Experts: Democracy can be achieved by various approaches

In this June 1, 2018 photo, flags of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and the European Union flag fly over the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelie hotel, the location for the G7 summit, in La Malbaie, Quebec. (ALICE CHICHE / AFP)

GENEVA – A group of diplomats and world renowned experts gathered Thursday online to discuss diversified approaches to democracy, saying that the Western model is not the only model to follow.

Speaking at a webinar on democracy and human rights co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of China and Russia in Geneva, the panelists agreed that no one has a monopoly over defining or interpreting democracy and that such discussions are long overdue.

Growing diversity

Li Song, charge d'affaires of the Chinese Mission in Geneva, said at the webinar that democracy is not something that could be mass produced.

"It is not delivered through exactly the same institutions and forms even among the Western countries, let alone between the West and the great number of developing countries," he noted.

He stressed that whether a country is democratic or not should be left to its own people to decide, and no matter what form it takes, true democracy means people remain the masters of the country.

Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov arrives to a meeting with delegates of Syria's main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during Syria peace talks in Geneva on March 29, 2017 in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

Gennady Gatilov, the Russian permanent representative to the UN office at Geneva, said that imposing models of so-called democratic development upon sovereign states with no consideration for their history, culture, and traditions have become major destabilizing factors

Gennady Gatilov, the Russian permanent representative to the UN office at Geneva, said that imposing models of so-called democratic development upon sovereign states with no consideration for their history, culture, and traditions have become major destabilizing factors.

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"We have decided to focus today's discussion on what unites all countries, contrary to the modern discourse based on the assumption that each state must copy a number of so-called 'old,' 'leading' or 'real' democracies or other definitions used by those who identify themselves as a model for the rest of the world," Gatilov said.

Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan permanent representative in Geneva, said that the discussion resonates with the growing diversity of our time.

"There is no single or preferable model of democracy," he said, adding that states should be free to choose their own form of government and tailor their political systems in response to the freely expressed will, needs, and demands of its citizens as well as their respective historical experiences.

Rethink democracy

Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan permanent representative in Geneva, states should be free to choose their own form of government and tailor their political systems in response to the freely expressed will, needs, and demands of its citizens as well as their respective historical experiences

Martin Jacques, a well-known scholar and political commentator, said that global changes are forcing a major rethink about democracy and also human rights.

"Ultimately, any form of governance only works if it can deliver for its people," Jacques pointed out, saying that unlike Western democracies, which are consumed by the present, China thinks in the long term.

Both the pandemic and climate change are quintessentially long-term issues, which need a stronger state role, he said, adding that "the ability of government and society to think in long term and operate and plan accordingly will become imperative."

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Calling the US government's handling of the pandemic a failure, he said, "Much closer relationship between government and the people will be essential for any effective response. The Chinese governance is much better placed than Western governance to handle these challenges."

In this image provided by the US Army, paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security as they continue to help facilitate the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug 25, 2021. (SGT. JILLIAN G. HIX / US ARMY VIA AP)

End monopoly on democracy

Marcos Cordeiro Pires, associate professor from Brazil's Sao Paulo State University, said that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has proven that it was impossible to impose a model rejected by the majority of the people there

Zamir Akram, chair-rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on the Right to Development, said at the webinar that there are different ways and paths to the same objective, which is basically to empower the people.

Marcos Cordeiro Pires, associate professor from Brazil's Sao Paulo State University, said that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has proven that it was impossible to impose a model rejected by the majority of the people there.

Natalia Narochnitskaya, a Russian political expert and president of the Foundation for the Study of Historical Perspective, said that the Western attempts to monopolize ideology is against the common values and interests of the human society.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a public intellectual and chairman of the Kuhn Foundation, focused his presentation on China's "whole-process people's democracy," saying that such democracy involves absorbing public opinion via feedback mechanisms, a "pooling people's wisdom process."

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Li Shimo, a venture capitalist and political scholar, said democracy's normative goal "must be to deliver satisfaction" to a vast majority of the people. "Let's end the monopoly on democracy and let more forms of democracy flourish," he said