The Berlin International Human Rights Congress (BIHRC)
"Human Rights and Democracy in a Globalized World - Moving Towards an International Consensus"
Forum ReportThe Berlin International Human Rights Congress took place from Friday the 1st to Monday the 4th of October during which crucial issues of Human Rights were examined from a multitude of perspectives. The program brought together a group of speakers consisting of 24 leading figures from international politics, academia, and civil society, and more than 100 participants, to discuss salient issues surrounding the role of Human Rights in global politics and civil society. Among the speakers were Cem Özdemir (Leader of the German Green Party), Richard Clark Barkley (former US Ambassador to East Germany) and Markus Meckel (First Democratically Elected Foreign Minister of the German Democratic Republic). The lectures covered a wide variety of topics concerning Human Rights around the world, their progress, and what needs to be done for the future.
Cem Özdemir (Leader of the German Green Party)
Yasar Yakis (Turkish MP, Former Foreign Minister of Turkey)
Carlos dos Santos (Ambassador of Mozambique to Berlin)
Prof. Dr. Theodor Schilling (Professor of Law at Humboldt University)
Markus Löning (Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office)
Marianne Heuwagen (Former Director of Human Rights Watch Germany)
Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt (UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief)
Benjamin Titze (Board Member at Amnesty International Germany)
Richard Clark Barkley (Former US Ambassador to East Germany)
Jeremy Symons (Vice President for Conservation and Education at the National Wildlife Federation)
Prof. Dr. Christian Armbrüster (Judge, Berlin Court of Justice, Professor of Law, Free University Berlin)
Prof. Dr. Sabine Berghahn (Visiting Professor in Law, Politics, and Gender at the Berlin School of Economics and Law)
Dr. Peter Kirchschläger (Co-Director, Centre of Human Rights Education (ZMRB) Lucerne, Switzerland)
Troy Davis (Lecturer in democracy engineering, University of Strasbourg and University of Freiburg)
Dr. Alina Mungiu- Pippidi (Professor of Democracy Studies, Hertie School of Governance)
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brückner (Jean Monnet Professor for European Studies, Stanford University in Berlin)
Dr. Anne V. Adams (Director of the W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture, Ghana)
Dr. Alan Berman (Senior Lecturer in Law, Newcastle University, Australia)
Stephanie Brancaforte (Campaign Director for Avaaz.org)
Markus Meckel (First Democratically Elected Foreign Minister of the German Democratic Republic)
Dr. Nils Meyer- Ohlendorf (Executive Director, Democracy Reporting International)
Prof. Dr. Anja Mihr (Associate Professor, Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, Utrecht)
Dr. Vineta Porina (Director of the Multicultural Education Centre of the University of Latvia)
- ICD House of Arts and Culture
- German Parliament
- ‘Kurier’ ship
Summary of EventsFriday, 1st of October: The first day of the Congress began with a speech given by the leader of the German Green Party Cem Özdemir, followed by welcome addresses from Former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, the Ambassador of Mozambique H.E Carlos Dos Santos and ICD Director and Founder Mark Donfried, the founder and director of the ICD. The first lecture laid out the history and development of Human Rights to the present day, followed by a panel discussion on the topic of ‘Human Rights in a Globalized World’. The Congress participants then visited the ‘Kurier’ ship, site of the Floodwall exhibition, an exploration of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, followed by lectures on Germany’s reunification and the potential victims of climate change. The evening ended with a group dinner.
Saturday, 2nd of October: The second day further explored issues concerning Human Rights, including lectures on the freedom of religion and belief, Europe’s activities in the fight against discrimination, and the ongoing debate surrounding the ban of the headscarf. After lunch sessions were held on the relationship between democracy and Human Rights, new theories to solve political problems and issues concerned with the transition to good governance. The day’s themes were rounded off with the speaker’s engaging in a panel discussion on the universality of democracy and Human Rights. The evening concluded with a film screening and a group dinner.
Sunday, 3th of October: The third day of the Congress began with a case study on confronting homophobic and transphobic abuse in Queensland, Australia, followed by a presentation of a case study of Human Rights organisations operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The morning session finished with a presentation on ‘The portrayal of Human Rights in Works by African Writers and Filmmakers’. After lunch the participants had the option to go to the Ministry Gardens in Berlin before returning to the ICD House for a lecture on ‘How to promote Human Rights and Democracy’ and ‘Turkey’s Approach on Human Rights and Democracy’. Given that it was the day of the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunification, the final lecture of the day came from Markus Meckel, the first democratically elected foreign minister of the GDR, followed by a reunification gala for participants and ICD staff to commemorate the event.
Monday, 04th October: The final day of the Congress began with an excursion to the German Parliament where two lectures were given on the topics of ‘Measuring Democracies’ and ‘Human Rights and Revised Democratic Orders’. After lunch a panel discussion was held on ‘Human Rights and Democracy in a Globalised World: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead’, followed by a case study on ‘Minority Rights Protection vs. Discrimination of State Language users in Latvia. The final lecture of the Congress was delivered by Amnesty International’s Benjamin Titze on mobilizing Civil Society in the fight for Human Rights.
Friday, 1st of October 2010
Central Daily Themes:
- The anniversary of the reunification especially on the anniversary should not just be a reunification of east and west but of everyone who lives in Germany.
- The key to a reunification of the whole of German is education. For Özdemir and his generation they could not be helped with reading or extra work because their parents were not educated to do so and therefore students who are non-German are immediately at a disadvantage.
- Children in Germany of all backgrounds should be educated from an earlier age.
- It is important to look at Holland and their extreme left and right wing views such as that of Wilders for understanding that German society should not follow the same path.
- It is important to educate Germans about Islam so they understand it rather than are threatened by it. If we knew the vast difference between what is preached in the mosque and what is portrayed in the media we would be at a better advantage to make reunification more realistic.
- Turkish Germans and others like them want to be fully considered a citizen of Germany and this can only work to Germany’s advantage because if non-Germans feel more settled German’s causes in turn become their causes thus strengthening the country itself
- Anyone who makes the effort to speak the language, works hard and cares about the improvement and development of the country has the right to be considered a German citizen.
- The more the world becomes globalized the more aware we become of differences between Cultures
- Democracy has its vices- extremists are sometimes demagogues.
- It is not a coincidence that the meeting takes place at same date as the Reunification anniversary of Germany and that we are in the city of Berlin
- After the end of the Cold War and the fall of the wall there was a need for a new enemy.
- 9/11 was a new clash between civilizations.
- Diplomacy may have longer lasting effects than wars in the peace-building process.
- In a globalized world values accumulate. Having universal values is good but trying to add values from different cultures and people will help to communicate with one another.
Carlos Dos Santos
- Human rights talks are important. The statement made by Chancellor Angela Merkel confirms the importance and necessity of human rights.
- Human rights are a conclusion of values, which are applicable in a globalized world, and improving human rights is needed for a universal compliance with declaration in many countries.
- All cultures and leaders of countries speak of dignity and rights, but many fall short in realizing that in their own respective countries. People are trying to figure out which would be the most appropriate instances to take care of the issue.
- Article 23 in the UN Human Rights declaration says: ‘Everyone has the right to work and to be protected from unemployment’. However, more than 50% of the citizens in Mozambique are still being deprived of that right. It is a work in progress in Mozambique to improve the situation and comply with the Human Rights Charter.
The History and Development of Human Rights: An Introduction
Prof. Dr. Theodor Schilling
- Human rights are texts agreed by countries and those rights are laid out in human right treaties and charters. These include the rights to food and life.
- We don’t know what law is philosophically, as comparing results of different approaches lead to a philosophical answer. There are human rights inherent in being a human being and they are universal. Philosophical agreements are widespread, but they are not universal.
- East Asia is missing many human rights treaties. No existing international rights have been reformed for quite some time, and they do not reflect the issues of today. Law is not about ‘what is’, it is about ‘what should be’.
Human Rights in a Globalised World: The State of Affairs
Markus Löning, Marianne Heuwagen, Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt and Benjamin Titze
- It is a misconception that human rights are a result of the idealistic countries of the West. It has taken time to develop: so many people from Asia, the Middle East and Africa face much bigger obstacles than in Germany but they still fight for the rights of others.
- Influence of NGO’s: national institutions and governments would not pick up human rights issues as they do if it was not for NGO’s.
- How governments are seen and perceived has a lot to do with NGO’s.
- NGO’s should work together more often because this cooperation really helps. Organizations have limited means for research and plan together so they don’t overlap with their focus on human rights violations.
- Headscarves violate human rights in 8 German states. This comes up a lot in many European countries. Cultural controversy arises and when you follow the constitution of human rights this can be very helpful.
- Regarding Sudanese President Bashir and the ICC arrest warrant; African countries are not in the habit of arresting African leaders so ICC position is weakened as no one is helping to implement what the ICC should do.
- Rwanda after the genocide the ICC examined the crimes of the Hutu’s but when they need to look at the crimes the Tutsis had committed they were not allowed into the country.
- Individual sanctions can be very instrumental in making political change. Zimbabwean children of ruling class banned from education in Australia because they should take care of education of their citizens.
- The main problem of human rights is very simple: it just needs to be implemented, implemented, implemented.
- NGOs do their best to point out misuse of funds, not only from the international community but of other African communities as well.
- Issues surrounding disabilities as a human right is a new but important concept.
- Internal corruption in the UN; we should always be clear in human rights that we follow legitimate human rights. Iraq war was clearly not a war of human rights. Rejected by vast amount of human rights.
German Reunification: A Victory for Human Rights and Democracy
Amb. Richard Barkley
- Without a demand or uprising, there would have been no German reunification, and many non-transferable political developments led to reunification. Although the origins of reunification are not discernible, the seeds were sown with the 1969 Shale Government in the East.
- Eastern policy was bold as Bonn and East Berlin exchanged representatives meaning that each side recognized each other. Only once the revolution was in full motion, America lost its skepticism of East Germany.
- ‘Intershops ‘cropped up in the East, selling Western goods for hard currency, and West German television was so ubiquitous that the police no longer tried to prevent it. People believe that while the Stasi and the Moscow Government still had influence, German reunification was doomed, and Gorbachev’s attempts to save the USSR system unleashed a beast that could not be controlled.
- Many politicians were astonished by the pace and actions of the time – they were unsure of what actions to take. President Bush Senior said he would back Germany if they entered NATO, and the EU was politically transforming at the time of German reunification.
- Political isolation rarely succeeds, but then neither does full involvement (unless everyone is equally involved and equally committed). The role of adroit diplomacy was important in the reunification. Democracy and human rights are no longer an East/West Germany problem because now there is culture involved, which makes the challenge more complex. In an increasingly interdependent world, nations need to unclench their fists and engage in international diplomacy.
Victims of Climate Change: Who will Protect Vulnerable People and Wildlife?
- The environment is the missing chapter in the book of human rights – it looks forward, instead of backward.
- Katrina was also an environmental issue. Hurricanes get their energy from heat, and at that time the waters in the Gulf were warmer than ever before -> global warming didn’t cause the hurricane, but it did make it more intense.
- BP oil disaster: like with Katrina, Congress and regulators failed. Response plans were designed wrong, because of a need for speed and profit. Wildlife was hit again as well.
- There is a connection between protecting wildlife and protecting people.
- Coastal communities need wetlands, which are now threatened by rising sea levels.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that hundreds of millions of people will suffer from a lack of water supply: they need glacier water, and glaciers are now melting earlier in the year; too much water in some places and too little in others.
- The poorest and most vulnerable are hit the hardest. This is a human rights issue, also for future generations.
- Wildlife dimension: threat of extinction, natural resources and rights issue.
- There has been a failure to meet the goals of the Biodiversity Convention – the rate of decline in biodiversity is accelerating instead.
- Success in any movement must come from the bottom up. People do realize the importance of these issues, and lower governments are acting. But it’s not enough – the actual rate of climate change is faster than predicted.
- The environment is not a major issue in political campaigns, but this may be changing.
- Call to participate in 10/10/10 (see 350.org)
Saturday, 2nd of October 2010
Central Daily Themes:
The Freedom of Religion or Belief: Problems of Conception and Implementation
Prof. Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt
- The concept of freedom and religion itself has come under attack.
- Task refers to individual cases because it is controversial in its first stages. Large amount of hatred and strange ideas that can fuel resentment and fear. These feelings of resentment are exploited by political entrepreneurs.
- In Germany the main prejudice is against Islamic people. Holland’s Gert Wilders is influencing people today.
- Violations happen everywhere all around the globe, in the name of (in the pretext of) religion/secularism/law/registration requirements.
- Freedom of religion is a human right.
- The victims of repression of belief include very different groups; members of traditional religions, but also atheists and Jehovah witnesses.
- Concept of neutrality – there are political voices in Europe so that Europe are purged from the public space. At least in state run organizations.
- Freedom of Religious Belief is a universal human right. Also freedom of expression; all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
- Religious minorities are often ethnic minorities so this can relate to racism, however, we should be careful not to mix ethnicity and religion.
- Neutrality- fairness principle. The state is in charge of guaranteeing human rights and should not favor one religion over others.
The Activities of Europe and Germany Concerning Anti-Discrimination
Dr. Christian Armbrüster
- Insurance will assess the risk concerning the individual situation of the parties. The same is true for health and life insurance. Ageism often comes into context because life insurance when you are older is a lot more expensive. Pilots have to retire when they are 58 and this has been justified because they are responsible for many lives and need to be ready in case of emergency quick actions. Women’s health insurance can be more expensive sometimes 50% more because women’s desire to see a doctor is much higher than a man
- Positive discrimination, a favor to a group which has previously been overlooked or discriminated against. In management in Germany there are few women (whereas there are more women judges). Should we follow Norway or Spain where they have a quota so that a certain number of posts have to go to women? Perhaps, however lots of women want to get jobs because of their qualifications, and not because of the quota
- Poland refused homosexual rights because it was not in line with their rules of society: historically a heavily catholic country. Reasons like this are why the law making process is so long.
Human Rights Standards in Europe and the Ban Against the Headscarf, Burqa or Niqab: Comparative Reflections
Prof. Dr. Sabine Berghahn
- Types of State-Church relations include:
- Laic State = (Turkey / France) this is a radical form of secularism between public and private sectors.
- Neutral State = (Austria/Netherlands/Germany) is when the country is secular but it is pragmatic and open.
- Privileged Church of State = (Denmark/Greece/UK)
- Religious affairs should be kept out of school or university or the civil service. People should act in a neutral and impartial manner.
- France and Turkey are the strictest countries who have the most legislation, while non-laic states (neutral and church of states) adopt a pragmatic and open approach.
- Headscarves are treated more liberally than the Niqab or burka, and eight out of sixteen German states have passed parliamentary laws concerning the status of civil servants but few have passed bills fully prohibiting outward signs of religious beliefs. Christian or occidental religions tend to be exceptions as they do not offend or cause controversy.
- In a private economy it is different; discrimination is against labor law. Such a ban on headscarves would send a strong message to Muslim immigrants, that they are not welcome unless they renounce their religion. At the end of May 2009, the Danish protestant church implemented a policy shift, but it was purely symbolic. Although it was supported by the major political parties and came into effect in June 2009.
- On matters such as this ban, discretion is often left to the headmaster of the school. There are no regulations in the UK, but this is because most schools have uniforms and judges wear wigs, helping solve the problem. Each individual problem is weighed against the school’s procedures. Such tolerance within the UK is due to the traditional bond between State and Church in addition to the fact that since the British Empire, Britain has been an immigrant and multicultural country. Therefore, individual rights have always been important, accepted and valued. A woman should be allowed to wear what she wants, as long as it does not impede her ability to do her job impartially.
- Both the EU and the European Court of Justice shape headscarf, burka and niqab rules and cases. Burka and niqab legislation is an aggravation of headscarf legislation. Women wearing these garments handicap themselves by hiding their face in terms of getting a job, but they still have the fundamental right to leave the house and go to the shops etc.
The Relationship between Democracy and Human Rights
Dr. Peter Kirchschlaeger
- Democracy and human rights have become both universal values and a universal concept, despite not being applied universally.
- The case of the ban on minarets in Switzerland will likely be overturned at the European level: if a democratic decision does not respect human rights, it’s probably not a democratic decision where the majority can express their will against the minority; hence international obligations are protecting human rights.
- The burden of proof is on the side of cultural traditions, beliefs, world views that don’t respect human rights need to show why part of human beings don’t have the same human rights as we do.
A New Theory to Solve Political Problems: Democracy Engineering
- Illegality has nothing to do with morality. Rule of Law is contrary to Rule of Men.
- Internationally we have Rule of Men, but nationally it is Rule of Law.
- Historically, it has been proven that western powers have used their democracy for their own benefit, so the only way to purely have democracy is to build it, hence “democracy engineering”.
- Democracy engineering is a novel, scientific theory governed by clear axioms and rules, based on interdisciplinary knowledge.
- It is a scientific as it’s able to make predictions, which you then test and can be proven wrong.
- Often politicians cite “lack of political will” as a reason for failure, however this is simply a constraint and problems should be solved despite constraints.
- The axioms of democracy engineering are: ‘All humans possess equal dignity’ and ‘Sovereignty belongs to the people’
- Democracy engineering is the design/creation/building of political processes/structures/general systems.
- Different countries have different democracies but the fundamental principles are the same.
- Why is it always rich, first world countries helping the poorer third world? Each country has their own interests, which could liken these poorer countries to sheep asking the wolf “how should I organize myself?”
- Democracy engineers are individual and have no allegiances with countries; therefore they can be trusted when nations seek help as to how to create democracy.
- Democracy is a human invention, a still very young and primitive 'political technology', that can, and should be, designed or engineered consciously, in a rational way. Democratic engineering is a revolutionary concept that represents a “disruptive technology” in the existing world of international relations
Democracy and Human Rights: Universal Concepts?
Dr. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi
- What prevents the development of new democracies into quality democracies? Why do many new democracies remain in the poor governance phase? Have we made much measurable progress in the last 14 years? One study (Kaufmann) say no significant trends in government improvement worldwide. More than half of people feel that corruption will grow over the next year (Transparency International). Only one in five thinks it will improve over the next year. Kaufmann also found former Soviet Union countries most corrupt, more than sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore it is not necessarily a measure of how rich they are.
- There is a strong correlation between foreign aid and bad governance. According to World Bank $1 trillion is unaccounted for in bribes- twice the GDP of Africa.
- Singapore is the only non-democracy that is green (best practice) on the corruption scale. Ex-British colonies tend to be less corrupt, due to the traditions of common law and procedural justice and property protection.
- Eastern Europe recorded the largest progress but this progress occurred most in early nineties and not in the EU integration process. EU funds always end up with someone who is politically connected.
- Particularism vs. Universalism: preference according to group or everyone treated equally. Many governments stabilize in the Competitive Particularism phase; parties competing against each other to capture the spoils.
- Quality democracies rarely develop gradually; they occur after crises. Eastern European countries did it through anti-communist revolutions followed by competitive political systems. Top-down revolution in Georgia, bottom-up in Romania.
Democracy and Human Rights: Universal Concepts?
Troy Davis, H.E. Yasar Yakis, Dr. Peter Kirchschlaeger and Prof. Dr. Uli Brückner
- Democracy and human rights are universal values and a universal concept. They are legally. If certain cultures and religions lead to human rights violations we need to get the victims view. In practice human rights are not applied universally. We should take human rights violations seriously.
- There are fundamental rights, democracy comes second, question of different species of human would one be above the other. Religion comes second to being human.
- There is a need for a hierarchy of rights; if all rights on the same level a clash of rights would always exist and lead to wars.
- People should intervene in other countries- should have intervened in Rwanda- we have obligation to help others.
- The absence of democracy could lead to human rights violations.
- Different cultures should be respected. Being human comes first.
- Claims concerning sovereignty change over time: Serbia’s claim over Kosovo goes back to 14th century.
- Questions remain surrounding the use of international courts to arbitrate and prosecute international crimes and crimes against humanity. Such courts are a relatively recent creation: 2002 was the starting date for the International Criminal Court.
Sunday, 3rd of October 2010
Central Daily Themes:
Case Study - Speaking Out: Stopping Homophobic and Transphobic Abuse in Queensland"
Dr. Alan Berman
- In 1980s gay activist Nick Toonan in Tasmania challenged the sodomy laws because it was discriminatory. The Federal government said that Tasmania had to repeal these laws however Tasmania refused. National Human Rights Committee unanimously ruled that Tasmania needed to change their laws. As a result of this, Victoria then repealed its laws.
- Statistically, Queensland and the Northern Territories are the most homophobic states and Victoria is the most tolerant state. Queensland did not repeal its laws on homophobia until years after Victoria did.
- President Bush Sr, enacted a US National Hate Crimes Statistic Act. The statistics have been collected, but very little action has been taken. In Queensland, the police do not distinguish common assault from a hate crime.
- Engaging government officials on issues such as homophobia and transphobia is an often difficult task; initial interest often diminishes into outright avoidance. There are many challenges getting officials on board to support such initiatives.
The Role of Human Rights Organizations in Furthering International Justice: A Case Study of the D.R. Congo
- NGOs must now grapple with their increasing importance: they must be more accountable for their actions that they have been in the past
- Crimes are sometimes prosecuted in an unbalanced way: in Rwanda Hutu criticized for their crimes, but not Tutsi’s own actions.
- Investigating serious crimes can be difficult, with dangerous settings and time constraints.
- Well-intentioned investigations can potentially (unintentionally) ‘destroy evidence gathered and even put people as risk in doing so.
- NGO’s can at times work at cross-purposes to prosecutors by pursuing their own agenda, and pervert optimal trial outcomes.
The Portrayal of Human Rights in Works by African Writers and Filmmakers
Dr. Anne V. Adams
- African writers and artists give testimony to Human Right issues.
- Four main aspects define the African experience: the independence struggle, civil war, internecine strife and traditional practices.
- Writers such as Wole Soyinka, Ngugiwa Thiongo, Ken Saro-Wiwa give prisoner perspectives.
- It is important to remember that on some issues such as traditional practices, there are as many positive connotations as there are negative ones.
Turkey's Approach to Human Rights and Democracy and German-Turkish Relations
H.E. Yasar Yakis
- Turkey has made many reforms recently. They have improved constitutional reforms which were very important for human rights. There were 26 in total and were all voted on with a referendum last month with 58% voting in favor. Some of these included the abolition of the death penalty-even in a time of war, positive discrimination for the disadvantages, including pregnant women, and protection of personal data. In addition, they also included wider freedom of organization, freedom of movement, an ombudsman-who acts as an independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.
- Other reforms included changing the law on combating terrorism, and those who “insulted Turkishness”, including the trial of juveniles under 18 will now be tried in a juvenile court with the presence of a child psychologist.
- The judiciary naturally evolves much slower due to case law. Turkey has sent judges to European Courts to see how they work, and has invited European Court judges to come and lecture to improve knowledge and progress.
- The recent development in the context of democracy; Turkey’s EU membership process plays a major role in establishing democracy. Although it’s still not fulfilled all of the criteria, it is working towards it and its membership would be very important as a consolidation of previous reforms.
- Turkey is not a paradise in terms of democracy and human rights, but the reforms in the past 18 months have been more than anything accomplished in the past 80 years. The changes are not purely made for EU membership, they are to improve the lives of Turkish people – the reforms would continue without the EU.
- There is a large population of Turks in Germany who came over as unskilled labour, but then due to the lack of ability to communicate, then became introverted. There are problems with integration, when the Turks first came over, both governments believed they would stay, earn money, and then leave; however, this was not the case. No one anticipated them, and future generations staying in Germany.
- Now there are measures to try and help Turks integrate and they are starting to get positive results. This is also helped by the lack of prejudice in the host country, as shown by German-Turkish beauty queens, judges, and ministers.
How to Promote Democracy and Human Rights: Germany and the European Union as Normative Actors
Prof. Dr. Uli Brückner
- Exporting democracy is possible, as seen by the fact that East Germany went from a totalitarian regime to a democracy, but that in itself is not sufficient.
- Human rights are universal, but there are hierarchies or trade-offs as well as cultural, time and other contextual conditions. Different countries have different ideas of time; some have a more gradual understanding of progress on some issues.
- Any legal arrangement has distributional consequences in terms of money and opportunities causing barriers or opposition.
- European integration is a cultural and normative project, and all nations have had to overcome their own nationalism as a shared belief between founding nations creates a deep union. They have all committed to interdependence and multilateralism. To join the EU is an invitation – it is not a virus or imperialistic strategy – there is a limit to its growth, but at the moment these limits are hard to define. When Germany joined the EU it was a chance for them to start again and wipe the slate clean of the previous two world wars and be a part of something bigger.
- The EU is a promoter of democracy and human rights which is created by interest-driven incremental steps, and is based on utility maximizing rationale. Each state is a main actor in an ever-stronger civil society.
- The project of “an ever closer union” implies: The abolition of borders and barriers.
- European-wide infrastructure, which reduces the importance of time and space.
- The promotion works differently inside and outside the EU. Inside, everything is based on the rule of law, interdependence and an active use of law, money and information. Neighboring countries, which are “everything but institutions”, is based on the assumption that neighbors will become like the EU, and the rest of the world participates in international organizations and bilateral relations.
- However, shortcomings and structural imbalances still remain as the culture of diversity within the EU is one of its strengths, but it is also a weakness. The share of competences is limited by the will of the member states as well as a problem of collective action. There is also the problem of redistribution consequences – even if the problems are understood, how are the losers compensated?
- As a result of these challenges, there still remains a need for cultural diplomacy. Culture can be used in the permanent process of reinvention in the dialogue with others.
- There is a ‘thin mask of civilization” – where, even though the EU is currently happy and is a success story, it is naive to think that it could last forever.
- The role of actors within international relations is always changing, and institutions are permanent construction sites – the mission is never accomplished.
The Peaceful Revolution and German Reunification
- In East Germany they were encouraged by movements in Poland. During the summer of 1989, 50,000 people left East Germany via Budapest. In other communist countries such as Poland and Hungary had the rights to travel to western countries every couple of years.
- These events led to the misunderstanding of allowing people to travel which ultimately resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall. The government didn’t mean for it to lead to the ultimate demise of the Berlin Wall, and it was likened to the storming of the Bastille.
- It is important that Germans have remember the process of democratization and dealing with their past. The person who asked Poland for forgiveness for WWII period was against Hitler, but was accepting of collective German history. The separation of Germany made East Germany feel like they weren’t guilty for war. They made a declaration after reunification to accept their responsibility, and had to declare their acceptance of the Polish border.
- Democracy and human rights not just a question of official structures. It is important to accept the Armenian genocide in 1995 as Germany was an ally to the Ottoman Empire at the time, and therefore a part of it. Only when we deal with past can we solve problems with our neighbors.
Monday, 4th of October 2010
Central Daily Themes:
Measuring a Democracy: The Significance of International Commitments and Obligations
Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf
- Why do we measure democracies? Democracies come in many different forms therefore it is a challenge to define it. Democracy is needed for good structure within a country and a good government for a country, and election observation is necessary for democracy assessment
- International commitments and obligations relating to democratic governing are important, and to measure democracy we are in need of a benchmark. Essential elements for democracy are the rule of law, human rights, transparency, freedom of expression, and the freedom to vote.
- Commitments and obligations are demonstrated in the signing of many treaties such as international treaties like ICCPR of which 166 out of 192 member countries ratified and signed the document. Regional Human Rights Treaties like the African Charter of Human and people’s rights are also showing the importance of fighting for Human Rights.
- In a democracy there has to be a separation of power and an independent judiciary is needed
- Election observation is also of importance as well as accepting the observation and conducting them. Human Rights obligations including democracy related obligations are nearly universally accepted there for an international consensus exists and there is no need to negotiate existing norms
- There is still a greater need for cooperation between Human Rights and democracy support ,a stronger focus on funding for functioning governments and independent judiciary rather than elections
Human Rights and Revised Democratic Orders
Prof. Dr. Anja Mihr
- Internationally there are more than 300 legally binding treaties on HR, and the scope of human rights has widened in recent years. After 1993, an emphasis was put on democracy as a human right.
- There are doubts on there being one point at which you can call a state a consolidated democracy. The notion of nation state will change - the face of politics will be more international.
- Nation states are more mediators between international/ regional level and local level, trying to implement international standards (that is a concept of the future).
- Regional organizations (EU/African union) are becoming more important in implementation and setting norms and standards, and the majority of treaties are on specific groups. This could possibly be less effective than general treaties.
Human Rights and Democracy in a Globalised World: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
Prof. Dr. Anja Mihr, Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf and Benjamin Titze
- The barrier between human rights, environmentalism, and other social discrepancies are breaking down. Problem with Amnesty and Human Rights Watch is that they campaign a lot but their recommendations often do not lead to change. We need to engage people with new technologies and come up with new approaches.
- Future Role of NGOs- are boundaries blurring or should NGOs stay focused on an issue? There has always been inter-linkages. NGOs need to be specialists, but also understand the bigger picture.
- NGOs cannot go on as they are as today there are around 1 million human rights NGOs. They are often donor driven, and NGOs often don’t have long term vision. NGOs should always aim at abolishing themselves as the issue is resolved. There will be a quite different scene in 20 years.
- There needs to be more long term planning, but it is difficult to accomplish in a media driven world. Of course there is an influence of donors on NGOs, but it depends on the NGOs as many of them are member funded. More and more specialized NGOs will arise in the years to come.
- What is the major role of NGOs- most of them work very locally, and they have to be adaptive. They often act as mediators between different governance level and bring people together to discuss their views. In the 70s and 80s they were just lobbyists, but now they are mediators.
- How can NGOs continue to work on issues that aren’t in the media? When it comes to changing and implementing something, it’s harder to get the longer term attention. NGOs need to get public to concentrate on these issues over the long term. The general public prefers to help one person they hear about, rather than the thousands that suffer in a similar fashion.
- NGOs cannot escape media effect. Often they start to work on an issue because it arises in the media but then they have to continue working on it when media attention subsides.
- Most states claim to be democratic, but we need to look at them more carefully. Some countries take their cue from China and Russia who became world powers in an undemocratic way. No political will to establish a democracy in China- democracy occurs at local level to appease the people but not with the regime. Economic growth does not lead to democracy.
- The MDGs gave countries goals, however the required growth rates were unrealistic. Some places made a huge amount of progress, and while the goals themselves may not a success, what has grown around it is.
- States should have been held more accountable to Millennium Development Goals, and should be less reliant on donors.
Case Study: Minority Rights Protection vs. Discrimination of State Language Users in Latvia
Dr. Vineta Porina
- Independent Latvia had an ethnic imbalance after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It had to break the hegemony of Russia, and many Russian speakers had to learn Latvian after independence.
- Many people who claim to know Latvian and Russian refuse to speak Latvian. When addressed in Russian many Latvians would speak in Russian. There have been many incidents involving prejudice against people who cannot speak Russian.
- Integration in Latvia was slowed by the relatively small majority of Latvians and the linguistic homogeneity of the minority group. A bilingual society was not possible because it was expensive, with the possibility of Latvian dying out, and Russian dominating.
- The EU might help to introduce other languages apart from Russian as the second language of many.
Mobilising Civil Society
- The public is important to exert pressure, and they need members and civil society to do so. Members are also necessary to provide funding and for building a better society, and influence future decision makers.
- Mobilization works better with stories rather than statistics. Use the example of the death penalty in Japan. Japan still uses gallows, and this medieval death sentence is inhumane. Criminals sit on death row for many years and are told within an hour when they will die. Their family is not informed until they are needed to collect the corpse, and the person lives in constant fear.
- Digital media and new approaches have been taken to improve and raise awareness of human rights. Some of these approaches include, online activism such as websites and social media. SMS has a huge effect in the Asia-Pacific news network because many have mobiles but no Internet. In addition to online approaches, there are new forms of protest such as flash-mobs, aerial art, mass 1 cent bank transfers, and using color for online profiles (e.g. the color green shows solidarity for Iran).