Crucial elements of a participatory society

Active participation is an empowering and enabling process through which people participate in the processes and decision-making that affect their lives.

What are some of the important elements needed to make a society more inclusive and participatory?

Free and independent press

A participatory society allows opinions, ideas and information to flow freely through various media, e.g. the newspaper, radio, blogs and social media. Members of such a society can freely express themselves without interference from the government. Some governments have, however, violated the right to freedom of expression by threatening, arresting, torturing or even killing journalists and other people who express their ideas or publish their opinions. In such circumstances, a society is prone to political propaganda and misinformation; fake news can negatively influence public opinion as society makes wrong decisions based on biased information.

Participation in decision making

Participatory societies ensure that all people can take part in the conduct of public affairs and have effective opportunities to make their voices heard. The right to political participation and to take part in government is protected by the UDHR and is an essential element of inclusive society.

Independent and impartial courts

Every person whose rights have been violated, including their right to non-discrimination, has the right to an effective remedy. And anyone who is accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial. Independent and impartial courts are crucial for this, and thus they should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private or partisan interests. This is to ensure that the judiciary is impartial and independent of all external pressures so that those who appear before them and the wider public can have the confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.

Discussion

What could be other important elements needed to make a society more inclusive and participatory? Reflect on your own context and comment on the responses of others. Where do you see similarities among the responses of your peers?

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Defending Dignity: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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