Democracy and freedom in SAARC

    Promise of equality of treatment
    Promise of equality of treatment

    (Sandesh Shrestha)

    Kathmandu,17 Nov 2014: Democracy and freedom are veritably essential components of development and prosperity which has been attested by the history of human civilization.

    Adherence to democratic principles with a system receptive to pluralistic existence and respect for freedom, rights and justice is imperative for a sustained movement on a path of higher forms of civilized society.

    Democracy and freedom are two sides of the same coin to say the least and tend to give the best result only if

    The history of democracy can be traced back to the classical Athens in the 6th century BC. The democratic revolution in Athens took place when people gathered at the Acropolis refused to leave until the ruling tyrant was stripped of power and sent into exile. The people wanted a new system giving right to male citizens the freedom of speech and right to vote in all matters of social interest. The people called it ‘Demokratia’ or democracy from the words ‘demos’ meaning people and ‘kratos’ meaning power. But democracy did not include the rights of women and slaves.

    In modern history French Revolution and the American Revolution are viewed as the progenitors of the modern democratic system.

    The American Revolution took place between 1765 and 1783 when the rebels in Thirteen American Colonies overthrew the authority of the British Crown and founded the United States of America. The radical and political upheaval in France from 1789 to 1799 gave rise to democracy and nationalism and marked the decline of powerful monarchies and churches, and removed the concentration of power in the hands of the ruling aristocracy.

    The democratic system has always been established to overthrow and subvert the existing autocratic government. It is essentially driven and imbued with the spirit of freedom and justice. The rise of democracy in any country does not entail the end of a long struggle for justice, freedom and insurance against violation of the rights of citizens. It merely unfolds a new journey stippled with obstacles that invariably accompany a democratic rule of governance.

    A democratic society without a fully developed legal framework capable of providing justice on an equal footing and uphold the spirit of a pluralistic society constantly poses a threat to freedom. Democracy is only a point of departure to catapult the society on a mission for realizing the ideal of freedom and a system of governance guided by democratic principles.

    In South Asia, development and prosperity have been long overdue. The region has been able to absorb the democratic form of governance but has failed to make use of it. It is undeniable that the region, regardless of its potential, was incapable of dealing with problems a pluralistic system engenders and the inevitable implications of a free and semi-literate society.

    On 8 December, 1985 the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established with an objective of tackling the issues of poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy and to search for new avenues for collective effort to achieve socio-economic prosperity and to upgrade the living standard of the people of South Asia.

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