Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more ➡
Standard view
Full view
of .
Add note
Save to My Library
Sync to mobile
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
democracy essay

democracy essay



|Views: 10,388|Likes:
Published by flibberdy
The right to democracy in international law.
The right to democracy in international law.

More info:

categoriesTypes, School Work
Published by: flibberdy on Jun 13, 2008


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, DOC, TXT or read online from Scribd
See More
See less





There is a view that democracy is increasingly seen as an “emerging right”
ininternational law, a right of peoples to manage their own affairs, overcoming aworld history darkened by dictatorships and oppression.The purpose of this essay is not to look at whether or not this “right” exists, but tolook more fundamentally at the intellectual underpinning of the concept of democracy that forms the basis of this “right”. Generally speaking, what exactly isbeing referred to when global – particularly Western – political leaders refer to“democracy”?This essay analyses the background to the suggestion that a right to democraticgovernance exists, or is beginning to exist in international law. Then, in order toestablish what citizens are theoretically entitled to under this emerging right, itlooks at the value of democracy, the quality of democracy in key Western states,and finally the very real problems that globalisation presents to the rights of countries to manage their own affairs. Throughout the essay, the question isasked, to what extent the “emerging right” is about narrow, electoral issues rather than a fundamental right and ability of the
to have a full participatory rolein their 
Emerging Rights
The case for optimism appears, at first glance, to be bright. In the second half of the 20
century, there was a surge of democratic governments overturningvarious types of dictatorship, with over 110 governments
in 1991 committed todemocracy and
 people almost everywhere now demanding that government bevalidated by western-style parliamentary, democratic process
, a demand that isreinforced by an increasing need of governments for validation. Democracy isalmost universally seen as
way of producing this legitimacy.This legitimacy is built on the cornerstones self-determination, freedom of expression and electoral rights. Self-determination has a long pedigree ininternational law, with US President Woodrow Wilson making this a central plankof the post-war redrawing of the map of Europe and elsewhere. This principlewas further strengthened after the Second World War with Article 1.2 of theUnited Nations Charter giving self-determination the status of a fundamentalright.Freedom of expression, argues Franck
, has become a customary rule of stateobligation due to the overwhelming support and prestige that the Universal
Franck, Thomas M, “The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance”, The American Journal of International Law, Vol 86, pp 46-91
Ibid, P 47
Ibid, P 48
Ibid, P 61
Declaration on Human Rights
(article 19) has accrued and this customary lawhas been underpinned by the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
.Building on these rights, Franck sees an emerging normative requirement for participatory electoral processes, with over two thirds of states now bound by theCovenant on Civil and Political Rights. A substantial new majority of states nowpractice a “
reasonably credible version of electoral democracy 
and a variety of international instruments underlining this right, including the Charter of theOrganization of American States
and the European Convention on HumanRights
. This legitimacy is further strengthened by the work of the United Nationsin election monitoring.With self-determination, electoral monitoring and freedom of expression nowanchored in customary international law, as well as in a variety of internationallegal instruments, the argument is that “
international law now recognises only one legitimate way to ensure that a people’s right to self-determination and freeexpression have been respected: through genuine and periodic elections
.Indeed, the rights and obligations of democratic governance have become soclear that Fox argues that “what constitutes a ‘free and fair’ election is now arather mundane question, one virtually devoid of serious interpretativeambiguities”
.Is the situation really that clear? Is democracy a commodity that one can either have or not have? The UNDP explains that “
no society is ever completeldemocratic or fully developed 
, so what degree of imperfection is permittedbefore the international community decides that the right to democraticgovernance is not enjoyed by citizens of a particular country? Internationallawyers and academics arguing the existence of a right to democraticgovernance risk making a questionable assumption that the Western approach toliberal democracy has “won” the battle of ideologies and that Western liberaldemocracy
“democracy”. As McDonald
suggests, “
through the work in thisarea of international law, one can detect a celebratory tone that posits a ‘we’,who have reached our goal, and a ‘they’, who still have some distance to travel 
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10December 1948
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, General Assembly resolution 2200A of 16December 1966
Op cit, P 64
Charter of the Organization of American States, 9
International Conference of American States,1948
European Convention on Human Rights, Council of Europe, 1950
Macdonald, Euan, “International Law, Democratic Governance and September the 11
”,German Law Journal Vol. 3No 9, 1 September 2002. Section I. Online version available fromhttp://www.germanlawjournal.com/print.php?id=184as at 05 January 2004 (no page numbers inHTML version)
Ibid, quoting Fox, "The Right to Political Participation in International Law", in Fox and Roth(eds.)
Democratic Governance and International Law 
(2000), pp 48-49
United Nations Development Project, “Human Development Report 2002”, UNDP, 2002, P 61
Macdonald, Ewan, Op cit, Section IV
This suggests both worrying intellectual flaws in the understanding of the putative“right” to democratic governance and a lack of the self awareness needed for anysystem to evolve.As the etymology suggests, democracy is about the people (
) havingpower (
) to choose how they are governed. Choice cannot exist effectivelywithout voters knowing what their choices are and for the rights of all parts of the
to be adequately assured. When we contemplate that the West views asdemocratic, regimes that have no requirement, for example for decisions to betaken at the closest possible level to the citizen
, no minimum level of voter awareness, no minimum level of press independence, no minimum level of welfare or representation of the poorest or weakest in society, no minimum levelof voter turnout nor indeed any requirement that the winning party be the one thatgets the most votes, the case can be made that the real-world practice of “democracydiverges considerably from the black and white world of “democratic” and “undemocratic”. This, in turn, raises absolutely fundamentalquestions about the foundations on which the concept of a right to “democratic”governance could possibly be built.
The value of real democracy
The management benefits of democracy are beyond doubt. In any organisation,individuals lower-down the management structure are closer to day-to-daymanagement issues, have more experience of them, and consequently are morelikely to have more detailed and relevant experience. Decentralising some power to lower levels of management can produce not just more efficient management,but the increased power and responsibility of individuals can increase their motivation and loyalty.However, in governance, as indeed in business, Robert Michels’ “
iron law of oligarchy 
is an ever-present but rarely considered threat. Essentially, the ironlaw argues that political parties and other membership organisations inevitablytend towards increasing bureaucracy and oligarchy – a theory developed byMichels through watching the grass-roots democratic ideals of the SocialDemocratic Party (SPD) in Germany evaporate as the party grew in the early1900s. Ultimately, the greater the level of centralisation in government, thefurther the distance between the citizen and the elected representative and theless significant each voter is to the elected representative (i.e. a decreasing voicein shaping increasingly complex and remote policy decisions). This inevitablyleads to a corresponding loss in the ability of the citizen to have a significantvoice, undermining the very essence of democracy. When we consider that themost significant level at which democracy is administered in the western world is
The European Union’s Maastricht Treaty establishes subsidiarity as a principle, although noserious effort has been made to enforce this at a sub-state level.
Michels, Robert, “Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie.Untersuchungen über die oligarchischen Tendenzen des Gruppenlebens” Kröner (reprint) 1985 –original 1911)

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->