Democracy in ancient Greece served as one of the first forms of self-rule in the ancient world. The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words that mean people (demos) and rule (kratos). Democracy is the idea that the citizens of a country should take an active role in the government of their country and manage it directly or through elected representatives. In addition, it supports the idea that the people can replace their government through peaceful transfers of power rather than violent uprising or revolution. Thus, a key part of democracy is that the people have a voice.
Democracy is a universally recognized ideal based on common values shared by people across the world, irrespective of cultural, political, social and economic differences. Democracy as a form of government is a universal benchmark for human rights protection; it provides an environment for the protection and effective realisation of human rights.
Democracy is known as the finest form of government because in a democracy, it is people of the country who choose their government. They enjoy certain rights which are very essential for any human being to live freely and happily. Democracy has withstood the test of time; while other forms of government have failed, democracy has stood strong. It has time and again proved its importance. International Day of Democracy on September 15 every year allows us the opportunity to celebrate and appreciate our democratic society. It’s very easy for people who live in a free society to take their freedoms for granted, but when freedom is absent, life can be beset with unimaginable challenges.
The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and free elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The foundation of a democratic society is the ability of its people to participate in the decision-making process of their nation. This can only happen when everyone is allowed to vote regardless of race, gender or other factors, meaning inclusion and equality are important to the success of a democratic society.
The original form of democracy was a direct democracy. The most common form of democracy today is a representative democracy, where the people elect government officials to govern on their behalf such as in a parliamentary or presidential democracy. Democracy includes freedom of assembly, association, property rights, freedom of religion and speech, inclusiveness and equality, citizenship, consent of the governed, voting rights, freedom from unwarranted governmental deprivation of the right to life and liberty, and minority rights.
Democracy may usher in a culture of equality that empowers oppressed groups. In the process of granting formal citizenship rights to such groups—lower castes and classes, peasants, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities—democracy may foster a political dynamic in which these groups conceptualize their interests as a matter of rights and take a correspondingly aggressive approach to satisfying those rights in the political, social, and economic spheres. This political dynamic, once initiated, may have important repercussions for societal human development insofar as it leads to an extension and improvement of government services and increased utilization of those services. An effective democratic governance enhances the quality of life for men and women everywhere, and human development is more likely to take place in such an environment.
Supporting democracy not only promotes fundamental rights but also helps to create a more secure, stable, and prosperous global arena in which societies can advance their national interests. In addition, democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect citizens, combat crime, uphold human and workers’ rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health. Democracy is associated with higher human capital accumulation, lower inflation, lower political instability, and higher economic freedom. Democracy is closely tied with economic sources of growth, like education levels and lifespan, through improvement of educative institutions as well as healthcare. Over the past quarter-century, a large number of nations have made a successful transition to democracy. Many more are at various stages of the transition.
When people are free to live freely, they will be happier. Citizens are not as happy and prosperous as in a democratic country. Furthermore, democracy lets people have equal rights and ensures that equality prevails all over the country. Subsequently, it also gives them duties that make them better citizens and are also important for their overall development. So, the selection of the government by the citizens gives everyone a chance to work for their country. It allows the law to prevail efficiently as the rules are made by people whom they have selected. In addition, democracy allows people of various religions and cultures to co-exist peacefully. People in a democracy are more tolerant and accepting of each other’s differences.
Development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom. The institutions of democracy tend to foster a well-developed civil society which in turn is an important factor for the development of the society.
Ideally, in a democratic environment, there are better opportunities for economic, social and cultural growth compared to within an authoritarian state. Democracy is also crucial for sustainable development in the long run. By democracy, we do not merely mean expressing individual choices by participating in the electoral process. It is not only about voting to elect a government in a country; it is about a participatory process in all government development efforts. It is about social and institutional transformation, considering personal growth and welfare as integral. Having an improved quality of life that is valued and respected should be a basic right. Development without democracy is not possible. Democracy is a component of development and both are essential pre-conditions for human welfare. The strong correlation between development and democracy reflects the fact that economic development is conducive to democracy. Research has shown that the longer a country is ruled democratically, the better it performs across a variety of governance and development indicators, including economic performance.
The percentage of the world’s population living under some sort of democracy tumbled last year to 45.7% from 49.4% a year earlier according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2021. Of the 167 territories surveyed, just 21 were deemed to be full democracies, representing 6.4% of the world’s population, while 53 fell into the “flawed democracies” category. Topping the list were Norway, New Zealand and Finland, while the U.K. ranked 18th. Afghanistan and Myanmar took the bottom two spots, just below North Korea. India ranked at 46. As per the Democracy Index, there are 21 Full Democracies, 53 Flawed Democracies, 34 Hybrid Regimes and 59 Authoritarian regimes in the world. India is the largest democracy in the world and Niue is the smallest.
Democracy in India is still better than in most countries. Nonetheless, there is a lot of room for improvement which we must focus on. The government must implement laws to ensure no discrimination takes place. In addition, awareness programmes must be held to make citizens aware of their rights and duties.
“In a democracy, the well-being, individuality and happiness of every citizen is important for the overall prosperity, peace and happiness of the nation.” – APJ Abdul Kalam
The writer is a regular contributor to this newspaper. [email protected]