News and Notes

Issue Date January 1993
Volume 4
Issue 1
Page Numbers 138-40
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Cairo Conference Considers Arab Democracy

Democratic scholars and activists from 13 Arab nations gathered in Cairo, Egypt, on 24-27 September 1992 to discuss “Democratic Challenges in the Arab World.” Hosted by Cairo’s Center for Political and International Development Studies, the conference was the first nongovernmental gathering of its kind held in an Arab country. It drew participants from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Among those who also spoke at the conference were political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, U.S. Middle East expert William Quandt, and Usama al-Baz, under secretary of state and political advisor to the president of Egypt. Panels focused on the democratic opening in the Arab world; local activism and political organizations; the experience of democratic development in Egypt, Jordan, North Africa, the Gulf states, and Yemen; civil society and the state; and external pressures and democratization.

The topic of “Islamic Fundamentalism, the State, and Democratic Development” drew special attention. While there was no agreement between the secular democrats and the Islamists, this panel produced an encouragingly open dialogue.

Conference Studies Transitional Justice

Human rights experts and government representatives primarily from Africa, Latin America, and the United States gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, on 6-7 July 1992 to participate in a conference on “Investigating Abuses and Introducing Human Rights Safeguards in the Democratization Process. ” Sponsored by the Human Rights Program of Emory University’s Carter Center, the event featured introductory and concluding [End Page 138] remarks by former President Jimmy Carter. Panelists included Jamal Benomar (director of the Human Rights Program), Jorge Correa (Chile), Charles Onyango-Obbo (Uganda), and Horacio Verbitsky (Argentina).

The discussions focused on issues of human rights protection that confront countries undergoing the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. Participants agreed that a prudent political strategy for resolving the dilemma of amnesty versus justice for past human rights abusers should aim at realizing the goal of national reconciliation. The inadequacy of the judicial system in emerging democracies was cited as a problem by nearly every panelist.

USIP Preparing Volumes on Transitional Justice

The United States Institute of Peace will publish a three-volume set in 1993 entitled Readings on Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes. The Institute has assembled excerpts from a wide range of relevant books, articles, and other documents, bringing together the collective experience of numerous countries and cultures forced to cope with the legacy of an ousted repressive regime over the past 50 years.

Volume One: Political, Legal, and Philosophical Perspectives will present a variety of views on the ways in which societies emerging from repression can deal with that legacy. Volume Two: Case Studies will examine specific transitions, including the denazification programs of the 1940s and 50s, Greece in the mid-70s, Latin American transitions in the 80s, and decommunization efforts in the 90s. Volume Three: Selected Documents will include samples of legislation, regulations and decrees, constitutional provisions, judicial decisions, reports of official commissions of inquiry, and relevant treaty excerpts that deal with the various aspects of transitional justice.

Although the selection and editing process is close to completion, readers who have recommendations for materials that might be included in this collection should contact Neil J. Kritz, Assistant General Counsel for the Rule of Law Initiative, at the United States Institute of Peace, 1550 M Street, N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Anthology on Democracy To Be Published

In March 1993, Johns Hopkins University Press will publish a collection of 29 essays drawn from the first two volumes of the Journal of Democracy. The book, which opens with an introductory essay by coeditors Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, is divided into four thematic sections: 1) “The Democratic Moment”; 2) “Problems of Democratic Institutionalization”; 3) “Political Corruption and Democracy”; and [End Page 139] 4) “The Global Democratic Prospect.” Among the authors included are Samuel P. Huntington, Philippe Schmitter and Terry Karl, Alfred Stepan, Mario Vargas Llosa, Claude Ake, Juan J. Linz, Seymour Martin Lipset, Arend Lijphart, Ken Jowitt, and Leszek Kolakowski.

Activist Cleric Honored

On 6 October 1992, democratic activist and Russian Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin received the 1992 Religious Freedom Award from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington-based research and advocacy group.

Once a prisoner of conscience in the Soviet gulag, Father Yakunin is now a member of the Russian Parliament, where he has helped to lay the legal foundations for religious freedom in his homeland. In remarks at a morning conference on “The Future of Democracy in Russia and America” and in a speech at the award banquet, Father Yakunin called for rapid action on political and economic reform in Russia. Comparing the current situation to the need to pull an infected tooth without anaesthesia, he urged that painful but urgently required steps toward markets and democracy be taken as quickly as possible.

Yakunin warned that the communist idea, though badly wounded, still survives in Russia. Many officials in the Orthodox Church itself, he noted, have been badly tainted by involvement with the KGB, while others simply have little understanding of or sympathy with democracy.

Conference Discusses Post Soviet Constitutions

Representatives from all of the CIS states except Belarus, Moldova, and Uzbekistan gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, on 8-10 October 1992 to compare their experiences in creating post-Soviet constitutional government. Entitled “Constitution Making as an Instrument of Democratic Transition,” the conference was sponsored by the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy Through Law in cooperation with the Turkish Democracy Foundation and the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

On the first day CIS delegates outlined their progress to date in constitution making, which in most countries is not yet completed. Sessions the next day examined “The Transition to Democracy and Constitutional Choices” and “Fundamental Legal Alternatives.” The final day featured a presentation by Juan J. Linz on the political and social consequences of creating new constitutional structures. All the sessions were chaired by European constitutional experts.

The CIS delegates stressed the problem that they face in choosing between presidentialism and parliamentarism. Most of them seemed to favor some combination of the two systems. [End Page 140]


Copyright © 1992 National Endowment for Democracy and the Johns Hopkins University Press