Real democracies respect human rights: Council of Europe Secretary-General

Samia Fakhry , Wednesday 11 Dec 2013

Speaking at the World Forum of Democracy in Strasbourg last month, Thorbjørn Jagland says that such respect is a prerequisite for genuine democracy

Thorbjørn Jagland
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe

Real democracies respect universal human rights and those of minorities, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, said at a recent democracy conference in the French city of Strasbourg.

Respecting these rights is a prerequisite, he said, speaking at the 2013 World Forum of Democracy, which concluded 29 November at the headquarters of the Council of Europe.

Over 1000 government representatives, parliamentarians, political activists and journalists from more than 100 countries attended the forum to discuss the worldwide future of political participation and civil societies.

Among the participants were Secretary-General of La Francophonie and ex-Senegal's President Abdou Diouf, Strasbourg's Mayor Roland Rice and President of the Regional Council of Alsace Philippe Richert.

The idea of how the internet could be used to make politics more transparent and democratic was also discussed.

"Political parties and institutions in general should seek to increase their transparency and respond to inquiries through the internet," said Jagland.

Diouf, the former Senagalese president, stressed that technology could contribute to preserving the very essence of democracy.

"We therefore have an immense job ahead of us," Diouf said. "For the Internet will be what we make it. Democracy can be strengthened by the Internet, just as it can be weakened."

He nevertheless observed that the Internet was still “reserved for part of the world’s population with a high level of income and training."

There is a global technological divide, he said, in the digital sense, but also in terms of generational differences and politics, owing to censorship that is applied by certain states.

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