Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Malawi, Gambia, Costa Rica, Fiji and Romania lead democracy push at the Human Rights Council

by Marc Limon, Executive Director of the Universal Rights Group Democracy, Thematic human rights issues

On 11 July Ambassador Alexander Maisuradze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN in Geneva, delivered a cross-regional statement at the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council calling on the body to assume a leadership role in the global reinvigoration of democracy. The statement, led by a group of main sponsors from Eastern Europe (Georgia, Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine), Africa (Gambia and Malawi), Asia-Pacific (Fiji), and Latin America (Costa Rica), argued that human rights and democracy are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and thus the present ‘democratic crisis is, at heart, a human rights crisis.’ With that in mind, Ambassador Maisuradze urged ‘the universal, multilateral UN human rights system to place itself in the vanguard of the global reinvigoration of democratic society.’

The statement comes against a backdrop of democratic decline in all parts of the world. According to International IDEA’s ‘Global State of Democracy Report 2022,’ half of all democratic governments around the world are in decline, undermined by internal (e.g., the misuse of new technologies to manipulate elections, spread disinformation and foment distrust in poll results) and external (e.g., the increasing confidence of autocratic States, and the military threat to democracies posed by Russia) challenges. To-date, the Human Rights Council has remained relatively disengaged from this critical geopolitical struggle, notwithstanding its major implications for the enjoyment of human rights.

The full statement can be read below:


Statement by Georgia on behalf of a group of States

Thank you, Mr President,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which turns 75 this year, articulates a solemn truth:

That all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.

It is to us clear from the Universal Declaration, the human rights treaties, and other core UN documents that democratic forms of governance, based upon the will of the people, provide the strongest foundation for long-term peace and security, sustainable development ‘leaving no one behind,’ and the full enjoyment of human rights.

On the other hand, it is also true that respect for, and the promotion and protection of, human rights provide the bedrock upon which democracy is built. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to vote in free and fair elections, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to work, and the right to education, as well as important human rights principles such as equality and non-discrimination, are a key pillar that supports democratic governance.

As such, democracy and human rights are interdependent and mutually-reinforcing. Where human rights are respected, promoted, and protected, democracy can flourish. Where human rights are eroded then it undermines the very edifice of democracy itself, even in long-established democratic societies.

Mr President,

According to some recent analyses, half of all democratic governments around the world are in decline, undermined by challenges including restrictions on civil society and the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, racial gerrymandering, the misuse of new technologies, including to spread disinformation, manipulate elections, and foment distrust in poll results, unequal access to essential public services and democratic life, and corruption.

From the foregoing, it is clear that this democratic crisis is, at its heart, a human rights crisis, and if we are to reverse these trends, we will need to mobilise the international human rights system, including this Council, its mechanisms, the Treaty Bodies, and OHCHR.

We believe a key dimension of such an approach should be to encourage the mechanisms to focus more on the democratic health of States, and extend recommendations aimed at strengthening democratic resilience, and building stable, inclusive, and vibrant democratic societies. The UN, including this Council under its agenda item 10, as well as OHCHR, should also provide technical assistance and capacity-building support to States, upon their request and with their full involvement, to implement those recommendations.

All democracies, irrespective of how long-established they may be, have room for improvement, and that is why the universal, multilateral UN human rights system should place itself in the vanguard of the global reinvigoration of democratic society.

The sponsors of this statement can think of no better way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration than to commit ourselves, in this chamber, to this common objective. We call on all States, civil society organisations, Treaty Body members and Special Procedures mandates, and indeed everyone who believes in human rights, democracy, and equality, to join us in this effort.

Thank you, Mr President.

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