Democracy as a global norm: has it finally emerged?
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the Iron Curtain, the legacy of the ‘year of the truth’ is mostly approached from general political, historical and/or socio-cultural perspectives.1 From an international legal perspective, however, it is also worthwhile to recall the inspirational impact of 1989 on normative theories of democracy and its role in the international system. Their basis was a decidedly liberal reading of the revolutions of 1989, which were widely regarded as a confirmation of the superiority of Western-style multiparty democracy (with its typical emphasis on political pluralism, individual rights and the rule of law) over other political regimes and forms of government. In both Europe and the United States, influential political thinkers interpreted the dramatic changes in Central and Eastern Europe as a belated ‘catching-up’ of the region with the achievements of Enlightenment and the French Revolution and the expression of a liberal revolutionary tradition deeply rooted in American and modern European notions of democratic constitutionalism.2 International institutions, in Europe and elsewhere, quickly reacted to the events of the epoch and the new era of democracy that they promised to evoke. Only a year after the advent of what in German is referred to as ‘die Wende’ (the turning point), the
among its members the main rivals of the waning East-West conflict, solemnly professed to ‘build, consolidate and strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations’.3 In mid-1991, the Organization of American States (OAS) likewise affirmed that ‘representative democracy is the form of government of the region’.4 Another six months later, eleven former Soviet Republics adopted the Alma Ata Declaration, which confirmed the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the intention of its members ‘to build democratic states under the rule of law’.5