« ÎnapoiContinuă »
ENCOURAGEMENT OF DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Paper by Michael Stewart
The world situation may be crudely described as follows: one bloc (variously described as "The West", "NATO", "The Free World") believes in democracy and human rights, and claims that, on the basis of these principles, policies can be carried through which will solve economic problems and right social injustices. Another bloc (in effect the USSR and her allies; the future role of China in world politics remains an enigma) maintains that the Western belief in democracy and human rights is a sham, that the reality of Western life in plutocracy, corruption, unemployment and class-conflict; and that not until a Communist economic basis for society has been established can true democracy flourish. In the West we are uneasily aware that Communist criticisms of our society are not entirely without foundation; but the Communists have not succeeded in creating an economic and social system that is more efficient or more just than ours; and their rejection of our concept of democracy and human rights opens the door to tyranny.
A SKEPTICAL VIEW
Meanwhile, watching the two blocs, is the "non-aligned world". This phrase includes a large group of countries, some of them having little in common with others, except the mere fact of non-alignment; but in a world overshadowed by blocs, this mere fact does create a fellow-feeling. It is disquieting to us in the West that few of these countries are ready to take us at our own valuation: the merits of democracy and human rights, which seem self-evident to us, are viewed by them with a cool scepticism. Among the reasons for this attitude we may note
1. Some of the past front-line champions against Communism-the pre-Castro regime in Cuba, the former government of South Vietnam, the present government in South Korea-have been remarkably unattractive;
2. Many of the citizens of non-aligned countries cannot see that the democratic process has any relevance to the solution of their problems-poverty, tribalism, corruption, etc.;
3. Most of the citizens of non-aligned countries are non-white, and the suspicion that "the West" is at heart racialist remains.
The USSR feels justified in supporting these attitudes in the hope of permanently estranging the non-aligned from the West. There is, therefore, a strong political reason why the West should strive to promote its own beliefs in the world. There is also a profounder reason. A nation, or group of nations, which does not believe in itself and its ideals will not, in the end, survive. The USSR is fully aware of this, and loses no opportunity to proclaim the virtues of its system and the defects of ours. We cannot face them without a faith; "The courage of faith will always outstay the courage of wrath.”
Nor can the world-wide advocacy of human rights be condemned as interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Denial of human rights is not merely an "internal affair"-it is a breach of an international obligation enshrined in the UN Charter.
But how is this task to be performed? Military crusading, bribery of political individuals or parties, and mere lecturing from an assured position of moral superiority are counter-productive. Below are suggested some possible lines of action; but it must be emphasized that this is a long-term problem, requiring patience and, if possible, concerted planning in advance by "the West"-particularly the USA and the countries of the EEC.
1. Use of international fora
The UN is often the scene of propaganda against Western countries, and their friends in the non-aligned world. We could do more to bring before the UN un
doubted cases of denial of rights by Communist countries. This should be in moderate language, persuasive and not abusive (our real audience is the nonaligned, not the USSR's bloc), but with persistence and on the basis of fully authenticated facts.
The forthcoming conference at Belgrade should give us the opportunity to compare Communist professions at Helsinki with subsequent performance. 2. Economic policies-aid and trade
A detailed examination of what can be done in this field would extend this paper beyond its proper length, and I therefore do no more than state a principle. The West should recognize that policies of this kind involve a redistribution of the world's wealth-the rise in the standard of life of the richest in the world must become slower, so that it can become faster elsewhere. The West should also make it clear that its chief interest is in policies which benefit the poorest people in the developing countries. Observance of these principles will sometimes be in conflict with the immediate economic interest of some Western countries; we have to recognize that it is worth the price.
3. Attitude towards the internal politics of nonaligned countries
It is, of course, the duty of the diplomatic representatives of Western countries to understand the politics of the countries to which they are accredited and to do their best to see that those countries take a favourable view of the West. This cannot be done by making pets of particular individuals or parties; the decision as to who shall rule in a non-aligned country has to be made by that country (even if, sometimes, by very unattractive methods); it is the job of Western countries, and their representatives, to make it clear that they will seek to get on well with whoever is in power.
Nor should Western governments and diplomats be alarmed if incoming Governments in non-aligned countries take a drastic view of the rights of private ownership of land and other sources of wealth. The Communist victory in Vietnam was connected with the fact that land reform measures were always too little and too late. By contrast, Greece, for all her troubles, has never fallen into Communist hands, and this is partly attributable to the land reforms carried through many years ago by Venizelos.
The West has sometimes made the error of supposing that "human rights" mean not only freedom of speech, writing, thought, association, worship, and the right to criticise and peacefully change one's government, but also the right of small groups to maintain economic and social privileges in defiance of the public good. If this error were to continue, the whole cause of human rights would be discredited.
4. Cultural and exchange policies
An important objective here should be to enable younger people, who are likely to be influential in future in the non-aligned countries, to visit the West and see how we try to tackle the kind of problem that arises both in their countries and ours-how do we provide primary education, or health services; how do we deal with labour disputes; how do we handle the problems arising from the existence of different ethnic groups within the nation? (A discussion with members of the Community Relations Council in an English city would be more useful than a visit to the Houses of Parliament). The aim should be, not to suggest that everything in the West is all right, but that our respect for people's rights, and our emphasis on free discussion and argument, are of real value to us in the search for the right answers.
5. Rhodesia-a special case
There is one part of the world in which the Western countries could take more striking and immediate action than has so far been proposed. It is now certain that the Smith regime in Rhodesia will end; the remaining questions are "How soon?" and "What comes next?". If the USA and the EEC are ready, by joint action and policy, to hasten the end, two advantageous results will follow. First, the chance that the succeeding government in Rhodesia will be one which respects human rights will be greatly increased; second, it will be a clear demonstration to Africa that we mean what we say about human rights, and that our
concern for those rights is not restricted to white people. The items of policy could be:
(a) A rigid enforcement of sanctions—if this had been practised from the start, the problem would by now have been solved;
(b) A denial to Smith of any kind of help in resisting the attacks now being made on his regime, both within Rhodesia and from without;
(c) Consultation with the governments of the neighbouring states as to the steps to be taken when the end is imminent. We and they have a common interest in averting anarchy and giving a favourable wind to the succeeding government.
Thursday, September 23, 1976
SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION
SESSION III. A. POLITICAL DISCUSSION (CONTINUED)
(Working papers by Mr. Tsongas, Senator Pell, Mr. Biester, and Mr. Cousté1)
Mr. Spénale stated that the general theme of the meetingencouragement of democracy and respect for human rights-is the essential concern of all democracies, and has been for European Parliamentarians. He listed the following examples of actions taken by the European Parliament:
(1) The Parliament's successful proposal that the European Communities freeze the agreement of association with Greece, while that country was ruled by a military junta.
(2) Likewise, the Parliament expressed reservations about the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and had supported democracy in that country. There has been some progress there but it is not sufficient.
(3) Parliament had agreed on a resolution in 1973 asking the Commission to prepare a report on how basic human rights would be guaranteed within the fully integrated Community. The Tindemans' Report had stressed that the defense of human rights must be written into any future European constitution.
(4) The Parliament realized that the European Community could speak out against human rights violations outside its borders only if rights are enjoyed and guaranteed within the Community.
JOINT GROUP SUPPORTED
Mr. Spénale outlined possible action. He agreed with Mr. Schuijt's suggestion that a joint working party be set up to try to work out possible joint actions concerning the defense of human rights. Such a working party should, on the European side, keep in touch with the Parliament's Legal Committee, to insure coordination with the internal work program of Parliament. Such a working group might prepare a list of fundamental human rights.
Finally we should be concerned to defend human rights inside the Community and the United States for only on this basis would we be able to defend human rights outside the Community and the United States.
For the information of American participants, Mr. Spénale distributed copies of the Bulletin of the European Communities. "The Protection of Fundamental Rights in the European Community."
Mr. Fraser commented that European Parliament's attitudes towards Greece and Spain had been noted with satisfaction in the
1 See pp. 51-64.
United States particularly when they were compared with U.S. Government's attitudes toward these countries.
HUMAN RIGHTS INDIVISIBLE
Sir Peter Kirk agreed with Mr. Schuijt's proposal to set up a joint working group. This group could draft papers for the next meeting of the two delegations. As founder member of Amnesty International, he stated that we should differentiate between different types of violations of human rights. The worst were political executions, torture and arrest and imprisonment without trial, the three subjects which Congressman Fraser in his paper suggests the delegation concentrate on. Although it might be easier to try to concentrate on these particularly grave violations, human rights were indivisible. If the rights of assembly and free speech were violated, people would not be able to speak out against or overthrow governments which violated human rights. For instance, the undemocratic situation in India was allowed to develop partly through press censorship. A free press and free elections to a parliament were necessary to maintain democracy and human rights.
Transnational political groups should try to influence events in this field. It was disappointing that professional groups, such as the British psychologists, had not always acted to condemn for instance the violation of human rights-in this particular case, psychological torturein the Soviet Union.
General rules for action to be taken against countries violating human rights were difficult to agree, but the freezing of trade between the Community and Greece had a considerable effect on the colonels regime in Greece, as did the threat of expulsion of Greece from the Council of Europe.
Greece and Portugal had come back to democracy from dictatorship recently, and Spain might do so shortly. Economic sanctions should be imposed only on a case-by-case basis, but were justified towards Greece on the part of the EC and Rhodesia.
For the next meeting he urged: consideration of the Fraser proposals though he doubted about the value of a newsletter in the midst of the quantity of mail parliamentarians already receive; and more information on the work of the Council of Europe and the European Commission on Human Rights. He proposed that the European Parliament maintain a regular dialog with groups such as Mr. Fraser's subcommittee.