[ International Development Cooperation ]
The Promotion of Democracy in Third World Countries
Sooner or later even authoritarian regimes must realize
that progress will "mow them down" because demands for the rule
of law and democratization cannot be suppressed in the long run.
The end of the East-West conflict not only increased the
international pressure on Third World countries to risk a greater measure
of democracy. It has also given the population of these countries the chance
of participating in decisions as a result of the increased democratization.
People nowadays increasingly demand more democracy.
A democratic system cannot exhaust its possibilities in the
holding of elections every four years to choose a government. To be genuine,
democracy requires the continuous and active participation of large sections
of the population in social and political decisions. Nor can the political
life of a country be determined exclusively by a central government. The
various groups in society must have the opportunity to form their own organizations,
and to attempt to further their own interests. They must be able to formulate
and press their demands, and to criticize government policies.
Only a civil society of this kind can ensure that there is
real control of government power within a democratically constituted state,
that minorities are protected, that human rights are observed, that the
rights of women are strengthened, that a market economy is truly social,
and that the rule of law is preserved.
The FES aims at promoting democracy by strengthening the
civil society in the countries of the Third World. Since it is, as a rule,
difficult for social groups to make their views felt vis-a-vis governments,
the main emphasis of the Foundation's work is put on cooperating with these
groups, with the purpose of strengthening their function within the interplay
of social forces.
This basic understanding has led FES to enter into cooperation,
depending on the situation of the host country, with trade unions, human
rights groups, women and environmental groups, with independent media and
organizations of small and medium-sized industry as well as with confederations
of industry, scientific institutions and political parties. To promote
this cooperation, it is necessary initially to agree on a common programme
and, with it, the existence of basic common values with regard to socio-political
developments. Through seminars, workshops and conferences, through sending
advisors, and by means of publications, attempts are made to improve the
work of the partners and to strengthen their ability to participate in
socio-political discussions with the necessary qualifications to do so.
At the same time, however, our attention is directed towards
consulting in the host countries at important turning points in the political
development. The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has exerted influence on processes
involving the drawing up of constitutions, either by sending experts or
by supporting national discussion processes; it has cooperated with national
parliaments in order to improve their work; it cooperates with political
parties to strengthen their roles as catalysts of various opinions in their
countries; (we are concerned with the strengthening of the parliamentary
system as a whole and not with the promotion of individual parties). The
Foundation has taken part in efforts to decentralize which have emerged
in many countries after the phase of failure of centralization; and it
has worked together with governments on the subject of good governance
and accountability, in order to make their work more effective.
The measures taken by the Foundation at a national level
are supplementary to those taken with social groups. Democratization based
on a civil society can only be successful if on the one hand the social
groups are capable of pursuing their interests, and if on the other hand
governmental institutions are able to recognize the chances for the development
of their countries inherent in integrating these groups.
Since conflicts of interest necessarily arise in all societies between
individual groups, it is possible to balance these only by means of democratic
mechanisms. This basic social consensus about the democratic handling of
conflicting interests is a necessary condition of any further development;
where it does not exist, weaker members will be suppressed and violent
conflict will occur, but there will be no real development.
With the coming into force of the temporary constitution
and the elections in April 1994 a federal system could be implemented in
South Africa, poorly developed though it was. The four former white provinces,
the black homelands and the "independent homelands" were replaced
by nine provinces, each with a prime minister and an elected provincial
As early as 1993 FES was advising the ANC and its constitutional
commission in the process of drafting sections of the constitution concerned
with the territorial reshaping of South Africa by holding seminars, by
sending experts and by means of information programmes in the Federal Republic.
At the request of the ANC, FES concentrated its efforts regarding the constitution
of the new provinces initially on the Eastern Cape and Eastern Transvaal.
At the beginning of 1994, the ANC candidates for the office of prime minister
in these two provinces visited the Federal Republic to gather information
about the structure of the executive bodies. In April and in June, FES
sent short-term experts who advised the new executive bodies on establishing
provincial administrations. In June there was also an intensive information
programme for the press spokesmen and the heads of the press offices in
the two provinces.
These measures were prepared and complemented by advisory
discussions, workshops and seminars in South Africa, for example a seminar
on the subject of "Public Sector Transformation" in April and
various workshops on activities in local politics.
Measures to promote the regional economies, above all for
the SMI sectors, could be extended in September by a study tour of economic
experts from all the nine provinces to the Federal Republic.
In November our office in Johannesburg held a conference
on "South Africa's Intergovernmental Relations". A German expert
spoke on "Vertical Institutions in the Relationships between Federation
and Federal States in Germany" and "Horizontal Cooperation between
the German Federal States".
In December the two Ministers of Economic Affairs of the two provinces visited the Federal Republic and met their colleagues in Northrhine-Westfalia to learn about the instruments available to provincial governments to promote the economy.
©Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition mv&ola | August 1997