ODIHR Director Link, on International Day of Democracy, stresses central role of civil society in promoting democracy and human rights

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Michael Georg Link, Director of ODIHR at the Opening session of the 21st OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel, 4 December 2014. (OSCE/FDFA/Béatrice Devènes) Photo details

WARSAW, 15 September 2015 – It is vital that states create an environment that enables the work of civil society actors and promote civil society’s essential role in promoting democratic values, Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said on the occasion of today’s International Day of Democracy.

All 57 OSCE participating States have recognized that both individuals and associations must be able to exercise their rights and be involved in important public decision-making processes, he added, stressing that a strong and independent civil society is an important element of democracy.

“In many countries in the OSCE area, civil society faces an uphill battle – the voices of civil society actors are not heard or those actors are discredited; in some cases, they are persecuted,” said Director Link. “This goes against key OSCE commitments on freedom of association and expression, and on the promotion of democracy and human rights. Rather than exclude civil society from public processes, states should recognize them as natural partners in the establishment of true, participatory and inclusive democracies.”

Participating States have committed to ensuring that human rights defenders, individually or in associations, can actively contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“As a channel for public opinion, civil society is a necessary independent counterbalance to the state, even if it expresses views that are unpopular,” Director Link said. “A strong, influential and vibrant civil society is a litmus test for all functioning democracies.”

Source: OSCE

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