Forum on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law
24-25th November 2022
4th Session: Strengthening Democracies to Build Back Better: Challenges and Opportunities
Statements of Geneva International Centre for Justice
Delivered by Martin Browne, Loïc Dorthe and Bethany Morley / GICJ
How to stop democratic backsliding in the post-pandemic period, and how to ensure our rights are not crushed during the next crisis. These were the main themes of the interdisciplinary discussion during the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law on the 24th and 25th of November 2022. GICJ representatives participated actively in the interactive discussions, providing points of views based on their experience and varied expertise picked up through working with GICJ on a range of issues in different - contexts.
This Forum is the primary mechanism for States, intergovernmental organisations, national human rights institutes, and civil society bodies to discuss broad themes of how to protect democracy and ensure the application of the rule of law. The annual theme was extremely topical, focusing on “Strengthening Democracies to Build Back Better: Challenges and Opportunities”.
In the opening panel on mapping democratic erosion, GICJ representative Martin Browne referred to the trend of militarised responses to protests by law enforcement bodies who do not consider their own human rights obligations. He also outlined how backsliding is taking place in many countries through the withdrawal from human rights treaties and bypassing parliament with legislation that restricts rights. Further discussions centred on specific strategies for bolstering democratic institutions, including enhancing judicial and legislative monitoring, improving access to justice, and expanding on available remedies.
Concerning the critical topics of social cohesion and protection of women during times of crises, Bethany Morely, on behalf of GICJ, contributed to the panel discussion on the increase of gender-based violence during Covid-19. Further, how there was greater impact due to the relative lack of accessibility to health services for women due to structural inequalities which can be transformed to better respond to future crises.
Loïc Dorthe, speaking in a panel on proposals to strengthen democracies, outlined consents about over-regulations of free expression by opaque social media platforms influencing governance decisions by submissive governments. He warned that an appropriate balance has to be struck between preventing hate speech and preserving free expression.
These excellent substantive contributions provoked further discussion amongst the invited speakers and covered many critical parts of governments’ and society’s response to crises which are becoming more frequent and more unpredictable, making respect for the rule of law all the more important.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) condemns the slide towards autocratic measures identified in many countries, using the pretence of emergency measures as the cover for restricting or even removing hard-won human rights. The relatively more vulnerable position of women and girls requires concerted international attention to not allow those at the periphery of decisions to be the ones worst affected by them. Finally, governments, regulators and social media platforms need to agree on the democratic safeguards to ensure good quality information is available during times of crises to help all people understand and improve their position.