WARSAW, 10 December 2012 – On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), called on states to protect and promote the right of each and every individual to participate in public life.
The ODIHR Director said that ensuring access to participation for all is essential to promoting a culture of openness, transparency and inclusiveness within governments.
“Direct, participatory and deliberative engagement with civil society and the public at large can revitalize and complement existing forms of representative democracy,” Lenarčič said. “Barriers to political participation for members of vulnerable or marginalized groups, including members of minorities or women, deprive those responsible for governing of invaluable input necessary for effective governance.”
Lenarčič stressed that the failure to promote the opportunity for all to have their voices heard can undercut public confidence in governments and threaten stability at the local, national and even regional levels.
It is important, he said, that grassroots movements – including those representing youth – are able to have their positions taken into account by public institutions, and that they are able to promote their ideas in public without undue limitations.
The ODIHR Director added that whether through official institutions, in the public sphere or in the media, including on the Internet, the right to participation in public life is linked to other basic human rights that OSCE participating States have committed themselves to uphold.
“Limitations to the freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion or belief can all restrict the right to political participation,” Lenarčič said. “At the same time, ensuring the ability to participate in the making of decisions and policies is one of the best ways to protect these fundamental rights.”