Democracy - Manual for Human Rights Education with Youth - (2023)

Democracy - Manual for Human Rights Education with Youth - (1)

No one is born a good citizen, no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to develop throughout life. Young people need to participate from birth.
Annan's Cafe

What is democracy?

"By the people, by the people, for the people"
Abraham Lincoln

The word democracy comes from the Greek words "demos" which means people and "kratos" which means power; Democracy can then be seen as "people power": a way of governing that depends on the will of the people.

There are so many different models of democratic government around the world that it is sometimes easier to understand the idea of ​​democracy in terms of what it definitely is not. Democracy, then, is not an autocracy or a dictatorship where a single person rules; and it is not an oligarchy where a small part of society rules. Properly understood, democracy cannot even be "majority rule" if that completely ignores minority interests. A democracy is, at least in theory, government on behalf of all the people according to their "will".

Ask:If democracy is the government of the people, are there real democracies in the world?

Why democracy?

The idea of ​​democracy derives its moral force—and its appeal—from two key principles:
1.individual autonomy: The idea that no one should be subject to the rules imposed by others. People should be able to control their own lives (within reason).
2.equal rights: The idea that everyone should have an equal opportunity to influence decisions that affect people in society.

These principles are intuitively appealing and help explain why democracy is so popular. Of course, we think it's only fair that we get as many opportunities as everyone else to decide on common rules!

Problems arise when we consider how to put the principles into practice, because we need a mechanism for deciding how to handle conflicting views. Because it offers a simple mechanism, democracy tends to be "majority rule"; but majority rule may mean that some people's interests are never represented. A more honest way to represent everyone's interests is through consensus decision-making, where the goal is to find common ground.

Ask:What are the advantages and disadvantages of decisions by consensus compared to using the majority principle? How are decisions made in your youth group?

(Video) What are the universal human rights? - Benedetta Berti

The development of democracy

Old story

The ancient Greeks are credited with creating the first democracy, although earlier examples of early democracy almost certainly exist in other parts of the world. The Greek model was used in the 5th century BC. established in the city of Athens. In a sea of ​​autocracies and oligarchies—the then common forms of government—Athenian democracy stood out.
However, compared to our current understanding of democracy, the Athens model had two important differences:

1. They were a form of direct democracy; In other words, instead of electing representatives to govern on behalf of the people, 'the people met', discussed government affairs, and then implemented policies.

Democracy is not the right of the majority, but the protection of the minority.
Albert Camus

2. Such a system was possible in part because "the people" was a very narrow category. Those who could participate directly were a small fraction of the population, since women, slaves, foreigners and, of course, children were excluded. The number of participants was still much larger than in a modern democracy: perhaps 50,000 men directly involved in politics, out of a population of some 300,000 people.

Ask:What are the advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy?

democracy in the modern world

Although democracies share common characteristics, there is no single model of democracy.
UN resolution on the promotion and consolidation of democracy (A/RES/62/7)

Today there are as many different forms of democracy as there are democratic nations in the world. No two systems are exactly alike and no system can be considered a "model". There are presidential and parliamentary democracies, federal or unitary democracies, democracies that use proportional representation and those that use majority voting, democracies that are also monarchies, etc.

What unites modern democratic systems and also distinguishes them from the old model is the use of representatives of the people. Instead of directly participating in legislation, modern democracies use elections to choose representatives who are sent by the people to govern on their behalf. Such a system is called representative democracy. It can claim some claim to be "democratic" because it is based, at least to some degree, on the two principles above: equality for all (one person, one vote) and the right of each individual to some measure of personal autonomy.

Ask:What must an elected official do to ensure that they adequately represent those who elected them?

“The right to vote is not a privilege. In the 21st century, acceptance in a democratic state must be pro-inclusive... Any deviation from the principle of universal suffrage risks undermining the democratic validity of the legislature so elected and the laws it enacts."
Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Communities (Hirst v. UK)

improve democracy

People often talk about countries "becoming" democracies once they start having relatively free and open elections. But democracy involves much more than elections, and it actually makes more sense to think about the idea of ​​the will of the people than voting or institutional structures when it comes to judging how democratic a country is. Democracy is better understood as something that we can always have more of, or less of, than as something that it is or is not.

Democratic systems can almost always be made more inclusive, more responsive to the wishes of more people, and more responsive to their influence. In other words, there is room to improve the “people” part of democracy by involving more people in decision-making; there is also room to improve the "power" or "will" part of democracy by giving the people more real power. Struggles for democracy throughout history have usually focused on one or the other of these elements.

Today, women have the right to vote in most countries of the world, but the battle has been won relatively recently. New Zealand is said to have been the first country in the world to introduce universal suffrage in 1893, although it was not until 1919 that women were given the right to vote in Parliament. Many countries first gave women the right to vote, and only a few years later, allowed them to run for elective office. Saudi Arabia only gave women the right to vote in 2011.
Today, even in established democracies, there are other sectors of society that commonly include immigrants, migrant workers, prisoners, and children who do not have the right to vote, even though many of them can pay taxes and are required to obey the laws of the country.

Prisoners and the right to vote

In 18 European countries, prisoners can vote.
In 20 countries, prisoners' right to vote is restricted, depending on the length of the sentence or the seriousness of the crime committed or the type of vote.
In 9 European countries, prisoners cannot vote at all.
Prisoner Voting Rights, Commons Library Standard Note SN/PC/01764, Last Updated 2012,
In Hirst v. UK in 2005, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that the general ban on voting for prisoners in the UK violated Article 3, Protocol 1 of the European Convention, which states that:
“The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold secret elections at appropriate intervals under conditions ensuring the freedom
Express the opinion of the people in the election of the legislature.

(Video) Human Rights Explained In A Beautiful Two Minute Animation

Ask:Can it ever be justified to exclude certain sectors of society from the democratic process?

democracy and participation

I have no formula for overthrowing a dictator or establishing a democracy. All I can suggest is that you forget about yourself and only think about your people. It is always the people who make the difference.
heart aquino

The most obvious way to participate in government is to vote or run for office and become a representative of the people. However, democracy is about much more than voting, and there are many other ways to participate in politics and government. In fact, the effective functioning of democracy depends on ordinary people making the most of these other means. If people only vote once every 4 or 5 years - or don't vote at all - and do nothing else in the meantime, then the government cannot be said to be "of the people." It is difficult to say that such a system is a democracy.
You can find more information about participation opportunities in the Citizenship and Participation section. Here are some ideas, perhaps the bare minimum that might be required for parliamentarians to act democratically on your behalf:
Keep abreast of what is happening, what is being decided "in the name of the people" and especially the decisions and actions that your own representative is taking.
Make your opinion known, be it to your representatives in Parliament, to the media or to groups working on specific issues. Without feedback from "the people," managers can only lead according to their own will and priorities.
If the decisions seem undemocratic, violate human rights, or if you are simply campaigning hard for them, make an effort to speak up so that the policy can be reconsidered. Probably the most effective way to do this is to team up with other people to make your voice stronger.
Vote if the opportunity arises. If people don't vote, members are effectively irresponsible.

Ask:Have you ever participated in any of these (or other) ways?

democracy and human rights

The link between human rights and democracy runs deep and goes both ways: each is somehow interdependent and incomplete without the other.

Everyone has the right to participate in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Article 21, Part 1, DUDH

First, the values ​​of equality and autonomy are also human rights values, and the right to participate in government is itself a human right. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) tells us that "government is based on the will of the people": democracy is in fact the only form of government compatible with human rights.

But even a "democracy" is incomplete without constant respect for human rights. Genuine government involvement is almost impossible without respect for other fundamental rights. Consider the following as examples:
1.Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.(UDHR, Article 18). This is one of the first rights that is essential in a democracy: people should be able to think freely, have whatever beliefs are important to them, without being punished for it. Governments throughout history have tried to limit this right, fearing that if people consider other forms of government, the current system will be jeopardized. So they would lock people up just for having "wrong" thoughts. (These people are known as political prisoners.) However, a society without pluralism of opinion is not only intolerant; it also limits your own opportunities to develop in new and possibly improved directions.

2.Free expression(UDHR, Article 19). It is important not only to be able to think what one wants, but also to be able to express that opinion out loud, whatever that opinion may be. If people are prevented from discussing their views with others or presenting them in the media, how can they "participate" in government? His opinion was essentially excluded from the possible alternatives considered.

Democracy knows neither East nor West; Democracy is simply the will of the people.
program size

3.Freedom of assembly and association(UDHR Article 20). This right allows you to discuss ideas with others, form interest groups or lobby groups, or come together to protest decisions you disagree with. Perhaps such activity is sometimes inconvenient for governments; however, it is essential to make known and take into account the different points of view. And that is part of what democracy is.

These are just three human rights that are inseparable from the idea of ​​democracy, but any violation of other human rights also affects the extent to which different people can participate in government. Poverty, poor health, or homelessness can make it difficult for someone to speak up and reduce the impact of their choices relative to others. Such violations of rights almost certainly make it impossible for the person in question to be elected to government office.

(Video) Teaching Laws, Rights, and Responsibilities to Kids | Freedom of Speech | Kids Academy

Ask:How well are the three "democratic" rights (mentioned above) respected in your country?

problems with democracy

Democracy doesn't mean much if you're hungry, homeless, without health care, or your kids can't go to school; Even if you have a vote, democracy is not effective.
Susan George, ATTAC President

voter apathy

For some years there have been concerns about the state of democracy, perhaps especially in the more established democracies. Much of this is based on declining citizen participation in elections, indicating a lack of interest and participation on the part of citizens. Low voter turnout calls into question the legitimacy of so-called democratically elected governments, which in some countries are actually elected by a minority of the electorate as a whole.

options and apathy

Turnout in elections to the European Parliament has declined every year since the first elections in 1979. In 2009, only 43% of voters used their ballot, and in some countries turnout dropped as low as 34%.
In national elections across Europe, turnout ranges from just over 50% in some countries to over 90% in others.
Some countries, such as Greece and Belgium in Europe, make voting compulsory. In such countries, turnout is obviously much higher than the average for countries where voting is optional.

Ask:What proportion of voters voted in the last elections in your country?

While it is certainly a problem that people are not voting more and more, there are some studies that suggest that participation in various forms is actually increasing, e.g. B. Interest groups, citizen initiatives, advisory bodies, etc. These forms of participation are at least as important to the functioning of democracy as electoral participation.

democracy and citizen participation

The so-called Arab Spring, when young people took to the streets en masse to express their discontent with the government, has shown a new level of civic participation in countries not traditionally considered democracies. In Europe too, even in the most traditional democracies, 'people power' seems to have found a new lease on life: students in many countries have protested against government measures to charge tuition fees. Unions have taken to the streets to protest the impact of austerity measures. In addition, autonomous activist groups have invented new and creative ways to demonstrate against climate change, corporate power, the deprivation of vital government services, but also against police repression.

majority rule

A minority may be right, a majority is always wrong.
henrik ibsen

There are two problems that are more intricately linked to the notion of representative democracy and they concern the interests of minorities. The first problem is that minority interests are often not represented through the electoral system: this can happen when their numbers are too low to meet the minimum required for representation. The second problem is that even if they are represented in the legislature, they will have a minority of MPs and therefore may not be able to muster the necessary votes to defeat the majority of MPs. For these reasons, democracy is often referred to as "majority rule."

Majority rule, if not backed by a guarantee of human rights for all, can lead to decisions that harm minorities, and the fact that those decisions are the “will of the people” cannot offer justification. The fundamental interests of both minorities and majorities must be protected in any democratic system through adherence to the principles of human rights, reinforced by an effective legal mechanism, whatever the will of the majority.

(Video) Civil Rights and the 1950s: Crash Course US History #39

Ask:If the majority of the population is in favor of depriving certain people of their human rights, do you think that "the people should decide"?

The rise of nationalism

Democracy is best understood as a process of democratization.
Patomakim, Teivainen

A related issue is the worrying trend across Europe to support far-right parties. These parties have often taken advantage of nationalist sentiments and have attacked "non-indigenous" members of the population, particularly asylum seekers, refugees and members of religious minorities, sometimes in violent ways. In defense, these parties often appeal to their popular support and the democratic principle that they represent the opinion of a large number of people. However, when a party advocates some form of violence and does not respect the human rights of all members of the population, it has little right to invoke democratic principles.

Depending on the scale of the problem and the specific cultural context, it may be necessary to restrict the right to freedom of expression of certain groups, despite the importance of this right to the democratic process. For example, most countries have laws against incitement to racial hatred. This is considered by the European Court of Justice as an acceptable restriction on freedom of expression, justified by the need to protect the rights of other members of society or the structure of society itself.

Ask:Is nationalism different from racism?

youth and democracy

Young people often don't even have the right to vote, so how can they be part of the democratic process?
Many people would answer this question by saying that young people are not ready to be part of the process and that they cannot participate until they are 18 (or whatever age their country entitles them to vote).

In fact, many young people are very politically active long before they are granted the vote, and in some ways the impact of such activity can be stronger than the single vote they later receive, and may or may not choose to use, once every 4 or 5 years. Politicians are often willing to appeal to the youth vote to make it more likely that youth concerns will be heard.

Many young people are involved in environmental groups or other protest groups fighting against war, corporate exploitation, or child labor. Perhaps one of the most important ways that young people can begin to participate in community life and political activity is at the local level: here they become more aware of the specific issues that concern them and those with whom they interact, and will be better able to make a direct impact. Democracy is not just about national or international issues: it has to start in our own neighborhood!
Youth organizations are one of the ways in which young people experience and practice democracy and therefore play an important role in democracy, provided of course that they are independent and democratic in the way they work!

Ask:If a 16-year-old is considered mature enough to get married and get a job, shouldn't he have a choice?

work of the council of europe

We will strive to achieve our common goal of promoting democracy and good governance at the national, regional and local levels for all our citizens at the highest level.
Council of Europe Warsaw Summit Action Plan (2005)

Democracy is one of the core values ​​of the Council of Europe, along with human rights and the rule of law. The Council of Europe has a number of programs and publications dealing with the improvement and future of democracy. In 2005, the Forum for the Future of Democracy was established at the third Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government. The objective of the forum is "to strengthen democracy, political freedoms and citizen participation through the exchange of ideas, information and examples of best practices". A Forum meeting is held every year, bringing together some 400 participants from the 47 member and observer states of the Council of Europe.

The development and implementation of democracy standards are supported by the European Commission for Democracy through Law, also known as the Venice Commission, the advisory body to the Council of Europe on constitutional matters. The commission has been particularly active in assisting in the drafting of new constitutions or laws on constitutional courts, electoral laws, minority rights, and the legal framework for democratic institutions.

In addition to this normative work, the Council of Europe promotes democracy and its values ​​through programs of democratic participation, democratic education and youth participation, because democracy is much more than voting!


1. Why Is FREE SPEECH Important?
(After Skool)
2. Rosa Parks - Civil Rights Activist | Mini Bio | BIO
3. Qatar World Cup: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
4. Let's Look Behind a Real Human Liver
(Institute of Human Anatomy)
5. Navitating Transitions: opening by Matjaz Gruden, Council of Europe
(EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership)
6. About Time! Youth Policy Manual
(EU-Council of Europe Youth Partnership)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated: 10/05/2023

Views: 6454

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.