While there is a commendable commitment to democracy in the international community, for real change to happen it is essential that we progress more and leave beyond the partisanship, protest and expediency that tends to characterise discussions about human rights and wellbeing. A consultative process is needed – at all levels of governance – where the individual members strive to get past their own self-interest and act as one body in pursuit of the common good.
Through participation and unity of purpose, consultation becomes a powerful mechanism for achieving justice in human affairs. Without this principled anchor, democracy falls prey to the excesses of individualism and nationalism, which tear at the fabric of the community – both nationally and globally.
Though there is a widespread view of governance as a material undertaking, the fact is that it is an undertaking that goes far beyond the the administration of material affairs – in reality governance is a moral exercise. It is the expression of a trusteeship – a responsibility to protect and to serve the members of the social polity. Indeed, the exercise of democracy will succeed to the extent that it is governed by the moral principles that are in harmony with the evolving interests of a rapidly maturing human race. These include: trustworthiness and integrity needed to win the respect and support of the governed; transparency; consultation with those affected by decisions being arrived at; objective assessment of needs and aspirations of communities being served; and the appropriate use of scientific and moral resources.
With this in mind there are some important principles that must be in place if any democratic process is to succeed –
- Firstly, international bodies like the UN must address its own democratic deficiencies.
- Civil society bodies can contribute a lot to both their own national governments and also the United Nations and, as such, should be included and encouraged.
- A healthy democracy must be founded on the principle of the equality of men and women and equal recognition of their contribution to the establishment of a just society. In its efforts to promote democracy, the Member States of the United Nations must vigilantly work for the inclusion of women in all facets of governance in their respective countries. This is not a privilege but a practical necessity.
- The meaningful integration of minority groups in democratic processes is of critical importance – both to shield minorities from the abuses of the past and to encourage their participation and responsibility for the well-being of society. The full inclusion of minorities – belonging to any faith, race, or class – is essential at all points in the processes of governance. As the cultural make-up of states becomes increasingly fluid and diverse, no one cultural or religious group can lay claim to an adequate definition of the national interest.
(Photograph courtesy of Earl Redman)