A number of countries worldwide are in transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, which opens the avenue to the full protection of human rights in those countries. This crucial process requires encouragement and international cooperation, as stressed by the World Conference on Human Rights in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The provision of assistance aimed at establishing and strengthening human rights infrastructure, the rule of law and democracy is a momentous responsibility of the United Nations and, in particular, of its human rights programme. To ensure this assistance, emphasis has been placed on two major objectives: (a) the elaboration of national human rights programmes which should be carried out in cooperation with the UN and (b) the strengthening of the related UN infrastructure. The reaction of governments to the High Commissioner's initiatives in this respect has been very positive.
The cooperation of the UN with the government of Malawi is an example of assistance to countries in transition. The Centre for Human Rights provided advisory services to Malawi in connection with that country's 1993 referendum on multiparty democracy, the preparations for the multiparty elections of 1994 and the drafting of a new constitution. During his visit to Malawi, the High Commissioner and the Vice-President of the Republic signed a Joint Declaration of Cooperation for the Development of Programmes for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Malawi. The programme will run for two years from 1 January 1995. It covers several areas of priority need, such as constitutional reform, assistance to the judiciary, training of the police and the military, human rights education in primary and secondary schools, support to the civil society, to the Parliament and to structures concerned with the administration of justice, such as jails and detention centres. The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Lilongwe was opened in mid-November 1994 for the purpose of assisting in the implementation of the programme.
The fundamental message the US conveys to the world is that "human progress depends on human liberty – on the ability of people to choose their own leaders, express their own thoughts, be rewarded for their own efforts and shape their own lives."