As my first post I felt like writing about something special. It took me a while but then I found the perfect topic: democracy.
It is a widespread topic yet so important in this changing world. So in honour of the International Day of Democracy and the 70th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration here are some facts and thoughts. The International Day of Democracy is seen as a chance to promote and uphold the principles of democracy. It is an attempt of raising awareness around the topic since 2007 (UN). It is held every year on 15th September.
So what is democracy?
„Democracy, based on the rule of law, is ultimately a means to achieve international peace and security, economic and social progress and development, and respect for human rights“ (UNDEF).
“Democracy is showing greater strain than at any time in decades. That is why this International Day should make us look for ways to invigorate democracy and seek answers for the systemic challenges it faces.” — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres (UN)
For us people in Western countries democracy is often taken for granted and we cannot really imagine what it would feel like having no right to say what we want, to elect who we want or to be seen as equal to each other. However, these freedoms are shifting in a dangerous direction, also in the so-called modern industrial nations. Here are three current threats to democracy:
The increasing interdependence of global societies leads to the interweaving of global societies, which means the decisions of a government in one part of the world affect another part somewhere else, e.g. the deforestation in Brazil for the production of bauxite, which is very high in aluminium oxide. What is left over are dead reservoirs and hazardous waste (Lesch and Kamphausen, 2017).
I will come back to globalisation in another post as it is an incredibly fascinating topic that can fill books over books.
2. Donald Trump
Where to start when talking about Donald Trump. Well, here is a summary from an article in the New York Times on how Mr. Trump is a threat not only to the democracy in the US but also to the worldwide peace:
- Weak commitment to democratic rules
- Denial of opponents’ legacy
- Toleration of Violence
- Willingness to limit press freedom and basic freedoms
Donald Trump is known for having authoritarian characteristics as he tried to undermine judges, the FBI and the media. His tweets are legendary (in a bad way); tweets, such as „‚beat the crap‘ out of protesters“ or „It’s freezing and snowing in New York —we need global warming!“ are unbearable and should not be tolerated by anyone (NY Times, 2018).
3. Populism in Europe
The rising number of refugees and migrants is seen by many as a threat to the public safety. Many people feel that their demand for a more „patriotic country“ is ignored by politicians (Bugaric and Kuhelj, 2018). This feeling is fuelled by one-way media communication, enhancing the hatred against those fleeing war and injustice. Hence, parties who claim to stand for the people and fight against the „anti-democratic“ move of the established parties are increasing alarmingly (IDEA, 2017).
„Fake news“ are widespread all over the social channels, partly by those mentioned parties. It is another booster for distrust in politics but also in the community. Some of the current right-wing parties in Europe scrape closely by the border to unconstitutionality with members being part of the nationalistic scene or inflammatory pamphlets. The right-wing movement also facilitates inequality, e.g. banning same-sex marriages and adoption and religious discrimination (Bugaric and Kuhelj, 2018). The Brexit referendum for instance was influenced by the migration and the freedom of movement within the EU (IDEA, 2017).
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for the above mentioned problems.
Politicians of other political parties should take up positions against the „alternative“ parties and re-think and refine their own programmes. Politics need to become more transparent to tackle people’s distrust. The transparency around migration politics could be enhanced too, so that the misinformation in the media can be limited.
And president Trump? Firstly, he should get banned from any social media channel… Thankfully, he cannot enforce changes in law permanently on his own.
It is important that all of us make small contributions towards the threats of democracy. It is like the Ponzi scheme: One starts and motivates another and another etc. And in the end, a big crowd will be fighting for something good. The power of the public cannot be ignored.
Bugaric, B. and Kuhelj, A. (2018) Varieties of Populism in Europe: Is the Rule of Law in Danger?. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law. 10(1) pp. 21-33
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA, 2017) The Global State of Democracy. Exploring Democracy’s Resilience.
Kristof, N. (2018) Trump’s Threat to Democracy. The New York Times. January 10th. [online] [accessed 10.09.2018]
Lesch, H. and Kamphausen, K. (2017) Die Menschheit schafft sich ab. Die Erde im Griff des Anthropozän. 6th edition Komplett-Media GmbH
The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) Guidance Note of the UN Secretary-General on Democracy
United Nations. International Day of Democracy. 15 September