BY SABINE LEUTHEUSSER- SCHNARRENBERGER
The year 2020 in review is dominated by the Corona pandemic. The virus has highlighted the importance of striking the right balance between health protection and freedom. But the pandemic has also revealed that more and more governments and state leaders around the world are inciting and fuelling fears amongst citizens to justify rigid restrictions of fundamental freedoms instead of grounding their power in the rule of law and human rights. The democratic promise of equal participation for all is often broken or not even pursued.
In many countries, laws threaten active civil society, and policies that promote the skills of individuals and create opportunities for development are severely restricted. In Hong Kong and Belarus, people protesting peacefully to express their own political opinions and to demand their right to democracy and freedom have become victims of tremendous state violence. Both offline and online, the boundaries between fact and fiction are increasingly blurred. Sophisticated disinformation campaigns make it increasingly difficult to identify the truth and to stand up for it.
Nevertheless, respect for human rights is an international legal and moral obligation of all governments. Only this builds strong democracies and states grounded in the rule of law because their governments treat their people with respect. Covid-19 has taught us that we have to rethink many areas. Not only the pandemic, but also climate change and dealing with disinformation are matters for which we primarily need global answers. Wherever politics fails and self-interest of state leaders is prioritised before the common good, protest movements open up a perspective for development.
Supporting and promoting democratic development is the objective of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, whose main focuses are the rule of law, human rights, political education and liberal democracy. If the interests of individuals and the preservation of power continue to dominate political decisions, everyone’s freedom is at stake. Liberal democracy can only exist if the freedom and equality of every individual is realized equally.
Rule of law and democracy arise from people's urge for justice, equality and freedom and their need to be heard. In its human rights work, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom through its project partners across 60 countries promotes, guides and strengthens non-governmental organizations, policy-makers and human rights activists. Our main theme this year is the fight against disinformation and false news so that citizens can form their own views based on facts and free of manipulation.
“Human rights are the only universal language,” says Abdel-Rahman Zbibh, the winner of this year's Raif Badawi Award, explaining what has motivated his human rights and journalist work in the Yemen, which continues to be at war. This report makes an important contribution to the understanding that the commitment to human rights is more crucial than ever in times of dwindling global freedoms.
I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Deputy Chair of the Management Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and former German Minister of Justice