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Religion and Democracy

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By lauraaaa
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What exactly this implies with regards toeconomic and social development is a question under debate. Amartya Sen, author of Development as Freedom (1999), argues that democracy and democratic values have asignificant role to play in development processes. He gives a number of arguments supportinghis thesis. Writing this essay I considered his arguments as well as my own thoughts andideas. To make clear how democratic values can have an impact on development on differentlevels, I will analyse the significance of democracy for development on three levels, or fromthree perspectives: at the local level it is beneficial with regards to utilising local knowledgeand including local communities, at the national level it is significant because it allows forcivil society to thrive, and viewed from a global perspective it is crucial and highly beneficialfor states to show efforts towards enhancing democracy.At the smallest level – the local or communal level – democratic values includingparticipation, inclusion and freedom of expression are essential to achieving sustainabledevelopment. Organisations and other institutions undertaking development projects in certainareas or communities need to ensure that the members of local communities are sufficientlyconsulted, and that they are the decisive part of all phases of the policy cycle. I am convincedthat this will lead to more effective and – on a long term – to more sustainable developmentbecause of two main reasons: Firstly, development projects should be commenced byidentifying and assessing the assets a particular community and its members have, that is whattalents and enterprises are already existent in the community, in order to design adevelopment policy on the basis of these assets. Secondly, local people and local knowledgeof the area and the problems can be a key resource for policy-makers and must inevitably beutilised if the real problems in an area are to be solved. This can only be achieved bydemocratically including local persons in the development process. A good illustration of democratic decision-making is often found in civil-society organisations.At a national level, an important advantage of a political system that is democratic isthat it allows for people to actively take part in the development process that takes placewithin their own nation, by being able to establish, or by becoming a member of civil societyorganisations (CSOs). Whereas under an authoritarian regime CSOs are usually either non-existent or very limited in numbers and scope, a democratic system allows for civil society tothrive. I believe that CSOs, and most notably NGOs, are important for a society to functionand to communicate their needs and wants. In particular national and local CSOs often have
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democracy is often considered a precondition for countries to receive development assistancefrom foreign donors. Many politicians, along with some international developmentorganisations, are more willing to give development assistance to stable democracies andsome refuse to give assistance to authoritarian regimes altogether. This is so becauseauthoritarian regimes are known to be prone to corruption, which poses too much of a risk forpotential donors or investors. They fear that very little or none of the money actually reachesthe people in need. Certainly this is a complicated issue to be resolved as there are cases inwhich authoritarian rulers use foreign development either for their own enrichment or to fuelthe military apparatus that keeps them in power. For example in the African states of Zimbabwe or Swaziland many people are suffering from severe poverty and lack of basicnecessities while their rulers, the dictator Robert Mugabe and the absolute monarch KingMswati III respectively, use much of the public spending for personal purposes. Becausenationals of these countries are aware of this, they now increasingly demand democraticchange. In my opinion, democratic reforms would certainly lead these countries onto a path of viable economic and social development.Based on the preceding argumentation I can conclude that democracy enhances andpositively advances development efforts at all levels of governance. From the local grassrootslevel to the large global arena democratic values are important and can be key factors forsocieties and states to get on the path of sustainable development. Inclusion and participationare the basic and fundamental democratic values that should underlie development and thatcan easily be realized especially at the local level. On a somewhat larger scale, civil societywithin a state and the intrinsic importance of democracy globally represent these values andmake it nearly inevitable for countries and governments in need of human development tofollow democratic values. Yet, in my opinion, the meaning of democracy and democraticvalues can vary. While democracy must always includes some basic values mentioned in thisessay, it also needs to be in line with cultural characteristics, allowing for a certain margin of appreciation and respecting cultural and regional differences

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