Dilemmas of Democracy and Human Security

Although the notion of democracy and its distinct characteristics are not new in the global political discourses, it is widely advocated after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the post-Cold War era, democracy promoters actively engaged in presenting the merits and opportunities that are incorporated under the democratic political process. Important values such as democratic election, multiparty competition, protection of human rights, strong civil society and independent media were and/or are advocated as universal standards.

As it is conceptualized by democracy promotor commentators such as Morton Halperin, Joseph Siegle, Michael Weinstein and Larry Diamond, ²deepening and consolidating the principles and procedures of liberal democracy will have intrinsic benefits, reinforcing human rights around the globe, as well as instrumental pay‐offs, by improving human security… Through constraining predatory leaders, expanding voice and participation, and empowering citizens to rid themselves of incompetent rulers, democracy‐promoters hope that this type of regime will make elected officials more accountable to ordinary people and thus more responsive to social needs and political grievances.²

In addition, the rise of democratic governance has also assisted the provision of prosperity, welfare and peace (which are regarded as the core components of human security). In their comparative analysis, democracy promoters highlight the improved capacity of democratic governances to promote human security than that of authoritarian or undemocratic regimes. Democratic governances have also led to the maintenance of better institutional arrangements which are essential for addressing poverty and improve people’s life standard.

Democracy promoters then called national governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, donor agencies, think tanks and medias to budget their energy, time and finance in proliferating democratic values (which they regarded as a pre-requisite to attain human security). This finally led to the making of democracy promotion as a condition to conduct other sort of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. As it is noted in the remarks of democracy promoter ‘no democracy no cooperation’. Champions of the aforementioned democratic values have also presented them as solutions to address economic and political challenges both at national, regional, and global level.

Despite the claimed provisions of human security and its core components, however, in some instances democratic regimes have suffered from limitations to realize those packages which enhance people’s life standard. These inconsistencies, on the other hand, led other scholars to assess the reason behind and postulate alternative viewpoints which grant human security in an improved way. Diverse commentators such as Simon Chesterman, James Fearon, David Laitin, Stephen Krasner, Roland Paris and Samuel Huntington have recommended ‘state-building’ as an option to enhance human security.

The state-building perspective constructs its assertion by examining the problem of weak governments in maintaining liberal democracy.  Most of these governments lack the required capacity to keep order and stability and to grant basic goods and services for their subjects. Such governments struggle to secure public safety, to address problems associated with humanitarian and natural crisis and to provide school and health services.  As empirical researches highlight places such as ²Somalia, Chad, Timor‐Leste, and Southern Sudan ‐ can be understood as ‘weak’ or ‘failed’ states emerging from a long legacy of conflict and anarchy where the central authorities have limited capacity to maintain order and manage the delivery of many basic public goods and services². Hence, state-building scholars argue that governments should provide maximum attention to strengthen their institutional capacity which is regarded as basic to advance human security. As it is presented by supporters of this perspective ²in ‘weak’ or ‘fragile’ states, democracy‐promotion should be deferred, postponing multiparty elections or attempts to strengthen civil society organizations.² They have also further asserted that ²it is naive and foolish, at best, and dangerous, at worst, to hope that complex political processes of regime transition and democratization can generate immediate economic pay‐offs, reductions in poverty, or peace processes which improve the lives of ordinary people and thereby transform societies.²

Instead of using the limited resources to promote democratic governance, civil society and independent media the state-building school of thought argues to use it to enhance security and the rule of law, to fulfill basic services such as emergency relief, clean water, school and health care.

And in fact, instead of achieving human security through democratic governances, the above mentioned provisions have direct impact. As it is vividly asserted in the words of a saying popularized by Jacob Zuma; “You can’t eat democracy”

It is due to this reason, since recent times the state-building school of thought has started to get the attention of policy makers who struggle to achieve human security.

In general, the implication of democracy promotion to achieve human security is influenced by the level of state’s institutional capacity and economic strength. States who own strong institutional arrangement can promote human security through the promotion of democratic ideals. Whereas, states who lack effective state apparatus might not keep human security using the same formula. As a result, they should prioritize those activities which help them to have effective state that in turn contributes to human security.

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Dr. Muzeyen Hawas SEBSEBE
Muzeyen Hawas Sebsebe was born in 1977, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He attended his primary, junior and highschool education at Addis Ababa. In 1999 he has joined Bahir Dar University, History Department. In July 2002 he has defended his thesis entitled the Biography of Aklilu Habtewold and grduated İn BED degree. In 2008 he has obtained his MA degree in Social Anthropology from Addis Ababa University. He wrote His MA thesis on the Provision of Household Food Security and Womens Pivotal Role. From 2009-2011 he has worked as lecturer at Dilla University, School of Social Science and Humanities, Department of Anthropology. During his stay at Dilla University, he has provided various Anthropological courses. Currently, he is writing his PhD dissertation entitled Diversification of Ethiopia’s Foreign Policy: Post-Cold War era Ethio-Turkish Relation as a case Analysis. His research interest areas includes foreign policy, regional integration, regional and international organizations. Together with his academic activities, he is also active on various Ethiopian students activities in Turkey. He actively engages in founding organizations such as Habeshistan Development and Cooperation Association and Horn of Africa Strategic Study Center