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“International democratic solidarity” constitutes the act of “walking in the shoes” of those living in dictatorships, illuminating their situation, and being the “voice of the silenced”. The primary contributors to this labor of solidarity are human rights organizations, which draw attention to authoritarian-led societies where human rights are criminalized.
Democracies also see their share of human rights violations, especially when there is no effective public policy to guarantee economic, social, and cultural rights, such as access to education, healthcare, housing, social provisions, and culture. Civil liberties may also be violated, although those responsible for excesses (such as police brutality) must answer to the judicial system.
Therefore, by defending human rights on an international scale, an organization can promote and increase the recognition of human rights in its home country: transparent elections with an equal playing field; freedom of the press, expression, assembly, petition, and peaceful protest; access to public information; and the right to freely leave and return to one’s country. Rights such as these are taken as a given in a democracy but are currently nonexistent in almost one-third of countries worldwide, including three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
Influence on Foreign Policy
International democratic solidarity is characterized by “calling out and shaming” dictatorships and demanding that democratic governments implement foreign policy which prioritizes human rights. The latter implies adopting the “principle of non-indifference”, as attributed to former US President Jimmy Carter. At the beginning of his term, Carter gave a commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame: “Because we are free we can never be indifferent towards the fate of freedom elsewhere”.
On the websites of many democratic countries’ diplomatic offices can be found an expression of the country’s commitment to the promotion and defense of human rights as a primary objective in its foreign policy. However, this is just a declaration, and sometimes a purely demagogic one.
In practice, foreign policy on human rights is limited by “national interest”, which puts economic and geopolitical questions before the international defense of human dignity.
Internal respect for human rights is the first requirement for a human-rights-focused foreign policy. In other words, the country implementing such a policy must possess the requisite moral authority to comment on situations in other countries. The country must also submit to UN supervision; for example, it can extend open and permanent invitations to rapporteurs, special procedures, and the UN working groups responsible for receiving denunciations about arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, censorship, etc.
The second requirement of a human-rights-focused foreign policy is its universal application, meaning there is no “double standard”. Almost no country in this world meets this requisite, which represents the greatest practical limitation to such a policy. Commercial exchanges, economic investments, and political favors are privileged over the defense of human dignity.
It is also very common for politicians to show democratic solidarity during election cycles, but once assuming positions in government, they begin catering to dictatorships.
As an alternative to the limitations a government faces in its foreign policy, the parliamentary diplomacy can act on human rights, given that it is an independent power, something that doesn’t exist in a dictatorship. For example, national legislators can introduce bills which condemn violations of human rights under dictatorial governments; solicit pronouncements from their respective governments in intergovernmental organisms; denounce electoral processes under autocratic regimes which are not free, fair, and transparent; recognize the labor and initiatives of democratic activists living in danger; and host dissidents from said countries.
Because of the limitations that heads of government face when implementing foreign policy, the parliamentary diplomacy (so long as it is an independent power—something that doesn’t exist in a dictatorship) can act on human rights instead. For example, national legislators can introduce bills which condemn violations of human rights under dictatorships; solicit pronouncements from their respective governments in intergovernmental organizations; denounce autocratic regimes’ electoral processes when they are not free, fair, and transparent; recognize the labor of and initiatives by democratic activists living in peril; and host dissidents from dictatorships.
However, legislators often form parliamentary peace groups with dictator-led countries where political pluralism is not respected. They succumb to official government directives, assuming a legislative self-censorship. Furthermore, political parties do not value a track record of human rights work when supporting candidates, even though a candidate with such a track record could apply their experience to their parliamentary work and become human rights referents in the government.
International Democratic Solidarity from Civil Society
If political realism often implies selling out rather than denouncing international human rights violations and prioritizing non-humanitarian “national interests”, civil society is charged with a fundamental role in following through on idealism. In contrast to rotating democratic governments, civil society organizations which manage to build a good reputation endure through time, representing the hope of moral support for those who live in different parts of the world in conditions of political slavery.
Double standards must not be applied when judging foreign authoritarian regimes, whether the regime implements left-wing or right-wing ideology. This is a fundamental principle of human rights activism. Given that human rights are universal rights, human rights organizations should vigilantly protect human rights in all cases, including when violated by governments which share ideological affinity with the organization. Organizations should also remember that international democratic solidarity should prioritize countries that repress freedom of association, expression, assembly, protest, and the right to political association—in other words, dictatorships.
CADAL is a private organization without party affiliation based in the City of Buenos Aires, which holds as its mission the promotion of human rights and international democratic solidarity. CADAL was founded in remembrance of and inspired by the solidarity shown to human rights activists, persecuted politicians, families of the detained and disappeared, and independent journalists during the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983).
Last year, appealing to the remembrance of the 1978 Argentina World Cup held under the military dictatorship’s rule, CADAL implemented the campaign “Qatar 2022: don’t tarnish the ball”. The campaign collected more than ten thousand signatures on a petition for the Argentine blue and white uniform to include a black human rights logo during official World Cup matches—a sign of mourning before the host country’s responsibility for violations of fundamental freedoms and the deaths of workers who constructed the stadiums.
Argentina won the 2022 World Cup on December 18th in Qatar. However, neither the players nor the Argentine Football Association contributed to a compensation fund for the families of the workers who died while constructing the stadiums. Furthermore, Argentine public opinion reflects a near-universal indifference towards denunciations of Qatar’s human rights violations. Taken together, these events signify the importance of CADAL’s work in promoting remembrance and international democratic solidarity. This is especially true in 2023, when Argentina will celebrate the 75th anniversary of adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 40th anniversary of the country’s return to democracy.