Democracy Must Deliver Human Security
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(23 December 2021) — I, among others, enthusiastically promote democratic ideals as the best option, the only way to guarantee the rights and freedoms to which all peoples of the world are entitled. I regard these rights and freedoms to be nonnegotiable, and the governments we elect must be focused on delivering on these expectations. They are given the opportunity to govern in order to fulfill these basic, but critically important obligations. Governments who fail to meet their obligations must be held accountable. That is fundamental to a democratic form of government.
While in a democratic system of government we prize the opportunity to make orderly changes in political leadership according to electoral cycles, we cannot give political leaders a free ride during their terms in office. The citizenry in the exercise of their freedoms of assembly and protest must exert pressure on public officials to deliver on the democracy dividends. Political leaders must be held accountable at all times.
What are the standards of freedoms we must demand? What are the democracy dividends we expect? Why is human security fundamental to a free and equitable society?
We the peoples of the world
Let us begin with the commitment made by the Member States of the United Nations, all 193 of them, to abide by the UN Charter. While a majority of UN Member States have some level of democracy, more than one-third do not. Hundreds of millions of people around the world live under oppressive conditions where their fundamental rights are denied and human security is an alien culture. All countries are represented at the UN by their respective governments. Thus governments must be held accountable when the rights and freedoms of the governed are denied.
The United Nations Charter begins with words of hope and expectations of the peoples of the world, and the obligations assumed by states with being members of the United Nations. It states,
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined, … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small; to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained; and to promote social progress and standards of life in larger freedom; … to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.”
The members of the United Nations commit to the UN Charter’s Purposes and Principles enshrined in Chapter 1, Article 1, which, inter alia, are
“to achieve international cooperation of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion….”
Thus, international institutions are created to serve all humanity, not to favor the powerful but all peoples. Inequities in the operations of international institutions threaten global economic security and have failed to lift hundreds of millions out of abject poverty.
The United Nations does not have the power of enforcement. Holding governments accountable is the responsibility of the citizens of each country, and of the world, to ensure compliance by governments violating these principles. We are the peoples!
Guarantees of fundamental freedoms
One of the principal founders and architect of the United Nations, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his annual message to the US Congress in 1941, outlined the “four essential human freedoms.” These essential freedoms, according to Roosevelt, were “freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.” These freedoms were incorporated in the UN Charter to which every member is committed on becoming a member of the United Nations. From these freedoms spring fundamental rights of all peoples. Governments assumed the obligations to guarantee them to the citizens they serve and act collectively to guarantee them to all peoples.
Broadly speaking we are talking about governments guaranteeing Human Security. The UN has defined Human Security as including seven elements: economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, political security, personal security, and community security.
Many governments are failing to guarantee and deliver these fundamental elements of human security. Hundreds of millions of people around the world, citizens of our respective countries, are living in abject poverty with children going to bed hungry; inequities and exclusions in education systems failing to prepare successive generations for equitable participation in the economic benefits of their societies; access to universal quality healthcare is available to only a privileged few; lack of housing and environmental degradation in living conditions characterize far too many communities; and many live in fear of personal safety as governments fail to guarantee a safe and secure environment in which their citizens can live without fear, earn a livelihood, and raise their families.
There is a nexus between governments’ failure to guarantee basic human security and societies where human rights are not guaranteed to all. We must also ensure a free and independent press dedicated to serving the people without fear or favor from governments, or biased towards society’s privileged. The press is best able to fulfill its responsibilities when it is not defined by ideology and operates in an environment where governments cannot circumscribe or curb its freedom.
The irony of all this is that these conditions which negatively affect human security prevails by varying degrees in many democratic societies. Some governments lack the resources and the expertise, but most of all they lack the political will. In many cases these conditions exist because we the peoples too often fail to hold accountable those we elect.
We the peoples must guard against being swayed by partisan politics to excuse our leaders’ incompetence and lack of meaningful action. In a democracy we the peoples have the power and the opportunity to influence those we elect, because they serve at our will and pleasure. Our citizenry must demand concerted efforts by our governments to fulfill their obligations to us — the people.
In a democratic society we have the right to assemble and engage in peaceful protest. We must never hesitate to use the tools we have to effect the changes we want. We must commit to sustained political action to create the society which guarantees human security for all.
© 2021 Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post