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Human Rights and Democracy: An ongoing and never ending individual and collective learning process. An introduction to the Swiss Helsinki Committee Youth Seminar by Andreas Gross (Zurich/St-Ursanne)
An introduction to the Swiss
Helsinki Committee Youth Seminar
by Andreas Gross (Zurich/St-Ursanne)
Director of the Scientific Institute for Direct Democracy in St.Ursanne and Swiss MP & Leader of the Social-Democrats in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
Kappel a.A., 1 st of July 2008
I. The banalization of today’s democracy/ies
II. The (utopian) project of Democracy
III. What more Direct Democracy would really mean
IV. Democracy/Dignity/Human Rights
V. The paradoxes of Swiss Foreign Relations and Policy
V. How foreign Foreign Policy is today in the age of globalization ?
VI. We have to learn to trans-nationalize after Human Rights also Democracy
Democracy is more then a choice;
it enables us to be free.
Freedom means, to act together
on our common life
(« Life is not a destiny »)
Democracy constitutes the rules,
rights and procedures in order
to prevent conflicts to be solved violently
To be able to participate in all decisions
which concerns you !
(procedural (design/institutional) challenge)
Freedom is not a privilege !
Democracy has to deliver to -
enable all to be capable to act and to be free
Indirect Democracy (ID) enables you to vote your representatives;
Direct Democracy (DD) enables you to vote on important issues you don’t want to leave to your Representatives;
The citizens should be able to decide, when they want to decide themselves - this would also make representative Democracies more representative !
The democratization of Democracy is an ongoing, never ending process:Every democracy is unfinished,DD is a little bit less unfinished than ID !
Democracy was reduced to represent. Democracy in a time, where most people couldn’t read or write and were enable to make political judgments !
Today modern citizens know often as much about politics as MP’s: They feel frustrated that ID excludes them and reduces them to objects instead of the subjects of politics.
A society in which citizens feel excluded looses a enormous amount of creative potentials, misses collective learning options and undervalues itself !
Nobody should have so much power, that he or she has the “privilege” not to have to learn...
Sharing the political power, that means, giving 2 % of the citizens the power to ask for a Referendum on a law voted in the Parliament or a legisl.change they propose to the society, means:
Everybody has to listen more -
Everybody tries to convince and to discuss
Politics become softer, more inclusive and more communicative !
No quick fix: Everybody (Citizens, MP’s, administ., society) needs and gets the time they need :
A Referendum is a process over 2 - 4 years:
1 year for the citizens, 1 year for Gov+Parl., 1/2 a year for the Public debate and campaign !
In order to share the power and not to be exclusive and make the system responsive you should ask more than 1% of the electorates signatures for a Referendum and not more than 2% for a popular proposition (“Initiative”)
No quorums: They kill communication !
Everybody has the right to propose where and how he or she thinks changes are needed (Open Agenda Setting and Attention providing)
More public debates and private discussions (the soul of DD) create a much better informed society
The invitation to decide, creates a sense of belonging (Integration)
The right to participate, reduces distances and increases identifications (“Democratic patriotism”)
After you participated in the decision making, you are best qualified to implement the decision
After the collective violence in the first half of the 20 th the World learned to protect Human Rights and the dignity of all Human Beings independently of the Nation-States:
1948 UN and 1952 European Human Rights Convention (EHRC) with the individual right to bring your state to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg if your state is not respecting Human Rights
What since 1776 and 1789 every democratic state guaranteed for it’s own citizens Europe (CoE-47) guarantees for all 800 Europeans
Three “generations”: First (civil and political), second: (economic, social and cultural) and third (Right to truth, development , clean environment and peace)
New categorisation: Enabling rights (peace, development, democracy), over-arching rights (equality and non-discrimination) and end rights (Identity, integrity)
New hierarchy (Prof.Alfred de Zayas): Right to life (Civil and political, health and food, clean water and enviroment), Right to it’s own identity (education, language, religion, family, privacy) Right to one’s homeland (selfdetermination, no ethnic discrimination) Right to peace (Freedom from fear and war)
1830 - 1870 Switzerland belonged to the most progressive countries in Europe: The radical/liberal fathers of 1848 wanted to make a new beginning for whole Europe, not just a island in Europe
1871-1920/45 The wars and the Swiss two main cultures made out of a economic open country a politically very closed one. They survived alone and thought they should stay alone after 1945.
Learning after a catastrophe is easier than to learn to reform and change a rather successful past and presence.
Switzerland was made with Europe - it can not stay in the future without Europe !
1848 Switzerland managed to realize one of the first Democracies in Europe - too many Swiss understood afterwards Democracy as the privilege of being Swiss and not as a Human Right
Still today too many Non-Swiss are excluded from Democracy and it became in the 20.century very difficult to be included in the Swiss citizenship
VI. How foreign “Foreign Policy” is today in the age of globalization ?“Today the nation-state is too big for the small things - to small for the big issues” -
Democracy is today similar to the ruder of a boat,which lies in the water, but the ruder does not touch the water anymore!
That’s why the big issues (Climate change, peace, migration, development, hunger, energy) are not “foreign policies” anymore, but issues of new global home or interior politics !
Human Rights are constituted and protected in the UN-system and the EHRC and the EHR-Court in Strasburg
Democracy is still national and looses more and more power to deliver it’s promises faced to global markets
Getting inspired by the European Human Rights Convention (EHRC) with it’s individual right to bring your state to a international Court, but globalize and enlarge it (Non-state-powers, more then the classical freedom rights...)
Make a global constitution which gives to every person a status without founding a world-state and destroying the citizenship in and the nation-state itself.
Build a second/third chamber of MP’s/NGOs in the UN-General Assembly, in order to give the “People of the world” really a representation...