Promoting the participation of under-represented groups vital in truly democratic societies, says OSCE/ODIHR Director ahead of International Day of Democracy


WARSAW, 13 September 2018 – More must be done to promote the participation of under-represented groups in political decision making if we are to ensure effective, truly democratic governance and societies, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said today, ahead of tomorrow’s International Day of Democracy.

Making sure that all members of hitherto marginalized or excluded groups have a genuine say in how they are governed is the most effective way to strengthen democracies, she said.

“Ensuring the participation of representatives from all segments of and groups in society is the surest way to strengthen both the effectiveness of and the support for democratic systems,” the ODIHR Director said. “First, the broader the nature of participation in decision-making, the greater the pool of talent and ideas available, and this benefits us all. Second, increasing the breadth of inclusion in real decision-making can only increase the level of buy-in among all members of society.”

Noting that that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Gísladóttir highlighted that the document enshrined the principle that we all have the right to take part in the government of our countries. But the further promotion of these rights is dependent on removing barriers to participation by groups that have suffered from being sidelined in the past. The inclusion of under-represented groups should go beyond numbers, she said, and focus on creating real space and opportunities to have a genuine impact.

“Current barriers to political participation must be swept away. Meaningful access to decision-making processes must be guaranteed for Roma and Sinti, who have long suffered from discrimination and exclusion in our societies; for women, who remain under-represented in democratic decision-making bodies, to the detriment of all; for young people, who must be given the opportunity to contribute and buy in to the democratic systems they are inheriting,” the ODIHR Director said. “Ensuring the ability of all segments of society, of all groups, to participate makes our societies more truly democratic, and so can only make them stronger.”

Gísladóttir said that indicators suggest, for example, that today’s youth – the largest young generation ever by numbers – are less engaged in political processes than previous generations, and are beginning to question democratic systems at an alarming rate. Unresponsive institutions and systemic barriers to youth participation and influence are often cited as major contributors to this decline in participation.

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