DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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“Truly Democratic Government can be said when the government’s system takes in to account all aspects of Human Rights”

 

Overview

Human rights are entitled to all human beings equally; irrespective of country, culture and
context and are the rights that people are born with, they enjoy by virtue of their humanity.

Those rights include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights are
inherent, inalienable, interdependent, and indivisible, meaning they cannot be taken away, the enjoyment of one right affects the enjoyment of others, and must be respected all. Human rights are granted under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the UN member states adopted 1948, it is also granted in a six major treaties namely; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

However, when States ratify Human Rights treaties they agree to both refrain from violating specific rights and to guarantee enjoyment of those rights by individuals and groups, within their jurisdictions through developing laws and policies necessary for protection of human rights and regulating the practices of both private and public entities that may have an impact on individuals’ enjoyment of those rights.

On the other hand; the birth of democracy started as a direct Democracy in Greek cities notably ancient Athens, where people came together to speak about their concerns and opinions in front of rulers and directly voted reforms on rules and laws. Democracy has undergone through a different history and through a different concept in defining it; from Ancient concept, to polyarchy then to some substantive content. According to the most scholars; Democracy is defined as a component of four elements; A political system for choosing and replacing the government through fair and free elections, the active participation of the people as citizens in politics and civic life, Protection of the human rights of all citizens, A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

 

The link between Human Rights and Democracy

 

Democracy is a universally recognized concept which can be used as a tool for the protection and realization of Human rights. The two terms are interdependent; one cannot be achieved without the realization of the other one, they explicitly relate to each other. The policies of democracy include general elections, measures to strengthen and protect the individual’s opportunities for influence, and measures to promote and guarantee respect for human rights.

The rule of law,non-discrimination and universal suffrage of promoting human rights are the core concepts of democratic system. A truly democratic government can be said when the government’s system takes in to account all aspects of Human Rights. One of the major principles of democratic governance is the consideration of basic human rights which includes political rights and equal participation of both Men and Women.Today in the world; many states describe themselves as democratic by conducting free and periodic elections; however democracy can never be achieved fully without fully respect of all human rights elements, holding free and periodic elections for instance, is not enough, true democracy goes much deeper than this context (free election), it requires much more work.

Respect and promotion of human rights along with periodic elections based on universal suffrageand fundamental freedoms are essential in attaining democratic government. Democracy anddemocratic governance means that people’s rights and fundamental freedoms are respected promoted and fulfilled which allows them to live with dignity. And as a result; this permits people to have a say on decisions affecting their lives and can hold decision makers to account, based on inclusive and fair rules. Democratic system of government leads economic, social and developmental policies that are responsive to the primary needs of people and in achieving so;poverty eradication will be possible.

Responding to the human demands and needs is a fundamental right that every government is strictly responsible and this can only be realized in democratic way.

According to the principles of the United Nations, Democracy is one of the universal core
values. Although these values are highlighted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights andfurther developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights then widely
enshrined in the Economic, Social, and cultural Rights covenant but did not clearly linked
democracy and human rights at the first.

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly spells out the rights that are essential in achieving effective political participation by stating “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government”.

A national and international environment which was more conducive to the articulation, pursuitand achievement of democratic aspirations than at any time in the past was brought at the end of the cold war and in the late of 1980s, the advocacy of what has been termed as the Universalization of democracy as a system of government, social and political process and a value related human rights increased. Later; during the World Conference on Human Rights 1993, the member states of the UN affirmed that:

“Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are
interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Democracy is 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.

In the context of the above, the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels should be universal and conducted without conditions attached. The

international community should support the strengthening and promoting of democracy,
development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the entire
world”

In reference to the Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1999/57 of 27 April, the UN
formally recognized the existence of a right to democracy, confirming “the right to full
participation and the other fundamental democratic rights and freedoms inherent in any
democratic society”.

The relationship between democracy and human rights may today seem to be an obvious one.

Democracy is a universally recognized ideal which provides and enables an environment for
effective realization of people’s rights. The right of democratic governance is actually a
composite of a wide range of rights that are already enshrined in the principal international
human rights treaties. These rights include; The right of citizens to choose their governmental

system through constitutional or other democratic means, The right of political participation,

including equal opportunity for all citizens to become candidates (The right to stand as a
candidate), The right of universal and equal suffrage, as well as free and fair voting procedures in

the elections through a Transparent and accountable government institutions, The right to
freedom of opinion and expression of thought, conscience and religion, and of peaceful
association and assembly, The right to freely seek, receive and impart information and ideas through mass media, The rule of law, including legal protection of citizens’ rights, interests andpersonal security, and fairness, in administration and independence of the judiciary, and The right of equal access to public service in one’s own country. It is through democratic institutionin which these rights can be translated in to action.

This implies that democracy and humanrights go hand in hand.

HALIMA MOALIM ADAM
MASTERS DEGREE STUDENT
POLITICAL SCIENCE AND
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT,
ISTANBUL AYDIN UNIVERSITY, TURKEY

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