In the Name of the People: Stop the Repression
Volume 21 Number 1
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 13:37

volume_21_number1Editorial: Governance and Human Rights

EDITORIAL: Governance and Human Rights

Democracy means the rule of the people. Democracy can also be said to be a “collective self-determination by equal and free citizens … to determine the form and direction of their polity”.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000 not only affirmed the co-relation of democracy, development and human rights, but also committed themselves to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development and (t)o strengthen the capacity of all countries to implement the principles and practices of democracy and respect for human rights, including minority rights.

The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights declared that democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. All human rights (i.e., civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights) are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and should be treated in a fair and equal manner. Further, a state has a duty to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, irrespective of its political, economic and cultural system or back ground.

The then United Nations Commission of Human Rights (UNCHR), now replaced by the Human Rights Council (HRC), has recognized the right to democracy as a basic human right and further stressed that “(d)emocracy needs to be based on human rights and fundamental freedoms for all human beings and is therefore linked to all civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, including the right to development, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, sustained economic growth and sustainable development of countries and communities.”

Ironically, it is the poor people, and the people who expose and protest against the causes of impoverishment, who are being eliminated, while the poverty persists. This is not democracy, as in the rule of the people. What we have is a “democide”, which means the killing of a people. Democracy, especially its processes and space, is inversely proportionate to the pervasiveness of poverty. This could mean that: the more extensive the poverty, the less the democratic space and the more poor people there are, the less people use and benefit from whatever democratic processes are operative.

It is in this context of a coercive environment and of a culture of impunity that we are holding local elections. The atmosphere of fear has spread to the urban areas. The pattern of intimidation points to the elimination of a wide spectrum of political opposition that persists in questioning the legitimacy of the presidency. The endangered people are also perceived to be obstructing the development plans and projects of this administration.

It is then imperative to build the democratic forces imbued with a human rights culture at the national level. It must be rooted in the people down to the barangay (village) level. Otherwise, democracy may ‘be in danger of experiencing a fate that is parallel to what has happened to monarchy in various countries during the past centuries’. In other words, democratic elections are fast turning to become just ceremonies that have no real influence on actual decisions or policies that would ensue from democratic governance and would determinedly empower the people.

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