Тест за демократичното общество. Какви ще са уроците?

Тест за демократичното общество. Какви ще са уроците?

Автор: Владимир Колев

Все по-големи и тревожни са мащабите на разпространение на новия вирус COVID-19, светът затъва във все по-голям страх, несигурност и смут, а „инфодемията“ около епидемията става все по-притеснителна. Но можем ли да обвиняваме хората за техните действия или бездействия? Властите, дори и „най-демократичните“, не успяват да реагират адекватно на това предизвикателство, понеже са успели да подкопаят доверието на гражданите в тях, в публичните институции, в медиите, дори и в науката. От друга страна световните сили не показаха готовност за взаимодействие и координация на глобално ниво за борба със разрастващата се заплаха. Затова сега им се налага да използват все по-авторитарни мерки за да компенсират липсата на международно сътрудничество, ефективна комуникация и обществена осведоменост и подготвеност. Но колкото по-силово и неаргументирано действат властите, толкова по-големи притеснения и недоверие това буди. Хората става по-склонни към изпадане в крайност, било то в неглижиране на опасността, дори възприемането на конспиративни теории и застрашаването по този начин на собствения и този на другите живот, било в прекалено безпокойство, а оттам и паника, безразсъдства, а може би и насилие.

Поради цялостната липса на доверие към правителствата, лидерите са готови да жертват благосъстоянието и основни права на гражданите за краткосрочно възвръщане на контрола над масите и укрепване на силата си – и в „западния свят“, и в по-самодържавни режими. Но когато ограниченията не са съобразени законово, добре обосновани и комуникирани към гражданите, те биха имали обратен ефект. Във времена на засилена еднолична власт либералните ценности са под въпрос. Изискванията на обществото в демократичните управления се очаква да са много по-високи и да не се задоволяват само с контрол, глоби и наказания. Също така би трябвало да се изискват пълна прозрачност, отчетност, обществено доверие и сътрудничество – неща, които се предполага да позволяват на свободните общества да реагират по-добре на подобни пандемии.

Извънредната обстановка и липсата на ясен отпор и контрол от гражданското общество са явна предпоставка за поява и активизиране на все повече еднолични лидери, особено крайнодесни популисти, които да се изкушат и опиянят от свръх власт. Това вече се вижда в много държави, в които се въвеждат непропорционални на обстоятелствата мерки, с които се потискат човешки права. Познати политически фигури не пропуснаха възможността да се противопоставят на имиграцията и глобализацията и на бежанците като източник на вируса в първите седмици на разрастване на опасността, където хиляди мигранти останаха блокирани на гръцко-турската граница, при огромна възможността за разпространение на вируса. Въпреки това Ердоган, ЕС, както и Борисов, продължиха да поддържат твърдите си позиции, гонейки политически интересите, за сметка на човечността и на други позабравени европейски ценности.

В България също се въвеждат най-строги мерки с бързи темпове – ограничения за пътуване между населени места, забрани за разходки, посещения на паркове и градини, забрана за пазаруване на хора под 60 год. в определени часови интервали, вечерни часове започващи посред бял ден, контрол върху интернет съдържание, дори се изиска дерогиране на Европейската конвенция за защита правата на човека, а списъкът расте всекидневно. Още преди да влязат в сила някои от новите мерки, управите в няколко града започнаха да слагат контролно-пропускателни пунктове в ромските квартали, макар да нямаше информация за заболели в тях. Възползвайки се от хаотичността, патриотите от управляващата коалиция опитват да прокарат подкопаващи устоите на демокрацията мерки като тази за доброволните отряди. Сигурността на едни от най-уязвимите хора, тези без дом, не е гарантирана – кризисни центрове преустановяват прием на нови хора, благотворителни кухни са затворили врати, а рискът от фатално заразяване при някои от тях е огромен. Вирусната епидемия показа зависимостта ни едни от други, без значение от етническа, религиозна, сексуална, социална или каквато и да е принадлежност – довежда до общото осъзнаване, че живеем във взаимосвързано „общество“.

Вирусът показа също, че за него не съществуват национални граници. Важно е световните правителства да се координират възможно най-бързо, иначе огромната епидемична криза ще доведе и до икономическа и финансова такава. Сегашната система ни навежда на мисълта, че не е подготвена за справяне с подобни глобални опасности, тъй както не реагира задоволително и на климатичната криза. Впрочем някои тези свързват двете кризи, тъй като топенето на ледници и повишаването на температурите правят планетата по-гостоприемна за вируси и бактерии, a заплахата от прихващане на вируса е много по-висока в замърсените градове. За жалост, някои членки на ЕС взеха отбранителни позиции, като не откликнаха на исканията на Италия за подпомагане с медицинско оборудване и материали. Така изолацията придобива и други измерения, освен чисто физическото. За щастие бяхме свидетели и на обнадеждаващи примери за международна солидарност – китайски и кубински медицински специалисти, апаратура и маски пристигнаха в Италия, за да помогнат в битката с вируса, а британски круизен кораб с потвърдени случаи на заразени с коронавирус беше приет да акостира в Куба преди дни.

Друг повод за притеснение е, че поради все по-заслабващите публични институции, социална система и зависимостта ни от частния сектор и услугите му, сме изправени пред ситуация на невъзможност на властите за справяне с наплива от заразени в държавните болници. Налага се да разчитаме на това частните болници да дадат приоритет на общественото благо пред интересите на бизнеса, но бихме ли могли да очакваме, че те ще осигурят здравни грижи, които да са достъпни за всички, без дискриминация, с добро качество и следвайки принципи за етично разпределение на здравните ресурси? Университетската Александровска болница реши да върне голямо дарение за покупка на респираторни апарати на собственика ѝ, по причина, че дарението е под условие, а това категорично би нарушило Хипократовата клетва, полагана от лекарите. Изникват съмнения и дали по-заможните граждани спазват установения ред, огласен от здравните власти, след като крупен бизнесмен беше хоспитализиран заедно с жена си в лечебно заведение, което не е предвидено за случаи на COVID-19. Администрацията на американския президент пък опита да купи разработка на ваксина от Германия за вируса и тя да бъде ексклузивно само за американци. Изглежда, че все повече ще се замисляме доколко е надеждно сегашното капиталистическо устройство и до какво води изоставянето на публични сектори като здравеопазването, както и какво може да се научи и заеме от други модели, оказващи се по-ефикасни при дадени обстоятелства.

Настоящата обстановка е истински тест за гражданството, хората навсякъде са раздвоени, поради заливащата ни (дез)информация, никой не иска да остане без мнение и безучастен към всеобщия дискурс, което води до заемане на крайни и радикални позиции и склонност към оправдаване на авторитарни похвати. Несъмнено, популистите ще се опитат да се възползват от това, но от гражданското общество и здравия ни разум зависи да не позволим крайни рестрикции. Когато те заставят да избираш между своето здраве и живот, и тези на близките ти хора, от една страна, и основните ти права, от друга, логично е да избереш живота и да защитиш всеки, който твърди, че прави всичко за да го опази. Но това е неморален и погрешен въпрос и избор, защото те са неотменно свързани. Както гласи една мисъл, който заменя свобода за сигурност, накрая губи и двете.

Информираното, солидарно и справедливо общество е далеч по-мощно и ефективно от репресираното, контролирано и невежо население. Примерите за събуждащата се солидарност и взаимопомощ и по света, и у нас, са все повече и по-обнадеждаващи. Ще се справим с това предизвикателство само заедно (макар и не чисто физически) и без да допускаме да се потискат нашите права и достойнства, а това ще е несъмнен урок за бъдещите изпитания пред света и истинската демокрация.

Rights and responsibilities in the Coronavirus pandemic

Rights and responsibilities in the Coronavirus pandemic

To protect our collective right to health in the current pandemic situation, we need to balance our individual rights with collective responsibilities.

By: Kathryn Sikkink


In order to fully implement human rights, we need to place more emphasis on the responsibility of all actors, and not just states, to take action together to make sure rights are enjoyed.

This argument from my newly published book: The Hidden Face of Rights: Toward a Politics of Responsibility, turns out to be particularly relevant to the coronavirus pandemic. Even if all governments were taking efficient action, but individuals didn’t also do their share by staying home and washing their hands, the crisis would not be averted. 

Building on the work of Iris Marion Young in her posthumous book, Responsibility for Justicein The Hidden Face of Rights, I argue that all actors socially connected to structural injustice and able to act, need to take action to address the injustice. One problem with the word responsibility is that people often use it in the common legal meaning focused on who is to blame or liable. This is what Iris Young has called backward-looking responsibility or the “liability model.” She focused on political responsibility that is forward-looking. This kind of responsibility asks not “who is to blame,” but “what should we do?” Forward-looking responsibility is necessary to address the Coronavirus pandemic and to think about what we should do in the world after the pandemic. I also draw on Max Weber’s idea of an ethic of responsibility in Politics as a Vocation to stress that it is not enough to act with good intentions. We also need to have done our research about the most effective way to act so that our actions have the impact we seek.

Even if all governments were taking efficient action, but individuals didn’t also do their share by staying home and washing their hands, the crisis would not be averted. 

This framework is useful in the context of the Coronavirus crisis because it involves both a range of rights and responsibilities of many actors. Our right to health, but also rights to liberty, freedom of movement, to education, to information, to food and shelter are all at stake. As countries ramp up exclusionary travel and border policies, some of these rights may be imperiled, and governments need to strike a balance between protecting health and respecting human rights, as the WHO Secretary General recognized in his briefing on March 12. A quarantine is a legitimate state policy in times of health emergencies, but the state must attend to the rights of individuals caught in the quarantine to adequate health care, food, and shelter. 

This balancing of rights is foreseen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which speaks of limiting rights to “respect the rights and freedoms of others” . The UDHR goes further, however, and recognizes that each of us has “duties to the community”, and its preamble calls on all of us to promote rights. The drafters were keen to highlight that realizing the full potential of the UDHR was a collective effort.

In order for everyone to enjoy these rights, all actors socially connected to this problem and able to act must practice responsibilities that are not always well defined. To protect our collective right to health, we may need to recognize that we have a right to freedom of movement, but also a responsibility not to travel in certain circumstances; a right to education, but a responsibility to accept that it may be suspended temporarily or delivered on-line. 

Global health governance institutions can provide a pathway to implement the human right to health.  International organizations, especially WHO, appear to have stepped up to this responsibility in impressive ways in recent weeks. I recommend anyone who wants to be well-informed in a way that both prevents panic and promotes action to spend time on the coronavirus part of the WHO website

In order for everyone to enjoy these rights, all actors socially connected to this problem and able to act must practice responsibilities that are not always well defined.

Some states are doing a far better job at exercising responsibility than others. The US case is especially worrisome, where CDC action has been hampered by the initial political instincts of the Trump administration to downplay the problem. In this context, one of the responsibilities I devote chapters to in my book—the responsibility to vote—becomes even more important. The dangers of this narcissistic nationalist leader hostile to science and facts could not be more apparent than in the case of a genuine international crisis when poor US leadership is literally a life and death issue.

But responsibilities do not stop with national governments—they also exist for state and municipal governments, health care institutions, the media, non-profits, universities, and down to the individual. At the individual level, our responsibilities in the face of the COVID-19 crisis include the responsibility to wash hands, to stay at home if we feel unwell, to cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, but also to be informed and not to panic. Who would have thought that developing new norms about hand washing would become a global governance issue? Individual responsibilities may include such non-actions such as not hoarding basic goods. For example, most people don’t need face masks, and should leave them for those who are sick or are caring for sick people. But what is most important is that individuals don’t exercise their responsibilities in an isolated manner, but in coordination with institutions and social connection with others, even as we provide the “social distance” (1 meter) necessary to limit transmission of the disease.

It is a persistent but somewhat troubling finding of international relations theory that change in on ideas and institutions is more likely to occur in the wake of crisis. This crisis is already yielding a nationalist response, with the US suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for 30 daysa policy European officials said was taken unilaterally and without any consultation. But a forward-looking rights and responsibilities approach suggests we need more well-coordinated national and international responses. More and better global governance is necessary for solving the COVID-19 crisis and the economic recession that could grow out of it.   Our biggest responsibility may be to figure out how to convert this crisis into a step forward for global governance rather than a step away from it.


Photo: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in OpenGlobalRights on March 16, 2020

Kathryn Sikkink is a Regents Professor Emerita at the University of Minnesota and the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

To Protect Democracy, Reform It

To Protect Democracy, Reform It

Feb 26, 2020 ANDRÉS VELASCO

LONDON – Democracy may be “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” as Winston Churchill famously said, but that does not mean democracy is good enough. Voters know it, and they are as mad as hell about it.

According to the most recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey, an average of 51% of citizens in 27 countries surveyed report being dissatisfied with democracy, while 45% are satisfied. If that 51% does not seem high to you, note that the figure is 55% in Britain, 56% in Japan, 58% in the United States, 60% in Nigeria, 63% in Argentina, 64% in South Africa, 70% in Italy, 81% in Spain, 83% in Brazil, and 85% in Mexico. This sentiment is not unique to one social group. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor, highly educated and not, report being disappointed by democratic performance.

That should not come as a surprise. In the past 250 years, almost every human endeavor has changed beyond recognition – except democracy. We vote every four or so years for candidates about whom we know little (and we do so in person, often with paper and pencil!). This process is mediated by political parties, which are often less than fully democratic themselves. We elect large groups of peoples known as parliamentarians, who meet in ornate chambers and, following arcane rules, discuss at length and with great showmanship subjects they understand only superficially. Sparks fly, yet little illumination occurs. Many social and economic problems remain unaddressed. Four or five years later, the cycle starts again.

Since democracy began taking root in Western countries after the American and French revolutions, innovations have been few and far between. Direct citizen consultation or participation, as in ancient Athens? Not really. Systematic expert input into highly complex and technical discussions? Very seldom. Intensive use of technology to expedite the process? Thanks, but no thanks. No wonder today’s young people, weaned on the immediacy and the results-now culture of the digital era, are skeptical of representative democracy.

The list of imaginable reforms to democratic practice is as long as it is challenging. Some of the necessary changes, like reducing the role of money in campaigns, are obvious. Others veer toward the adventurous. Referenda are unsuited to complex issues that do not lend themselves to a yes-or-no answer (think Brexit), but could we not move toward more direct democracy at the local level, where voters are well informed about the issues – build a park here, re-route a highway there – at stake?

Perhaps we could use technology to move from voting every four years with little information to voting more often with better information. Or we could combat lack of interest and low citizen turnout by making votes tradable – not for money but for other votes, so that you can vote twice next month in that referendum you really care about. Alternatively, votes could be storable, allowing voters to cast more than one in elections they feel strongly about.

The rules of democracy matter, but elected politicians matter just as much – and they too are thoroughly discredited. In the same Pew report, an average of 54% of respondents said that politicians in their country are corrupt, and only 35% said that elected officials care what ordinary people think.

Some of those politicians are discredited because their sins are so glaring. As Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil put it in 2018, “Of the four presidents elected after the 1988 Constitution took effect, two were impeached, one is in jail for corruption and the other is me.” No wonder that some Brazilians report feeling nostalgic for their country’s repressive military dictatorship. Those same Brazilians voted to elect Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who has insulted women, black people, and gays.

But the problem is bigger than just a few bad apples. In his famous essay “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber warned that a key risk for modern democracy was that a political class would arise, disconnected from voters. Such a political class did indeed emerge, and now voters are revolting against it.

Political parties are a case in point. Once upon a time, they had roots in society. Conservative parties were linked to various churches, neighborhood clubs, and business associations. Socialist parties had their base in the trade unions and what was once called the industrial proletariat. Today, those institutions are fewer and weaker, and so are political parties. One political scientist has called today’s parties “hydroponic” – floating above society but with no roots in it.

That is why nowadays conventional political parties tend to have leaders who themselves hail from the well-heeled professions, the upper echelons of universities, or from successful businesses whose founders have acquired the financial stability needed to be able to devote themselves to politics. The potential for a fundamental disconnect with voters is huge.

And the arrogance of that political class has not helped: just think of Hillary Clinton describing Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables.” The standard refrain is that citizens vote for that politician with whom they would like to have a beer. But rather than sharing a drink with the average voter, leading politicians spend too much of their time with others like themselves —bankers, businesspeople, top civil servants, and high-flying academics. To ascertain which politicians can be successful today, Yascha Mounk calls for a “reverse beer test”: it is not that voters prefer the candidate they would rather have a beer with; they prefer the candidate who would rather have a beer with them. Too many democratic politicians fail this test.

Anti-establishment voting has the name of the game in many recent elections. Fury against traditional politicians caused the failure of Germán Vargas Lleras and Geraldo Alckmin, the “safe” establishment candidates in the 2018 Colombian and Brazilian elections. Each had the support of the local business community and the traditional media. Both went home after disastrous results in the first round of voting. Anti-establishment rage also doomed Hillary Clinton’s campaign and brought about the current populist government in Italy. And it could also be behind the dismal primary performance so far of Joseph Biden, the establishment candidate par excellence.

And of course, the hyper-charged environment of social media, with its echo chambers, makes the job of anti-establishment populists much easier. Want to discredit a candidate for office in five minutes? Post a picture of him or her riding in the first-class section of a plane or in the back of a shiny black car. The picture will be re-transmitted tens of thousands of times, collecting many comments along the way. Not one of the comments will be kind.

The message is clear: dissatisfaction with democracy is the perfect breeding ground for authoritarian populists. Strongmen, whether actual or potential, have little vested interest in democratic reform. Liberal democrats do. They should be the ones leading the charge.

Source: https://www.project-syndicate.org/

Трилогията „Социалната война“ от Генка Шикерова

Трилогията „Социалната война“ от Генка Шикерова

„Децата на Норвегия“ e първата част от документалната поредица на Генка Шикерова
„Пропагандата“ e втората част от документалната поредица на Генка Шикерова
„Българи в Норвегия“ е третата част от документалната поредица на Генка Шикерова
Снимка: Скрийншот от youtube видеата
Необикновеният разговор между различни ценностни общности по време на панелната дискусия „Семейството в демократичното общество“

Необикновеният разговор между различни ценностни общности по време на панелната дискусия „Семейството в демократичното общество“

В последния ден на януари се проведе панелна дискусия на тема  „Семейството в демократичното общество: Могат ли правата на детето да са в разрез с правата на неговото семейство?“. По време на събитието спонтанно започна безпрецедентен разговор между представители на правозащитната общност и представители на организаторите на протестите против Стратегията за детето и Закона за социалните услуги. В препълнената зала имаше и заинтересовани от тази гореща и важна тема граждани, както и загрижени родители.

Панелната дискусия беше организирана от БОЛД в уютния салон на „Къщата на София“ и представляваше старт на започващата дългосрочна кампания на БОЛД по темата за закрилата на детето и семейството. Кампанията цели да спомогне за по-доброто разбиране на основни закони и политики по отношение на семейството и децата и за формирането на обществени нагласи и публични политики насочени към спазване на правата и достойнствата на децата и останалите членове в семействата.

Събитието бе открито от модератора на панела д-р Красимир Кънев, председател на Български хелзинкски комитет, който приветствайки всички гости, започна с няколко встъпителни думи по всеобхватната тема за семейството, и спомена за неочаквания отказ на СУ „Климент Охридски“ да даде платформа за тази неудобна и противоречива тема.

Проф. Антоний Тодоров говори по темата „Кога детето пораства и кога има права?“, започвайки с оповестяването на публикуваната позиция на БОЛД по въпроса, разгледа подробно значението на термина „права на детето“, дали семейството има детето като своя собственост и дали може да упражнява пълна власт над децата. Завърши с призив да не се поддаваме на внушаваните страхове.

Вторият панелист, Калина Зафирова, екосоциален активист, говори по темата за домашното насилие над децата, видовете насилие и необходимите гаранции за защита от тези форми на злоупотреба, както и за неглижирането на детските нужди и специфичното насилие над деца с различна сексуална ориентация или гендерна идентичност.

Д-р Димитрина Петрова говори за силната гражданската активност около Националната стратегия за детето и Закона за социалните услуги, разнообразието в редиците на протестиращите срещу тях и глобалния възход на културния консерватизъм. Тя маркира реални случаи на неправомерно извеждане на деца от социалните служби и как това въздейства върху емоциите на хората.

След това доц. Валентина Георгиева, преподавател в СУ „Климент Охридски“, представи статистически данни за семейството, които показват, че традиционните семейните ценности и нагласи, които се проповядват, не са в синхрон с действителността на днешното семейство в България. Тя напомни за неприетите предложения за фактическото съжителство през 2009 и даде гласност на кампанията за груповото подаване на заявления до Столична община за регистрирано партньорство #СемействоЗаВсички.


В ролята на дискутант, проф. Ивайло Дичев, преподавател в СУ „Климент Охридски“, коментира посланията на панелистите и отправи предизвикателни въпрос към всеки от тях. По време на отговорите започнаха интервенции от публиката и се оформи интензивна дискусия. Представителите на организации против Стратегията за детето и Закона за социалните услуги в публиката разказаха лични истории и дадоха примери за нередности в системите по закрила на детето и социалните услуги, представяйки и своите разбирания за това какво е семейството. Те подчертаха разнообразието на протестиращите, както и че имат единомислие по редица въпроси, засегнати от панелистите.


Димитрина Петрова си позволи да изрази своята възхита от факта, че се получава наистина автентична среща на различни ценностни общности, които разговарят въпреки своите разногласия. Много от участниците също подчертаха, че от формулиране на разумни общи искания ще спечелят и децата, и семействата. Представители на протестиращите активисти коментираха ролята на медиите, които често драматизират и усилват разделението и внасят необосновани инсинуации за протестиращите и за гражданския сектор.


Гост в публиката, представител на организация, която е доставчик на социални услуги, сподели за хилядите жертви на насилие, които са минали през техните центрове, и даде тъжната статистика за десетките деца и жени в моргите, убити от бащи и партньори. Признавайки немалкото пролуки в социалната системата, тя посочи и липсата на политическа воля и неглижирането на социалната работа, на маргинализираните общности, на жертвите, хората със зависимости и психични проблеми. Изрази благодарност към организаторите на събитието от името на терапевтите и социалните работници и призова към конструктивни диалози между всички в условия на добронамереност.

Представител на ЛГБТИ организация апелира, когато се случва този процес на сближаване между инакомислещи и идентифициране на общите възможности за борба, да бъдем искрени, да се поставим на мястото на другия и да не пренебрегваме техните права, включително правото на семейство.


На въпрос от гост в публиката дали БОЛД смята, че гражданските организации, които протестират сега, са свързани с преизбирането на Путин през 2012 и ренесанса на тоталитарен режим, свързан с православие и евразийство, Димитрина Петрова посочи, че в позицията на БОЛД е заявено ясно, че е изключително сложен и широк спектърът на протестиращите и не може да бъде сведен само под един знаменател, както и че огромната част от хората са там по убеждение, с вяра в своята кауза, движени от страхове, някои от които нелишени от основание.

В заключение се заяви желание да се намери формат за продължение на необикновения разговор между различни идеологически общности, и БОЛД, като общност, която търси по-широка база на съмишленици и поддръжници на ценностите на демокрацията, може да бъде един от катализаторите на този разговор. Надеждата ни е, че участниците са си тръгнали от нашия форум с малко по-преобразено и подобрено виждане за това какво представляват хората от отсрещната страна, а това само по себе си е стъпка в обещаваща посока.

Димитрина Петрова: Шокиращо е невежеството по правата на човека и бездействието на държавата

Димитрина Петрова: Шокиращо е невежеството по правата на човека и бездействието на държавата

Интервю на Димитрина Петрова от БОЛД с Видка Атанасова от Дневник. Източник – Дневник

Стратегията за детето урежда защитата на децата в риск, но от около година настъпи масова психоза сред родители заради неверни твърдения, че тази стратегия цели обратното, и дори се е стигна до абсурдни тези, че има организиран трафик на български деца към Норвегия, за което се винят неправителствени организации, които на практика защитават децата от насилие вкъщи.

За разговор по темата „Дневник“ потърси д-р Димитрина Петрова, инициатор и представител на Българска общност за либерална демокрация (БОЛД) – една нова инициатива на Българския хелзинкски комитет, която си поставя за цел да увеличи обществената подкрепа за демокрацията, правата на човека и основните свободи.

Тя ще е един от участниците в предстоящата утре дискусия „Семейството в демократичното общество: Могат ли правата на детето да са в разрез с правата на неговото семейство?“, организирана от БОЛД, която е част от започващата кампания на организацията по темата за закрилата на детето и семейството. БОЛД кани граждани, представители на граждански организации, инициативи, движения и заинтересовани медии да присъстват на събитието, повече за него – тук.

Как си обяснявате тази истерия сред хората? Дали има организирана кампания за насаждане на тези страхове? Кой я организира и има интерес от това да липсват социални услуги, защитаващи детето?

– Противниците на Националната стратегия за детето са облагодетелствани от няколко паралелни процеса и обстоятелства, които взаимно се усилват поради своята едновременност. Първо, тяхната кауза е вписана в течаща в момента глобална кампания на културния консерватизъм, която на свой ред е един от аспектите на започналото преди десетина години глобално настъпление срещу либерално-демократичните ценности, включително правата на човека и равнопоставеността на половете. В много страни, подобно на България, в момента тази кампания се провежда от силни граждански движения, излизащи под знамето на защита на „семейните ценности“.

Второ, самата тема за детето и семейството е извънредно удобен вход за разпространение и утвърждаване на традиционалистки нагласи, защото е лесно комуникируема под формата на емоционални разкази, чиито послания са по-лесни за възприемане в сравнение с малко по-абстрактните послания на правозащитниците. Какво по-тревожно послание от заплахата да изгубиш детето си? То възбужда първосигнални рефлекси и хората се хвърлят с главата напред в такава кауза, без много да се замислят.

Трето, глобалните идеологически процеси по такава чувствителна тема попадат върху благодатната историческа почва на дълбок патриархален манталитет, характерен за балканите, който само повърхностно е засегнат от комунистически и либерални набраздявания.

Най-сетне, четвърто, но най-важно – в случая с протестите против Националната стратегия за детето главен фактор е тяхната добра комуникационна стратегия, грамотна организация и успешно насочване на гражданска енергия. Въпросът кой стои зад всичко това няма прост отговор. Но аз си направих труда да проследя някои от директните заемки на идеи и дори текстове и стигнах до определени източници, например глобалната мрежа от организации за защита на семейството и семейните ценности, в която едни от най-силните идеологически участници са от Русия и САЩ.

Има ли връзка с кампанията срещу Истанбулската конвенция, която се опитваше да въведе мерки срещу домашното насилие срещу жени?

– Да, има. И двете кампании, а към тях сега трябва да добавим и кампанията за отмяна на приетия, но още не влязъл в сила Закон за социалните услуги, са проявления на културен консерватизъм и засягат типични теми от съвременната глобална война на култури. В България спектърът на участниците в тези движения е сложен. В единия му край са съзнателни привърженици на антилиберални идеологии от рода на руския православно-евразийски консерватизъм на Изборския клуб (представен и под името „Институт за динамичен консерватизъм“, създаден от руски консервативни политици, учени, публицисти и духовници – бел. ред.) и някои западни религиозно-консервативни движения, а в другия – обикновени хора, особено родители, които са били манипулирани да повярват, че правата на децата и правата на жените противоречат на семейните ценности.

Трябва ли държавата да заеме по-категорична роля в успокояване на населението, с разяснителна информационна кампания например?

– Да, трябва. Във всички случаи на остра атака срещу правата на жената и детето и срещу демократични граждански организации през последните десетина години правителството на ГЕРБ и неговите партньори уж пазеше мълчание, но същевременно предприемаше регресивни действия по посока на задоволяване исканията на ултраконсервативните движения. Така стана и с Истанбулската конвенция, и с Националната стратегия за детето, и със Закона за социалните услуги.

Държавата има задължението да уважава, защитава и реализира правата на човека, включително на детето. Като основен носител на задължения за реализиране на правата на детето държавата трябва и да се грижи за това образованието по тези правата на детето и правата на човека изобщо да са на съвременно равнище. Като човек, който се връща в България след повече от 20 години, мен ме шокира невероятно силното масово невежество по правата на човека и бездействието на държавата в тази област. Работила съм в много страни по света, но рядко съм срещала такава степен на непознаване на основни правозащитни принципи. Ето например твърдението, че детето не трябвало да бъде субект на права. Потресаващо!

Важни ли са социалните услуги, които в момента следят за правата на детето в семейството? Вършат ли си работата? Има ли нужда от неправителствени организации в сектора?

– Разбира се, се социалните услуги са важни. Вършат си работата, колкото могат, понякога не много добре, но вината не е в самите тях, а в отчайващата липса на политическо внимание към тях. Социалните работници са почти на дъното на социалната пирамида и текучеството сред тях е много голямо. Да, има нужда от неправителствени организации в сектора. Без тях бихме се върнали към безумията на комунистическото централно планиране без никакви корективи от гражданското общество, основани на инициатива, иновативност и гъвкавост в посрещането на потребности.

Хората, които искат да изтикат неправителствените организации от сектора на социални услуги, не забелязват, че хем ги е страх от държавата (защото единствено държавни органи по закрила могат да извеждат деца от семействата им, никога неправителствените организации), хем искат всички услуги да са в ръцете на държавата. Пак ли трябва да започваме да разясняваме ролята на гражданското общество като гарант срещу държавни злоупотреби? В коя година живеем?

Има ли нужда от законодателни промени и в каква насока?

– Да, има. Те са в Закона за социалните услуги. Надявам се разумът да победи и законът да влезе в сила.

Източникhttps://www.dnevnik.bg/intervju/2020/01/30/4022993_dimitrina_petrova_shokirashto_e_nevejestvoto_po/?ref=home_layer2&fbclid=IwAR1EoV6tOJ5H1WjmPt0Gs48UIbDTlrfDnvkdOEtQHEw8MRSDKQFczxAfsZ8

Реч на президента на Република Северна Македония по случай 25-тата годишнина от основаването на Хелзинкския комитет за права на човека

Уважаеми представители на медиите,

Драги гости, 

Благодаря за поканата, за мен е чест да направя обръщение днес по повод четвърт век от съществуването на Хелзинкския комитет за права на човека в нашата страна – организация, която е безспорен ветеран в защитата и узаконяването на правата на човека.

Почти трите десетилетия независимост на нашата държава и дългият и тежък преход бяха изпълнени с политически кризи, социална неправда, разклатени междуетнически отношения, недоверие в политиката и нетърпимост към различните.

При тези условия вече 25 години Хелзинкският комитет е градивен критик на държавата, който сигнализира за социалните неправди, правните пропуски, политическите злоупотреби и другите отклонения от обществения ред. Вие активно се борите против предразсъдъците, против стереотипите, против дискриминацията, корупцията, омразата и против насилието в нашето общество.

Благодарение на вашите механизми, като безплатната правна помощ, към вас могат да се обърнат за помощ семействата на лица с увреждания, самотни майки, жертви на домашно насилие, социално онеправдани граждани. Вашата сигурна защита помага и на членове на ЛГБТИ общността, които са жертви на насилие. Чрез посещенията на затворите в нашата страна вие давате гласност за състоянието на правата на човека, борбата против дискриминацията, защитата на бежанците и търсещите убежище, което е само част от вашата работа. Вие правите видими гражданите, които остават невидими за институциите, заставайки винаги на страната на по-слабите.  

Правата на работниците, равенството между мъжете и жените, етническата равнопоставеност, социалното включване  на лицата с увреждания, правата и защитата на ЛГБТИ общността, равното право на социална и здравна осигуреност, образование и правна помощ, речта на омразата и престъпленията от омраза – всички тези теми биха били в периферията на общественото внимание, ако вие не алармирахте и не работехте активно за защитата на човешките и права и свободи за всички.

Драги приятели,

Вие знаете по-добре от мен, че работата далеч не е приключена. Човешките права и свободи са застрашени винаги, когато се приемат за даденост, сякаш дадени веднъж, те са осигурени и гарантирани. Всяко поколение трябва да ги утвърждава отново и отново, за да може да се възползва от тези права. Не минава и ден без да научим за нарушението на някое човешко право или ограничаването на някоя човешка свобода. Домашното насилие, експлоатацията на работниците, етикетирането на различните според тяхната етническа и религиозна принадлежност, сексуална ориентация или джендърна идентичност, заклеймяването на зависимите, за жалост, са част от нашето всекидневие. Не можем да си позволим да бъдем равнодушни към нарушаването на човешките права и правото на човешко достойнство.

 Уважаеми присъстващи,

Битката за правата на човека трябва да продължи, защото нито едно човешко право не е право само на една личност или една общност. Трябва да използваме свободата, която имаме, за да утвърждаваме и свободата на другите. Истински свободното общество е онова, в което правата на най-малката общност са точно толкова уважавани, колкото и правата на най-голямата.

Трябва да бъдем активни! Борбата за човешките права и свободи не трябва да бъде ангажимент само на няколко интелектуалци и активисти, а дълг на всеки гражданин, на всеки човек.

Всички хора се раждаме свободни и равни, затова не трябва да позволим по-силните да имат повече права от по-слабите. Нека да работим заедно, за да намерим баланса между общата сигурност и индивидуалната свобода, да се запази универсалността на правата на човека, без да се наруши разнообразието.  

Нека постоянно да препрочитаме и да тълкуваме Всеобщата декларация за правата на човека, Международния пакт за икономически, социални и културни права, Международния пакт за граждански и политически права и Европейската конвенция за правата на човека. Прогресивното европейско общество е само онова, в което се почита и се промотира богатството на разнообразието.

По този начин ще постигнем напредък в два неразривно свързани процеса: първият е гражданското помирение, когато всички, които живеят на тази земя, ще се уважават един друг и ще бъдат уважавани и зачитани от институциите, не само на хартия, а и на практика. Нашата основна цел трябва да бъде общество, освободено от предразсъдъци, в което има място за всеки. Вторият е европейската интеграция. В основата на Европейския съюз и така наречения европейски начин на живот лежи защитата на правата на човека, демокрацията и върховенството на закона. 

Уважаеми приятели,

Вие от Хелзинкския комитет цели 25 години устоявате в борбата за човешки права и свободи, водени от вярата в ценността и неприкосновеното достойнство на всяко човешко същество. По този път съм зад вас и ви подкрепям безусловно.  

Пожелавам си до следващия юбилей да изградим европейско общество и европейска държава на политически диалог, на социална правда, солидарност между хората и маргинализираните общности, грижа за околната среда, където правилата важат за всички.

Поздравявам ви и ви благодаря!

Източник: Кабинет на президента на Република Северна Македония
Източник: Кабинет на президента на Република Северна Македония
Източник: Кабинет на президента на Република Северна Македония

Източник: Кабинет на президента на Република Северна Македония

Източник: Кабинет на президента на Република Северна Македония

The 1989 revolutions and the roots of illiberal populism

The 1989 revolutions and the roots of illiberal populism

The deep unfairness of the transition from communism in Central and Eastern Europe fed the illiberal populist rebellion across the region today.

The ideological victory of liberal democracy over communism shaped the way in which historians, politicians, and social scientists made sense of the events of 1989. But there is a strong case today for a revised look at the revolutions of 1989—a critique of the way the prevailing narratives and theories have presented these revolutions as essentially a transition from the tyranny of the party-state to a free and democratic society. A more complex picture of that momentous year reveals not only the eclipse of different possibilities, but how frustrated expectations have shaped post-communist societies in subsequent decades, contributing to the upsurge of illiberal populism in the region over the last decade.

Today’s dominant narrative of 1989 gets one important thing right: liberty was the lodestar for many revolutionaries, in particular the intellectual elite. But the majority of the people were more annoyed by the betrayal of the communist promise of equality than by the lack of civil liberties. They came out in the streets and squares of Central and Eastern Europe in the hundreds of thousands because elites that had promised equality had instead built a world of privilege for themselves. The paradox of 1989 is that communism was stormed and brought down from the left, by people with unfulfilled egalitarian aspirations, but the revolutionary road led to a new society that has been experienced as more unfair than communism.

This paradox is rooted in a historical shift that occurred below the revolutionary surface: the liberation of the elite from the economic, political, and ideological restrictions of communism. Studies in European post-communist countries in the early 1990s led by Iván Szelényi showed that a very significant part of the post-1989 elite was made of former nomenklatura families who converted their political assets into economic wealth, which developed alongside the new spoils of cultural and ideological freedom and membership in a borderless global elite.

In October 1989, Bulgaria’s most popular dissident group, Ecoglasnost, was campaigning in the streets of Sofia. Among its many posters about the environment, civil liberties, and human rights was one that demanded, “Bulgarian millionaires! Donate to Ecoglasnost!” This doesn’t sound like much today, but at the time it was the most daring and thrilling slogan—the one that best captured the spirit of popular discontent and to which passersby responded most vibrantly, with laughter and tears. The very mention of communist millionaires in public disrupted the status quo and signaled a new era. The “people” genuinely wanted freedom, too, but for most this meant most immediately a society freed from nomenklatura privilege.

The Betrayal of the Communist Promise of Equality

During the first three decades of Central and Eastern European communism, postwar majorities benefited from rising living standards and greater socioeconomic mobility (with the exception of Czechoslovakia, which was more advanced economically to begin with). A large part of the predominantly poor agrarian population of the prewar period, further impoverished by the war, enjoyed upward mobility. Most people experienced the industrialization, urbanization, mass education, housing, and other elements of a modernization project as positive achievements of the communist system. Economic growth during these first decades helped produce rising living standards for almost all social groups. On September, 15, 1964, UK Ambassador to Bulgaria William Harpham reported to Foreign Office, “Whatever the mistakes of the regime in this country (which are plentiful), the average Bulgarian who has never been governed well and is not used to live in comfort is better off today than at any point in the past.” A similar observation could be made about the average Hungarian, Pole, and even Romanian, before Nicolae Ceauşescu’s bizarre economic decisions tanked the Romanian economy. As a result, until the mid-1970s, socioeconomic dissatisfaction in communist Europe was low.

In the realm of communist ideology, equality reigned supreme. But the social structure of Central and Eastern European societies during the communist period was shaped by two forces running in opposite directions—egalitarian social policy on one hand and a new kind of class formation on the other.

Communist social policy led to gains related to income, access to goods and services, housing, healthcare, social welfare, pensions, and—crucially—education, which stood above all else in terms of its social significance. No event was more important in a family than the summer months when children applied for high school and university admission. Beyond and above special privileges that affected very few young people, the communist regimes established a rather stable educational meritocracy dependent on exam results.

Elsewhere, egalitarian social policy imposed limits. There were restrictions on private ownership expressed in the number of square meters a household could legally own. Salary scales were rather flat, and economic incentives in the workplace were relatively weak. Living standards were low compared to those in the West, but the ordinary person felt a degree of security, and welfare benefits were not dependent on individual economic performance. There was no unemployment, and, as a rule, both spouses worked.

Countervailing these egalitarian policies was the consolidation of a new politically dominant class that, as time passed, became increasingly wealthy. Class difference was generated by the inheritance of formal and informal privileges and a system of “connections”—mutual favors between members of the elite. By the late 1970s, there existed a stable socioeconomic class division in European Communist societies. Individuals who had enjoyed privileges because of their place in the party-state had now passed down their wealth and elevated class position to their descendants. In the 1980s, the prominence of nomenklatura wealth and privilege became as undeniable as it was unacceptable. Popular resentment was directed particularly at the patrimonial element of nomenklatura privilege: “The Politburo are sending their children to Cambridge!” was the ultimate lament of the traditionally egalitarian, education-obsessed average citizen.

The growing gap between poor and rich began to show in art and literature, both in the alternative culture and to some degree in officially sanctioned works of art. The 1983 film Adj király katonát(The Princess) by Hungarian director Pál Erdöss dramatized the clash between these different classes through the heart-wrenching love story of a youth from the new wealthy class and a girl from the bottom. The best artists managed to convey how some people were condemned to a life in which only the most basic necessities were met, no matter how hard they worked, while others enjoyed a life of wealth and unlimited privilege on account of their parents’ positions.

In the 1980s, these trends led to a rather quick loss of popular legitimacy of the communist regimes on a scale unmatched by earlier periods of resistance. They had not done enough to either meet or weaken egalitarian expectations; indeed, in 1989 the shared feeling was that communists had broken the egalitarian promise, which had been the whole point of communism as far as most people were concerned.

In addition to socioeconomic equality, communism promised equality of status based on gender, ethnicity, geographic residence, and disability. Status inequalities followed their own complex trajectories during the communist period. But, in broad terms, these inequalities tracked with increasing socioeconomic inequality. Policies to increase gender equality and in support of the rights of ethnic minorities were undermined by a gradual rise of new types of inequality during the final decades of Central and Eastern European communism.

The Egalitarianism of the Streets

The people who signed up for the emerging oppositional political organizations in Central and Eastern European countries in the 1980s came from all walks of life; a sizeable segment were still members of Communist parties. In Poland, the membership of Solidarity reflected the composition of the general population. In Bulgaria, Ecoglasnost, which numbered around 100 individual members before November 1989 but delivered the fatal blow to the party-state through the first mass demonstration for democracy on November 3, grew to over 200,000 people in 1990, also reflecting Bulgarian demographics overall. Indignation over the privileges of the nomenklatura was the predominant sentiment animating direct action. In the days after the series of major breakthrough events in each country in the region, millions of people were frenetically engaging in the day-to-day business of revolutionary politics. Very few of them had a stable liberal outlook, but all shared the feeling that communist elites had perverted the ideal of equality.

The egalitarian ideal was rarely attacked before and immediately after regime change. When it was, the critique was addressed at its perceived utopianism and incompatibility with freedom, rather than at its inherent value. In November 1989, only 3 percent of respondents in Czechoslovakia preferred capitalism over socialism, and in December 1989 an overwhelming majority opposed privatization. There was strong support for the vision of worker self-management of the sort explored by Václav Havel in The Power of the Powerless—genuine worker participation in economic decision-making that could produce a genuine feeling of responsibility for their collective work. In Poland, self-management (samorząd) had been the main demand of Solidarity since 1981. By 1990, it had already disappeared from the agenda of the new elite, but it was still upheld by the majority of the people. According to a general survey in 1990, 61.8 percent of respondents favored worker self-management, 66.9 percent backed a full-employment policy, and 65.9 percent wanted to retain state control of prices. In Romania, too, the build-up of popular fury against the ruling elite had a long socioeconomic pedigree, going back to the 1977 Jiu Valley miners’ strike, which ushered in a period of intermittent labor unrest.

Perhaps the best-known participants in the popular uprisings of 1989 were dissident intellectuals who for decades had expressed a moral and social critique of communist governments. Most dissidents did not express, at least before the middle of 1989, any expectation that profound systemic transformation could occur in the near future. The prevailing vision among intellectuals was of a more or less gradual internal liberalization of one-party state socialism, with the goal of a more democratic but still socialist political system. Multi-party pluralist democracy combined with a capitalist market economy did not become a proclaimed objective until the second half of 1989. The programmatic documents of practically all dissident organizations in 1988 and 1989 articulated a liberal platform of democracy, human rights, and civil liberties. Freedom of speech, religious freedom, minority rights, and the right to access information were at the center of dissident demands. Equality was not.

Still, concerns about growing socioeconomic inequality were present in many dissident organizations’ platforms in the late 1980s, even though these platforms were crafted by members of an alternative elite whose passion was liberty rather than equality. In Bulgaria, the Club for Glasnost and Perestroika, the Social Democratic Party, and the Agrarian Party were critical of the system of “lawful” privilege and the various forms of unlawful corruption that resulted in the enrichment of the top nomenklatura and the impoverishment of large sections of society. In Czechoslovakia, Civic Forum’s platform issued on November 26, 1989, bore clear evidence of a lingering adherence to egalitarianism; it condemned the inequality of power and wealth and expressed commitment to equal economic opportunity even while formulating the principles of a capitalist market economy. Polish intellectuals expressed similar sentiments; but their takeover of the major challenge to the regime (which began with a workers’ movement) signaled the eclipse of the pro-egalitarian agenda of the revolution. By the time of the 1989 roundtable negotiations, 195 of the 232 participants were intellectuals from both sides.

Large parts of the party elite also saw liberalization as something they could not just tolerate but benefit from. The freedom to make money, to travel, and even to think and speak were increasingly attractive to them, with one important condition: that they could remain part of the elite. In 1989, liberalization—rather than liberal democracy—was the elite common ground. Arguably, it is what made peaceful revolution through roundtable negotiations possible.

The New Inequality

Following the first free multi-party elections, post-communist elites managed the transition in their favor. The new governments accommodated the interests of both old and new elites. The liberation of the dominant class—an economic, political, and ideological emancipation that removed barriers to their further advancement and encouraged their global integration—created a deep sense of unfairness among ordinary people.

The egalitarian agenda was quickly marginalized, and no alternative political actor emerged to champion equality. “The original sin of the postcommunist democracies is that they came into being not as an outcome of the triumph of egalitarianism but as a victory of an antiegalitarian consensus uniting the communist elite and the anticommunist counterelite,” wrote Bulgarian scholar Ivan Krastev in 2007. “Ex-communists were anti-egalitarian because of their interests. Liberals were anti-egalitarian because of their ideology.”

But while elites and then nearly everyone gave up on the possibility of socioeconomic equality during the 1990s, and a sizable section of the people gave up on equality altogether, people still held to an ideal of fairness—about who gets ahead in life, who becomes a member of the elite. Everyone expected some form of fairness to replace the compromised ideal of communist equality. The battle cry of those years was “normality,” and a “normal” society had a market economy with democratic elections. But it also meant the sort of society one found in an average Western European country circa 1975—not just capitalist democracy, but one with the protections of a social welfare state.

Shortly after the revolutionary breakthrough, life in formerly communist Central and Eastern Europe couldn’t be more different from that disappearing Western European social welfare state. The strictures of neoliberal economics had settled in, justifying and guiding the Wild West brutality of accumulation in the first years after 1989, leading to the economic dislocation of millions. Shock therapy introduced unregulated prices and, for many, a loss of their lifetime savings. Meanwhile, former nomenklatura members hectically distributed state assets to their allies under shady privatization deals. Unemployment surged. In Poland, it rose from practically zero in 1989 to 16 percent in 1993. Poverty increased from 17.3 percent in 1989 to 31.5 percent in 1990. The Gini coefficient increased from 26.9 in 1989 to 32.7 in 1996 and 35.9 in 2006. A similarly drastic version of shock therapy took place in Bulgaria in 1991–92. Even in Hungary, where shock therapy was postponed until around 1995, the effect was disastrous.

Privatization in all its forms failed to demonstrate even a semblance of fairness. Voucher privatization (in which citizens were allowed to purchase shares in formerly state-owned enterprises) in the Czech Republic (1992–94) was chaotic and rife with illegal practices. Václav Klaus, who was in charge of the reform, delayed the creation of a legal framework for privatization because he was more interested in creating a loyal economic elite than in accommodating public expectations.

Shortages, queues, confusion, and despair became the defining aspects of daily life in the early 1990s. When the dust settled, the winners of the transition were mostly members of the former communist elite joined by newcomers who had managed to take advantage of the massive abuse of power, theft, fraud, fake bankruptcies, racketeering, and mafia account-settling that sprouted in the vacuum created by the absence of established legal rules and authority.

The implementation of capitalist reforms and the way in which new democratic institutions legitimized them generated a new, anti-meritocratic pattern of status mobility. The process was experienced by most people as profoundly unfair. As time passed, many came to blame the new class landscape on the elites who presided over the “transition to democracy.” The process of accession to the European Union in the first years of the twenty-first century only postponed the destruction of elite legitimacy.

In this sense, the formative experience of deep unfairness in the aftermath of 1989 created a dynamic that, a generation later, translated into a specific Central and Eastern European brand of illiberal populist rebellion. It took a generation to reach the point where it was too soon to forget but too late to undo the injustice at the foundation of the new social hierarchies. By around 2010, the redistribution of power was complete. There was no more fishing in muddy waters: stronger laws and regulations had reined in but also ratified the wealth and property accumulated during the “transition.”

It is therefore not correct to say that the root cause of the illiberal surge that started around 2006 and continues to this date is inequality itself; rather, it is the manifestly unfair way in which the new, post-1989 inequality was produced. Today, we face an irony that is the inverse of 1989: in order for equality to make its comeback, a popular mobilization for liberty must open the way.

Author: Dimitrina Petrova

Participants in the 1989 roundtable negotiations in Poland, Source: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/

Equal Participation in Political and Public Life

Dr Dimitrina Petrova

1. Еqual participation in political and public affairs is a moral and political aspiration, but it is also a broadly recognized realizable political right to which OSCE participating states are committed. Progress, however, has been slow and uneven. Even with groups that have been in the focus of multiple empowerment efforts, such as women, and even in respect to the most traditional forms of political participation, statistics reveal a persisting gap between commitments and reality. In September 2015, parliaments in the OSCE region had an average of 25.7% women’s representation. Thirty-four surveyed OSCE countries had, on average, about 27% women in municipal councils, and only 12% of mayors were women.[1]

2. Equality (and non-discrimination subsumed in it) has a triple status in international human rights law: it is a general principle, an autonomous right, and an accessory right. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, taken together with Article 2, enshrines the accessory right to equality in respect to participation in political and public affairs. It is worth recalling the content of the right provided in Article 25:

“Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: (a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; (b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors; (c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”

3. To ensure political rights without discrimination on prohibited grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, States should have in place the legal framework of equality law. Modern equality law has developed within a number of OSCE participating States, but it is still sorely missing in others. In the meantime, while in some countries there is not even a legal definition of discrimination, in others, as well as at the regional and international levels, the legal concept of equality has evolved in the last five decades, reflecting the changing views on the question: what should we wish to equalize through legal means? Accordingly, there has been an evolution of the understanding of the right to equality, from equality of treatment to equality of opportunity, and onwards to equality of participation. Today, the right to equality is broadly seen as containing as its elements (a) equal enjoyment of all human rights; (b) equal protection and benefit of the law; and (c) equal participation in all areas of life regulated by law.[2] Under this approach, positive (affirmative) action is a necessary element of the right to equality.[3]

4. The global picture of the protection from discrimination and the promotion of equality shows a stark difference among States, including within the OSCE region. With constitutional protection purely rhetorical, many States lack a developed, or indeed any, legislative or policy framework related to equality that would give effect to equality rights enshrined in international human rights law and their own constitutions. At the other end of the spectrum are Canada, the USA and most EU Member States. They have strong comprehensive equality legislation and policies which cover extensive, closed or open-ended lists of protected characteristics (sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) and areas of life (administration of justice, government and public functions, employment, education, health, provision of goods and services, etc.), and provide legal definitions of prohibited conduct as well as effective remedies. In many jurisdictions, the law goes beyond the prohibition of discrimination and imposes positive duties on public sector bodies and on private organisations to take steps toward equality.[4]

5.In view of the above, it is recommended that, to strengthen the promotion and protection of equality in respect to participation in political and public affairs, all OSCE States should adopt comprehensive equality legislation. This recommendation, while not new, is central and pertinent to the topic of this session. Certainly, it has become customary for UN treaty bodies, when reviewing a State party’s performance under a particular treaty, to include a standard recommendation to this effect in their concluding observations. But many OSCE participating States are still far from complying.

6. Further, each State, including those that already have otherwise well-developed equality legislation, should look seriously at the neglected issue of discrimination on the basis of political opinion – one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination which has featured in international human rights law ever since the listing of protected characteristics in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Discrimination on the basis of political opinion is frequently experienced by persons with oppositional and dissenting political views or affiliations, and can take a huge variety of forms, from politically motivated torture and ill-treatment in custody to pressure on employers to dismiss them or on universities to expel them. It might be argued that this type of discrimination is better dealt with under other human rights related laws, but I believe that equality law covering political opinion can be a potent legal instrument with which to approach the specific area of political participation. It is recommended, therefore, that participating States review their national legislation to assess its effectiveness in combating discrimination based on political opinion, and take steps to strengthen it.   

7. The modern understanding of human rights places all human rights on an equal footing, thereby emphasizing the interdependence and indivisibility of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Applied to the right to equal participation in the political and public sphere, this approach means that its enjoyment is intrinsically linked to other rights including freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression, and access to information, among others. Furthermore, the OSCE participating States have made a solemn commitment to political democracy as the only form of government in which human rights are meaningful and realizable.

8. Recent reports by human rights groups paint a gloomy picture of the entire OSCE region and spell out a disturbing regressive trend in fundamental rights on which equal political participation crucially depends. Where has the spirit of the 1989 Vienna and 1990 Copenhagen Documents disappeared? Where is the glorious determination of that generation of statesmen/women who, in the 1990 Charter of Paris, committed “to build, consolidate and strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations”, and to the values of pluralistic debates fostering inclusive and effective participation in political and public affairs? Twenty-seven years later we see, in the OSCE region, anything but a culture of free and equal participation: excessive and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters, assaults on journalists, unjustified criminal charges against political opponents, crackdowns on dissenting voices, further surges of restrictive laws suppressing NGO work, outright denials of freedom of association to government opponents, overt political discrimination against minorities, tightened control over the media, and continued growth of government surveillance in the name of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.[5]

9. Equal participation in political and public affairs is closely related to the way in which States regulate the relationship between freedom of expression and equality. States within the OSCE region have a history of difference over whether/when hate speech should be outlawed, including online speech. As there is no firm bright line in international human rights law on the complex balancing of free speech and equality rights, State policies are drifting across a line in the sand, particularly as regards online expression. It has been argued that online speech differs from offline speech as it can be more disinhibited than speech in the real world; it persists and can be accessed for a long time unless deliberately removed; and it is inherently trans-border, both in the way it travels and is accessed. These attributes can make online speech more powerful and complicate the task of regulation.[6] Participating States should consider creating new opportunities for debate on regulating online speech to ensure the enjoyment of Internet freedoms and balancing these with equality. The aim should be agreeing a set of principles that – while leaving plenty of room to work out solutions on a case by case basis – spell out criteria for expression that should be protected in the name of equality and non-discrimination. In this regard, I would draw attention to the Camden Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Equality elaborated by Article XIX in 2009.[7]

10. An increased political participation of under-represented groups (minorities, women, youth, persons with disabilities and non-citizens) is a pathway to a more inclusive and equal society. We should add to this the role of socio-economic status – and not as an afterthought, as it has been the most persistent factor in shaping political equality in many if not most countries.[8] To the extent that political parties are still the main gatekeepers to positions of political power, it is important to encourage internal party diversity through a variety of targeted measures, such as the adoption of (voluntary or mandatory) quotas and capacity building programmes. Different quota systems can indeed be effective, although they do raise concerns with many equality advocates.

11. Effective equality policies are predicated on high quality social information. The issue of equality statistics should be addressed by States wishing to encourage equal participation. To give full effect to the right to equality of participation, States must collect and publicise information, including relevant statistical data, in order to identify inequalities, discriminatory practices and patterns of disadvantage, and to analyse the effectiveness of measures to promote equality. Of course, such information must be collected in compliance with human rights.[9] In 2009, the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference recommended that States should develop a system of data collection, including equal-opportunity and non-discrimination indicators, that, upholding the right to privacy and the principle of self-identification, makes it possible to assess and guide the formulation of policies and actions to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. States should recognise that they have a similar positive duty, mutatis mutandis, in respect to sex, disability, age, religion, language and other protected characteristics.[10]

12. A mature discussion of equal participation in the 21st century must be concerned with the participation rights of children and young people. The KidsRights Index shows that the implementation of child participation rights is impeded by traditional practices and cultural attitudes in the family, schools and certain social and judicial settings. Children at risk, such as, for example, children in alternative care, are rarely included in deciding matters concerning them, let alone matters of more general interest. OSCE participating States should ensure that the views of children and young people are given due consideration in public affairs through the adoption of child participation legislation, training of professionals, introducing curriculum reforms and awareness raising. The purpose is to create meaningful venues through which children and young people can influence public policy. Young persons should be respected not so much as apprentice citizens but as autonomous persons who, despite their limited experience, deserve to speak for themselves on agendas of their own making.[11]

13. Young people of voting age in many countries have often been accused of being apolitical, consumerist, disengaged, self-centred, cynical, etc., and their low participation in formal elections has been cited as symptomatic for such attitudes. But young people themselves have strongly challenged this view: they have emphasised that they are not indifferent, but are different, and that they care and express themselves in a different way. At present, millennials (and indeed the children of millennials) are creating exciting forms of political participation that differ from traditional forms. But before discussing how these new forms are shaping the future, let us recall that there are things States could and should do to enhance youth participation in classical formal elections, such as making it possible to vote online. Electronic voting in Estonia, for example, illustrates the challenges but also the successes of ensuring both secrecy of the ballot and identification of the voter, two key concerns expressed by the sceptics. Further, there should be same-day voter registration, and the physical voting could be spread over two consecutive days, including one working day and one weekend day. While compulsory voting employed in some States remains controversial, there may be a strong argument in favour of a “nudging” approach – making opting out of the vote more difficult, so that people choose to vote by default. Further measures that can be taken by States include various forms of voter education and the increasingly popular Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) – online tools helping one decide whom to vote for, through answering a multiple-choice questionnaire on relevant issues.[12]

14. The notion of participation in political and public life is changing in the 21st century, with strong implications for democratic societies. First, the notion is becoming broader and richer: we are no longer satisfied with calculating percentages of women or ethnic minorities in parliaments, ministerial councils or judiciaries, even though parity in these areas is still a remote destination. Genuine participation should relate to all stages and aspects of the democratic process, from access to information, to expression of policy positions, organising, advocacy, direct political action, consultation on policies and laws, deliberation, and – most importantly –decision-making. For example, access to information allows real-time fact-checking on the Internet during political contests that enables informed voting choices in elections. In response to the deeper needs to participate, political parties in many States conduct surveys, opinion polls, nominations and leadership elections online, shortening the distance between leaders, members and supporters. E-governance is also developing at an impressive pace, transforming the local and central public administration as regular electronic consultations involving civil servants and citizens’ groups are becoming standard practice.

15. The notion of participation is also changing in respect to the level of government, encompassing the local, sub-national, national and global level. It is particularly interesting to observe how governance is moving closer to the people through decentralization and subsidiarity. In Kosovo, for example, the OSCE Mission funded and developed a Digital Platform for Public Participation website in the municipalities of Prishtinë and Gjakovë, through which citizens can file requests, view municipal projects, comment and vote, including on suggestions made by fellow residents.[13] A good practice sometimes described as rights-based budgeting is also spreading, allowing people to participate more or less directly in defining the budgeting priorities of their town or municipality, and promoting transparency and accountability of governance. There is also the question of what counts today as relevant issues in democratic participation: whether civic participation is relevant only to elevated notions of political power and systemic reform, or also to everyday life issues, in emerging forms of what Bakardjieva described as “subactivism”.[14]   

16. In view of these new trends in participation, what role can new information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in the 21st century? Are they helping to ensure more equal participation in political and public life? Are they empowering disadvantaged groups in making their voices matter? Arguments are being put forward in support of opposite views on these questions.

17. Techno-optimists believe that the ICTs in the 21st century promote new forms of democratic participation, though based on values and principles articulated before the age of the Internet. They regard democracy as a work in progress, with ICTs as a game-changer. E-democracy is credited with a strong potential for reconciling the tension between the size of the group that participates in democratic decision making and the depth of the will expression. Traditionally, large group size was achieved with simple ballot voting (Yes/No), while depth of will expression was achieved by limiting the number of participants through representative democracy. The social media Web 2.0 revolution combines large numbers of participants with depth of will expressions/opinions, but the latter are not structured and it is difficult to make sense of them. Enter the new information processing techniques, including big data analytics and the semantic web, which have shown promise in overcoming the content cacophony.[15] In legislative and policy decision making, Internet creates the opportunity for a type of government that is simultaneously more democratic and more professional, by creating open online collaboration between self-selecting social networks and closed panels of experts.

18. Techno-optimists also see pathways to genuine deliberative democracy and deliberative decision making, the concept of which has been developed in the pre-digital world and advocated, without requiring digital mediation, in areas such as healthcare rationing.[16] A recent example of Internet based deliberative democracy process is the California Report Card created by the Data and Democracy Initiative of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at the University of California, Berkeley. Launched in January 2014, the California Report Card is a mobile-optimized web application designed to facilitate deliberative decision-making. Participants reply to a short opinion poll on six political issues, and are then grouped through Principal Component Analysis into teams that engage in deliberation by entering textual suggestions and grading other participants’ comments, eventually leading up to decisions.

19. Allegedly also made practicable by the Internet is so called “liquid democracy” suggested as a new form of representation. This semi-direct democracy with delegable proxy would allow people to appoint a proxy entrusted to vote on their behalf on issues within certain specified areas, while retaining their own right to vote. The proxies could form proxy chains, in which if A appoints B and B appoints C, and neither A nor B vote on a proposed bill but C does, C’s vote will count for all three of them. Voters could also rank their proxies in order of preference, so that if their first-choice proxy fails to vote, their vote can be cast by their second-choice proxy.

20. The Internet has also been described as a positive force in boosting electronic direct democracy (EDD) in Switzerland (the country with some of the strongest direct democracy traditions from the deep pre-digital past), Sweden (Demoex party), UK (People’s Administration Direct Democracy Party), Turkey (Electronic Democracy Party), USA, etc. Advocates of EDD are getting traction, especially among young people, and some of the proposed radical models seek to make traditional political institutions obsolete. Sooner or later, according to Silicon Valley visionaries such as the Argentinian-born Santiago Siri, the demand for direct democracy will lead to the invention of new tools that would make it possible to eliminate the middleman in politics and governance, as the bitcoin eliminates the middleman in financial transactions.[17] Carl Miller dreams that one day Internet-enabled bitcoin democracy will even eliminate the state as a power structure, and global citizens will be direct decision-makers on everything that concerns them. J. Manuel Feliz-Teixeira envisioned wiki-democracy in which there would be three wings of legislative, executive and judiciary decision-making roles in which every citizen could have a voice with free access to the wiki and a personal ID to continuously reform policies until the last day of December when all votes would be counted and the new law, policy or judicial ruling ratified.[18]

21. New forms of political participation inevitably mean also new forms of political protest, such as Electronic Civil Disobedience. Applied in cyberspace, it is based on the same principals as traditional civil disobedience, like trespass and blockage, and is sometimes identified with hacktivism. And with hackers without borders targeting the slow, inefficient and elitist institutions of power, the plotline of a techno-utopia may be writing itself in real time.

22. Unfortunately, technological progress doesn’t necessarily mean positive pro-democratic innovation. Electronic democracy activists can recruit supporters online, but so does Islamic State. A wave of critique has been directed at the new ICTs of the 21st century, warning of their role in ruining the achievements of democracy.

23.Change in political participation in the age of Internet is part of the transformation of the “public sphere” as defined by Habermas: society engaged in critical public debate, whereby the only legitimate government is that which listens to the “public sphere”. The Internet is apparently reshaping legitimacy. The role played by the broadcast media is shared by alternative power structures that may or may not be more democratic. In the new “public sphere”, one observes emerging new links between politicians and their audiences, with which they can now be in direct daily contact via Twitter, Facebook, email lists, etc. Traditional journalism is no longer so central to the creation of the media agenda itself. Messaging, too, is changing in the digital communities of the social media. New viral forms of messaging are displacing the linear, controlled process of message creation by traditional political elites and mainstream media. It is difficult for a central power to fight the guerrilla style mobilisation spreading online, and viral communications engender real-world movements. All this can go in the direction of stronger democratic participation, but at the same time, authoritarian or populist leaders can also rely on new ICTs fed by a voluntary digital army as their power base.

24. According to the techno-sceptics (or are they better described as techno-realists?), the Internet has not changed people’s role as citizens in a positive way. Martin Hindman, in The Myth of Digital Democracy, argues that, contrary to popular belief, the Internet has done little to broaden political discourse and instead has empowered a small set of elites.[19] In the digital world, people tend to divide into very distinct digital tribes living in a kind of echo chambers, re-tweeting, sharing and forwarding content that they agree with. No proper debate or dialogue occurs across tribe lines. Indeed, the argument goes, the Internet has accelerated the decline of parliamentary democracy by turning the audience into a shallow crowd and a consumer market to whom politicians are trying to sell a product at election time. But fewer people are buying it, leading to high levels of distrust and fall in election turnouts.[20] Further, objections to direct democracy have been voiced and the argument is that they apply with a vengeance to EDD, such as the potential for direct governance to tend towards the polarization of opinions, populism, and demagoguery.

25. Critics have also pointed at the offensive language, the trolls, the surge of populism, the lack of privacy, the superficiality of the social media discourses, the fragmentation of knowledge, the fake news in the post-truth world and the blurred levels of truthfulness, the dominance of symbolic politics over evidence based, expert-made policy, etc. Of these and other risks, I would grade as most dangerous the potential for tyranny of the majority and for further marginalisation of the most disadvantaged minorities, as well as the runaway surveillance by government of everyone’s entire communications, under the pretext of combatting terrorism and extremism.

26.And yet, the Internet has been described as promoting a culture of sharing; allowing everyone’s voice to be expressed; providing universal and inexpensive access for the powerless; providing the option of anonymity in States that persecute opponents; being ultra-pluralistic, with information coming from an avalanche of different sources, etc. Can these views, opposed as they are, be all simultaneously true? Can the Internet foster equal participation in decision-making enjoyed by well-informed citizens, as well as lead to the debilitation of the public sphere as, for example, in the dystopian fictional world of Dave Eggers in his chilling novel, The Circle? I believe the answer is affirmative. Much as they have been extolled as the gateway to a democratic participatory utopia, or feared for their potential for totalitarian surveillance by Big Brother, in one respect, the information and communication technologies of the 21st century, in their captivating complexity, are descendants of the humble stone age axe. They are tools. Which way they strike is up to the user. The Internet is itself neither democratic nor anti-democratic. It will take a sustained effort by democracy stakeholders to utilise its democratic potential and to limit its perils.


[1] OSCE/ODIHR, Compendium of Good Practices for Advancing Women’s Political Participation in the OSCE Region, Warsaw 2016, p. 9-10; 5.

[2] The Declaration of Principles on Equality, an international instrument of good practice recognized by the Council of Europe in 2012, defines the right to equality as “the right of all human beings to be equal in dignity, to be treated with respect and consideration and to participate on an equal basis with others in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life. All human beings are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”. (Declaration of Principles on Equality, The Equal Rights Trust, London, 2008, Principle 1, p. 5.)

[3] “To be effective, the right to equality requires positive action. Positive action, which includes a range of legislative, administrative and policy measures to overcome past disadvantage and to accelerate progress towards equality of particular groups, is a necessary element within the right to equality.”(Declaration of Principles on Equality, Equal Rights Trust, London, 2008, Principle 3, p. 5.)

[4] Often, governments in States where equality law is under-developed or missing are not aware of equality law as an emerging legal field. Some States have group specific or area specific laws that they would typically point at when asked about their equality legislation. For example, these can be declarative framework laws about the advancement of women, social cohesion, disabled persons, etc.; however, they do not qualify as equality legislation if – as the case often is – they do not contain enforceable equality rights. Accordingly, such States have little or no relevant jurisprudence resulting from discrimination claims filed in courts.

[5] On all of these claims, see details in Human Rights Watch World Report 2017, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/.

[6] D. PoKempner, “The Internet is Not the Enemy”, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/world_report_download/wr2017-web.pdf, p.42. Still, as PoKempner states, the principle is that all rights that apply offline apply online as well. Limitations should be strictly necessary and proportionate to legitimate aims.

[7] See https://www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/standards/the-camden-principles-on-freedom-of-expression-and-equality.pdf. See also the well-argued opinion of David Cole commenting, in the New York Review of Books, on the 2017 Charlottesville violence and ACLU’s decision to defend the white supremacist rally organiser, Jason Kessler. Consonant with the prevailing approaches of anti-discrimination law, Cole argues that hate speech should be limited in the name of equal rights only in situations involving formal hierarchy and captive audiences (such as the workplace or the school), but it should be protected in the public space and the media, in situations where those who disagree can turn away or talk back. (D. Cole, “Why We Must Still Defend Free Speech”, NYRB, 28 Sept 2017.)

[8] In the USA, for example, socio-economic status has been shown to be more important for intergenerational political inequality than sex, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc. (See K. Schlozman, S. Verba and H. Brady, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2012.)

[9] See Declaration of Principles on Equality, Equal Rights Trust, London, 2008, Principle 24, p. 14.

[10] For a framework on collecting statistical information related to human rights performance, see the work on human rights indicators developed under the auspices of the UN OHCHR, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/Human_rights_indicators_en.pdf.

[11] On the controversy of age-appropriate regulation of youth participation in the Internet age, see S. Coleman, „Doing IT for Themselves: Management versus Autonomy in Youth E-Citizenship“, Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth, ed. by W. Lance Bennett, MIT Press, 2008, pp. 189–206. 

[12] None of these measures is specific to young people, but it is young people that would be among the likely beneficiaries.

[13] http://www.osce.org/stories/when-click-does-the-trick.

[14] M. Bakardjieva (March 2009), „Subactivism: Lifeworld and Politics in the Age of the Internet“The Information Society,25 (2), pp. 91–104.

[15] M. Hilbert, „The Maturing Concept of E-Democracy: From E-Voting and Online Consultations to Democratic Value Out of Jumbled Online Chatter“Journal of Information Technology and Politics, April 2009.

[16] See, for example, L. Fleck, Just Caring: Health Care Rationing and Democratic Deliberation, OUP, 2006.

[17] See for example the website democrarcy.earth on what Siri describes as 10x disruption of government.

[18] https://paginas.fe.up.pt/~feliz/e_poster4_wiki-law-government.pdf.

[19] See also his article „Digital Processes and Democratic Theory“MartinHilbert.net, 2015.

[20] See Carl Miller’s TED talk on Digital Democracy on Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNL22RvFwn0.

Source: OSCE: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – https://www.osce.org/odihr/342536?download=true