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Ethics and Democracy: Democratic rights - necessary but not sufficient

On the 19 May 2021, the Academy hosted their third Blue Table Webinar on Ethics and Democracy. In her introduction, Lani Mireya Anaya Jiménez (Peace and Sustainable Development Consultant, Mexico) firstly noted the intersectional perspective, and how her experience as a young woman has shaped the way in which she interacts with, and in democracy. She then went on to list different components that make up democracy, including fundamental rights, a representative government, checks on the government, impartial administration and participatory engagement. A common way to measure democracy is the Global Freedom Index or the Democracy Index, and the latter only labelled 8% of countries as being representative of a full democracy. However these indexes are based on the western perspective, which begged the question: 'who is measuring democracy?'

Prof. Dr Simon Robinson (Professor of Ethics at Leeds Beckett University and Director of its Centre for Leadership and Governance, UK) echoed parts of Lani's presentation, noting that ‘democratic rights are necessary, but not sufficient' for a functioning democracy, that there is so much more. He talked about the increased trend of polarisation, as well as the lack of regulation and accountability for politicians. He noted that we are living in a time of ‘VUCA' - volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, as values are not straight forward and democracy struggles with handling this complexity.  The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us that we are all interconnected, and that genuine dialogue acts as a tool and assists us in staying ‘accountable to and responsible for'. He emphasised that ‘we cannot learn without difference – we cannot see ourselves without a different perspective from ourselves' and thus made a call for action for us to continue ‘being open to the other, open to their voices'.

With limited academic expression and militarisation still being major obstacles to overcome, much of the discussion centred on responsibility, accountability and agency. Building democracy on things that matter, in your local community and local democracy, having unrehearsed and real conversation to foster real and lasting change. When Academic Dean, Amélé Ekué asked for their dream of which values for democratic values for today and tomorrow, Simon answered with responsibility. 'Once you see the different possibilities, you want to take responsibility for them'. His dream is to develop responsibility within education, and enable agency not conformity. This is befitting for, as our mission is to integrate ethics in higher education and lead people to discover that responsibility for themselves. We support this journey through our Academy courses, such as the Responsible Leadership course, knowledge resources, and having enlightening and transformative discussions. So make sure to join us for our next Blue Table Webinar, and register to join our network today!