On 15th September, International Day of Democracy is observed across the world. Ever since it was introduced by Cleisthenes in 5th century BC in Athens, Greece, common citizens, and kratos: power, rule) has always meant a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting.
We always assume that all of us know what Democracy stands for. Soroptimist International’s values and ethos are based on the principles of Democracy. It is a system of government which believes in equality and freedom among people. Participation of citizens, equality, accountability, transparency, political tolerance, multi-party system, control over abuse of power, freedom of economy, bill of rights, Human rights, free and fair elections, free courts, accepting election results, rule of law are fundamentals of a good democracy. Soroptimist International are aligned with this. All members participate in electing representatives and in free elections through ballot. As an International organisation Soroptimist International are best placed to assess how effective democratic process are in different parts of the world.
Cultural and economic conditions have major impact on democratic rules and principles. In recent years the population has access to ever changing laws and rules which can be open to interpretation. For instance, equality and Human rights in one country might not be the same in another. No nation is born as a democratic country, and it is a process which evolves all the time. It has equality individual autonomy, and we are still trying to catch up and understand what exactly it means today. the democracy in that way as some people’s voices are not heard and that causes apathy. Many young people are politically very active long before they had te vote. This can alienate young people, but they engage in environmental groups or other protests group campaigning against war, organisations are one of the ways through which they experience and practice democracy and have a role or a representation.
Currently democracy has been challenged by the presence of social media. The instant news and with its progression some people are not satisfied. Pandemic has changed the view and this has had a bigger impact on people using civil disobedience to threaten the law. They are pushing their own agendas which are detrimental to the countries but it all again hinges on the economic situation people’s frustrations. Issues about climate change, lack of food lack of energy which are massive challenge for the democratic countries. Democracy can be the toughest challenge.
Soroptimist International has a consultative status at United nations. Statements and the stand our organistion takes on freedom of speech, Human rights and against exploitation of human, The fundamental principles of democracy are in line with UN.
At present there is the rise of nationalism which is a worrying trend across the democratic countries around the world. It is to support for extreme right parties and these parties have often played on the nationalist feelings and they have targeted nonindigenous members of the population like asylum seekers refugees and members of religious minorities. They often appeal to their support among the population and the democratic principle that they represent is the opinion of the larger more people. However, where a party advocates violence in any form and fails in respecting human rights of every member of the population then it has little right to appeal to democratic principle depending on the extent of the problem and the particular cultural context. It may be necessary to limit the right freedom of expression of certain groups despite the importance of this right to the democratic process. Most countries have laws against inciting racial hatred and discrimination and this is regarded by the courts as an acceptable limitation of freedom of expression justified by the need to protect the rights of other members of society or the structure of the society itself.
Big question now is to see if democracy is under threat to an extent that we will never know. Something to think about.
“Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist premise of equilibrium or balance. The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen.” John Ralston Saul
Pat Dale MBE
S.I.Croydon and District