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Protecting Democracy

Promoting Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

We are witnessing today a global resurgence of authoritarianism and illiberal populism, which pose a threat to liberal democracy, and the values and institutions – rule of law, independent judiciary, freedom of speech, press, and association, transparency and accountability – that underpin it, the hallmarks of human rights. In a word, liberal democracy is under assault, and all those who cherish it must come to its defence.

 

PROTECTING DEMOCRACY

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We are witnessing today a global resurgence of authoritarianism and illiberal populism. These trends pose a threat to liberal democracy, and the values and institutions – rule of law, independent judiciary, freedom of speech, press, and association, transparency and accountability – that underpin it, the hallmarks of human rights. In a word, liberal democracy is under assault, and all those who cherish it must come to its defence. The protection and promotion of democracy is exemplified in combating resurgent global authoritarianism and the cultures of criminality, corruption, and impunity that underpin them. 

 

PROMOTING HUMAN DIGNITY

Protecting and Promoting Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law, including:

  1. Combating resurgent global authoritarianism, illiberal populism, and democracy in retreat;

  2. Combating cultures of criminality, corruption and impunity;

  3. Combating racism, hatred, antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry;

  4. The United Nations, human rights and international due process;

  5. 7 Rs of Indigenous justice;

  6. Parliamentary Iran Accountability Week;

  7. Terrorism, security and human rights;

  8. Remedying wrongful convictions;

  9. Partnering in the pursuit of justice with intergovernmental organizations, governments, and civil society;



THE PRAGUE APPEAL FOR DEMOCRATIC RENEWAL

Our work is inspired by and anchored in the Prague Appeal for Democratic Renewal - issued by the International Coalition for Democratic Renewal - of which RWCHR Chair Professor Irwin Cotler is a founding member, and the RWCHR a key leader.

Liberal democracy is under threat, and all who cherish it must come to its defense.

Democracy is threatened from without by despotic regimes in Russia, China, and others that are tightening repression internally and expanding their power globally, filling vacuums left by the retreat of some of the traditional democratic countries’ power, influence, and self-confidence. They are using old weapons of hard power as well as new social media and a growing arsenal of soft power to create a post-democratic world order in which norms of human rights and the rule of law are replaced by the principle of absolute state sovereignty.

Democracy is also being threatened from within. Illiberalism is on the rise in Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines, Venezuela, and other backsliding democracies. In other countries—even long-established democracies—support for liberal democracy has eroded in recent years, especially among younger people who have no memory of the struggles against totalitarianism. Faith in democratic institutions has been declining for some time, as governments seem unable to cope with the complex new challenges of globalization, political processes appear increasingly sclerotic and dysfunctional, and the bureaucracies managing both national and global institutions seem remote and overbearing. Compounding the difficulties, terrorist violence has created a climate of fear that is used by despots and demagogues to justify authoritarian power and restrictions on freedoms.

Such problems have caused widespread anxiety, hostility to political elites and cynicism about democracy—feelings that have fueled the rise of anti-system political movements and parties. These sentiments, in turn, have been stoked and inflamed by authoritarian disinformation, which increasingly penetrates the media space of the democracies. The latest Freedom House survey shows that political rights and civil liberties have been on the decline for eleven consecutive years, and this year established democracies dominate the list of countries suffering setbacks in freedom.

Collectively, these factors—the geopolitical retreat of the West, the resurgence of authoritarian political forces, the erosion of belief in democratic values, and the loss of faith in the efficacy of democratic institutions—have brought a historic halt to democratic progress and threaten a possible “reverse wave” of democratic breakdowns. Democracy’s supporters must unite to halt the retreat and to organize a new coalition for its moral, intellectual, and political renewal.

The starting point of a new campaign for democracy is a reaffirmation of the fundamental principles that have inspired the expansion of modern democracy since its birth more than two centuries ago. These principles are rooted in the dignity of the human person and in the conviction that liberal democracy is the political system that can best safeguard this dignity and allow it to flourish. Among these principles are fundamental human rights including the basic freedoms of expression, association, and religion; political and social pluralism; the existence of a vibrant civil society that empowers citizens at the grass roots; the regular election of government officials through a truly free, fair, open, and competitive process; ample opportunities beyond elections for citizens to participate and voice their concerns; government transparency and accountability, secured both through strong checks and balances in the constitutional system and through civil society oversight; a vigorous rule of law, ensured by an independent judiciary; a market economy that is free of corruption and provides opportunity for all; and a democratic culture of tolerance, civility, and non-violence.

  • Download the Prague Appeal for Democratic Renewal (PDF)


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