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Democracy and human rights promotion necessitates both political and civil society

Political parties, national governments, the international community as well as civil society all play important roles in democratisation processes. In the Democracy and Human Rights for Development – seminar, organised by the Finnish NGO Foundation for Human Rights KIOS and Demo Finland, such processes as well as the intricate links between democracy, human rights and development were discussed and elaborated on by representatives from democracy and human rights practitioners from all over the world. The seminar was held in Helsinki 14-15 September.

The two-day seminar gathered nearly 200 attendants keen to explore questions around democracy and human rights. Presentations were given by a wide range of activists and practitioners from countries as varied as Nepal, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK and Finland.

The director of the European Network for Central Africa, Kris Berwouts, who has over two decades of experience in democracy promotion in the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi started the second day of the seminar by stressing the importance of the role civil society plays in democracy and human rights promotion, particularly in post-conflict societies. He called for increased liability and cooperation among different actors in the field both locally and internationally. Berwouts also reminded the audience of the important role political actors play in democratisation as no civil society can function without democratic structures.

Berwouts’s talk was complemented by the subsequent presenter Alexis Rusine, the secretary general of the Congress for Labor and Brotherhood in Rwanda. Rusine gave an introduction to the work and endeavours of his organisation in strengthening workers’ rights in Rwanda. Rusine stressed that democracy is not possible unless different groups in a society are included in decision making processes.

Leaders are not born, they are made

Women’s right to participate in politics was underlined by Meselech Wondimu Wube, the chairperson of Bright Africa Development Association and by a long standing gender activist, Member of Parliament and chairperson of Tanzania Women Cross-Party Platform Anna Abdallah. Abdallah praised the work done at the grassroots by Wondimu’s organisation in encouraging young Ethiopian women to take a stake in their communities and become agents of change. Abdallah saw such work having wider societal and political repercussions as it politically activates women and encourages them to proactively participate in decision making.

“A woman’s friend is another woman” were the exact words of Abdallah as she summarised the efforts made by the Tanzanian platform in bringing together women politicians across political party affiliation in order to improve women’s position in Tanzania.

Democracy was celebrated until late at night

Demo Finland has been celebrating the annual International Day of Democracy on September 15th ever since the day was declared by the UN in 2007. The fourth day of democracy was celebrated at Ravintola Kaisaniemi in Helsinki in a joyful, multicultural atmosphere.

In between toasts and dancing, a Finnish-West African drum dance group Wonuwali performed its impressive act and a local DJ Tipa Hiihtopipo played records. The final act of the night was delivered by Koivuniemen Herrat, a hip hop group with a funky twist.

The party was organised in cooperation with the UN association of Finland and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP.)

The objective of the International Day of Democracy is to raise awareness on democracy and strengthen measures for democracy promotion at the national level.

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