Democracy and human rights: irreconcilable or not?



Many in the human rights community sense an increasing tension in the relationship between the functioning of status quo democratic institutions and the principles enshrined for decades in global human rights frameworks. Challenges to conventional democratic and rights principles are now a common feature of political mobilization. These challenges are emerging from popularly elected nationalist governments that reject any legitimacy of universal human rights. They are also, however, coming from historically marginalized and excluded groups who demand a more expansive understanding of democracy and rights and sometimes reject the very concept of rights as too limited or culturally specific in nature. This series examines the relationships between global rights and democracy by considering: under what conditions do global frameworks in areas like human rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, and indigenous rights promote a deepening of democracy and when do they undermine democracy? Can collective rights and individual rights be simultaneously respected and accommodated in democratic institutions? Should we shift ultimately from a rights-based understanding of democratic inclusion to an entirely different logic?

Collaborating Editor (2017): Lisa Sundstrom

Photo: Women's March on January 21, 2017, Washington D.C. Jerry Kiesewetter/Unsplash (Some rights reserved)