a global democratic body of elected representatives” should be established “to bring global governance in the pursuit of post-2015 development goals” closer to the world’s citizens, according to a statement released here.

The conference was hosted by members of the European Parliament, including Elmar Brok, Jo Leinen, Isabella Lövin, and Graham Watson from the four largest political groups EPP, S&D, Greens, and ALDE respectively. Leinen emphasized that there was no formal body that would give citizen-elected representatives a say in global governance. At best they had an observer status.

“This is not acceptable,” said Leinen. “In a democratic system, the representatives of the citizens are not observers of what the governments do. They should provide oversight and hold the government executives accountable.”

The UN’s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred de Zayas, who was participating as a special guest confirmed that “participation is a hallmark of democratic governance” and that “civil society is entitled to more space.”

He said that the establishment of a World Parliamentary Assembly was “a promising avenue” to achieve this. The final declaration adopted by the conference welcomed “the decision of the UN’s Human Rights Council to mandate an Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order,” and encouraged the Independent Expert “to keep considering the question of a UNPA and in particular to examine possible processes towards its creation,” according to the press release.

In a message to the conference, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, emphasized the longstanding support for the proposal by the European Parliament. In addition, he declared that “The European Parliament may serve as a model for how a UN Parliamentary Assembly could develop over time. What once began as an advisory body composed of national parliamentarians is a directly elected legislature today.”

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