Democracies and Human Rights


Democracy: the fine balance between society and government

The word ‘democracy’ derives from two Greek words, meaning people (demo) and power or rule (kratia). Democracies give people the right and ability to participate in decision-making based on their own views. Democracy is a process that must be nurtured throughout a lifetime, with young people encouraged to engage from early on. The benefits of a democratic society extend far beyond the voting booth, with the values and principles that are central to democracy being applied within families, schools, communities and business organizations.

In an age of increasing globalization and increased interconnectedness, democracy is a powerful mechanism to promote human rights and provide opportunity for everyone. It also provides a framework for the exchange of ideas, cultures and traditions. While not every country can be described as a perfect democracy, most of them share a core set of values and principles that support human rights. These include:

Most democracies allow citizens to vote for their elected representatives, which can be a powerful tool to make sure that all voices are heard in the political process. However, it is important to remember that not all voters are well-informed. There is a need for education in politics so that citizens can understand the issues they are voting on, and how these will affect them and their community in the future. Unfortunately, politicians often spread misinformation about their opponents in order to gain votes. This can lead to a lack of understanding about the policies that are being voted on, and it may contribute to voter apathy or disillusionment.

Aside from elections, democracy can be a mechanism for citizen engagement through other forms of participation such as volunteering, civic activism and public discourse. It allows individuals to influence the way resources are distributed in a given society, and regular tweaks can be made to this distribution according to popular opinion. This is a fundamental part of what distinguishes democracy from other forms of governance, and it helps to create societies that are fairer and more sustainable.

A fair judiciary, gender equality and the freedom of religion are among the highest-rated democratic priorities worldwide. However, in some countries, the democratic system has not been able to ensure that these goals are achieved, particularly for minority groups. This can be a result of electoral systems that do not promote inclusiveness or of the inability for minority groups to organize or have their voice heard at the ballot box. Moreover, the economic inequality that exists in many democracies can also impact the effectiveness of democracy as a means of creating equitable opportunities for all.