Democracy – the big and the small

3 October 2020
Yes, it is 30 years ago that the German Democratic Republic was dissolved into the Federal Republic of Germany, a great landmark especially for Western Europe. But this is not the topic of these lines. 

This day today is concerned with the largest democracy, India. An important marker for us non-Indians is that just four days before Amnesty International was obliged to halt its work of defending victims due to reprisals from the Indian Government. 
So, on Saturday a global online conference with the name ‘Reclaiming India’ started. The organizers say they are: “…committed to India’s foundational values and preserving a Democratic, Plural, and Progressive India. We see India as a forward-looking nation where each and every member of the community has an equal opportunity to grow and succeed, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, caste, gender, sexual orientation, social and economic class.” It virtually brought together Indians at home and abroad who care about the rule of Law, independent judiciary and the respect of minorities. 
As a repeat visitor to the world’s largest Democracy I was struck by this event that brought witness of victims being turned into the accused; of established rights being sidelined by authorities. I was even more struck by the mindful, caring and determined people who virtually joined together from the most diverse backgrounds to share responsibility for change, yes, to Reclaim India beginning from this October week-end. And I noted with interest that one word kept coming up from many speakers: The need for dialogue.

From the big to the small: Out on the street for the Responsible Business Initiative in Switzerland. Photo: C. Spreng

One of the small size Democracies is Switzerland, where I come from. It also has to go some distance to narrow the gap between good principles and lesser realities. So, on that same morning of 3 October I was one of a small group our on the street in our part of town, but one of 400 groups across the country who were busy drawing the population’s attention to an important popular vote on the Responsible Business Initiative due next month. It calls for Legislation to make Transnational Companies registered in Switzerland responsible for all their operations in terms of internationally recognized Human Rights and Sustainability standards. 
In simple terms, we all take for granted that Road safety works, if not then we are liable for damages caused. Corporations have understood that the Liability principle is for them too, but some still would like to duck this issue and they are spending big PR budgets to try to confuse the voters. A coalition of over 100 associations and NGOs is out there to show the harsh facts and the available remedy. 

Two ransom snapshots of this 3rd October; big or small, there are struggles affecting lives and they need our attention and concerted action. 

Christoph Spreng

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