New Delhi, July 18: Nelson Mandela day for freedom, justice, and democracy is celebrated to the nobleman who dedicated his whole life to the service of humanity. Face of the apartheid movement in South Africa, Mandela throughout his life contributed to the culture of peace, freedom, conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, gender equality and the rights of children.
This year, Nelson Mandela Day for freedom, justice, and democracy is being celebrated with the theme ‘Action Against Poverty’ honouring Mandela’s leadership and devotion to fighting poverty. On this day, let’s look at how the world is doing in three democratic values.
Leading South Africa’s struggle against colonialism and oppression, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela sacrificed his freedom so that others, around the world, could be free to exercise the fundamental human rights to express, write, speak, live without any fear of the society and the ruling government. Freedom for him was a conviction that “inclusivity, accountability, and freedom of speech” were the fundamentals of democracy.
Having the first-hand experience of how white supremacy had stripped black South Africans of their dignity, leaving them with no freedom to exercise their basic rights, Mandela took up the cause and started his long walk to freedom and succeeded.
However, the noble cause of the nobleman has gone for a toss in the 21st century with freedom coming back to square one. Freedom doesn’t just limit itself to freedom of speech. It encompasses much more than just it. Freedom of sexes, freedom of practicing one’s religion, beliefs, to express oneself, choose one’s state in life are parts of Freedom.
According to a report by the US Sentencing Commission, in the country, African Americans receive 10 per cent longer sentences than whites for the same crimes. According to TIME, racial attacks and anti-Semitic vandalism in the United States have increased since last year.
While the United States has just come down to the point where people from other races do not have much freedom, Syria is one of such countries that has been witnessing a civil war since 2011; a country where people do not have a fundamental right to live. According to a Freedom in the World report 2017, “Syria’s civil war has bred an atmosphere of extreme violence, impunity, and intolerance by state and nonstate actors alike. In much of the country, people cannot meaningfully participate in political or civic life. Those that do risk harassment, detention, or death.”
- 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
- Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 (45 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 49 (25 percent) Not Free.
- The Middle East and North Africa region had the worst ratings in the world in 2016, followed closely by Eurasia.
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This year, the Nelson Mandela International Day For Freedom, Justice, and Democracy is being celebrated with the theme ‘Action Against Poverty’. Mandela, throughout his life, remained a statesman of combating poverty in terms of social justice for all in South Africa. At that time, blacks were discriminated against the white people and Nelson fought against the suppression and oppression of the blacks around the world, gently stroking the flames for justice for all.
“People who live in poverty and starvation cannot be expected to pay exorbitant house rents to the government and local authorities. As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We shall never forget how millions of people around the world joined us in solidarity to fight the injustice of our oppression while we were incarcerated. Those efforts paid off and we are able to stand here and join the millions around the world in support of freedom against poverty,” said Mandela in 2005.
“The first is ensuring trade justice. I have said before that trade justice is a truly meaningful way for the developed countries to show commitment to bringing about an end to global poverty. The second is an end to the debt crisis for the poor countries. The third is to deliver much more aid and make sure it is of the highest quality”
In terms of social justice, no country is completely free until every single individual living in the country has equal rights to live a decent life. Overcoming poverty is an “act of justice, a protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life”. No true freedom is guaranteed until poverty persists.
According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and more than 750 million people lack adequate access to clean drinking water. In the year 2011, 165 million children under the age 5 were stunted due to chronic malnutrition, as per UNICEF. The World Food Programme says, “The poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.”
What is Democracy? It is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. However, democracy only makes sense when there’s no plutocracy.
About democracy, Mandela writes: “We want equal political rights because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country (South Africa) because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.”
Survival of a democracy highly depends on the programme to meet the basic needs of the people. Mandela’s idea of democracy was a country where there might be a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but “everyone is heard: chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and labourer”. A country where the foundation of self-government was that “all men were free to voice their opinions and were equal in their value as citizens”.
If the reports are to be believed, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia are some of the most censored countries with no free voice given to the people. “Iran, the seventh most censored country, has one of the toughest Internet censorship regimes worldwide, with millions of websites blocked; it is also the second worst jailer of journalists, with 30 behind bars. Four heavily censored nations that nearly made the list are Belarus, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan” said a CPJ report of 2017.
Libya got its freedom in the year 1951 but hasn’t been able to form a democracy yet and currently, the country is plagued by political and security crises. Iraq, Cuba, Turkmenistan are some of the countries that haven’t been formed into a democracy.