Remarks by Ambassador Elizabeth M. Cousens, U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, on the U.S. resolution: Strengthening the role of the UN in Enhancing Periodic and Genuine Elections and the promotion of Democratization, in the Third Committee

Ambassador Elizabeth Cousens
U.S. Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 7, 2013




AS PREPARED

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

On behalf of the United States as the main sponsor of this resolution and the over 50 member states who have already cosponsored this text, it is my pleasure to introduce the Third Committee resolution entitled “Strengthening the Role of the United Nations in Enhancing Periodic and Genuine Elections and the Promotion of Democratization,” Document L. 41.

In line with previous resolutions, this year’s text reaffirms that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.  As President Obama recently said at the General Assembly, “Strong nations recognize the values of active citizens. They support and empower their citizens rather than stand in their way, even when it’s inconvenient — or perhaps especially when it’s inconvenient — for government leaders.”

This text also includes elements incorporated in the General Assembly’s previous resolutions on elections, recognizing the importance of free, fair, periodic and genuine elections, including in new democracies and countries undergoing democratization in order to empower citizens to express their will and to promote successful transitions to long-term sustainable democracies.

Two crucial elements in this text ensure the realization of democratization and free, fair, periodic and genuine elections.  Consistent with the recent Secretary General’s report, the resolution highlights the participation of women in the political and electoral process.  The resolution calls upon States to enhance the political participation of women, on equal terms with men, at all levels of decision-making.  The resolution this year also includes a new element relevant to persons with disabilities, reflecting the unique challenges they face in participating in electoral processes, including physical barriers to participation.  States have an obligation to ensure that persons with disabilities can participate in the electoral process.  This includes measures such as having tactile ballots for the visually impaired and ramps for persons with physical disabilities to access polling stations.

The text also reiterates the role of civil society and the importance of its active engagement in the promotion of democratization and invites Member States to facilitate the full participation of civil society in the electoral processes.  As President Obama said, “Strong civil societies help uphold universal human rights.  The human progress has always been propelled at some level by what happens in civil society — citizens coming together to insist that a better life is possible, pushing their leaders to protect the rights and the dignities of all people.”

Finally, Mr. Chair, we appreciate the active support of delegations for this text and the contributions made to the text by Member States through the open negotiations we have conducted.  We encourage those who have not yet done so to cosponsor the resolution and we hope it will again be adopted by consensus as it has been in the past.

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PRN: 2012/225