An alternative narrative on inclusive democracy and electoral accountability: ensuring women and young people’s voices matter and their votes count
True democracy includes but is not limited to respect for the basic freedoms and responsibilities, the rule of law, due process, and orderly succession. How do we move beyond mere forms and institutions of democracy to make it meaningful and inclusive to respond to the needs and desires of the ordinary people especially women and young people?
Electoral processes with widespread barriers to civil and political rights are becoming the norm globally. This is characterized by the following trends: unlimited and uncontrolled bans on protests or demonstrations against election results; internet/media shutdowns; propagation of conservative/pro status quo narratives over politics and proliferation of fake news; arbitrary detention and unfair trials of activists; harassment, intimidation, defamation, or threats to and killings of human rights defenders amongst others. Further, state capture by economic and political elites has contributed to the undermining of trust in democracy by further unbalancing the level playing field for political participation, particularly for women, young people, and other excluded groups without access to financing.
This has become too pervasive (in the North and the South) that we risk resigning to a passive feeling of helpless acceptance. However, these trends behove us to nurture a spirit of positive defiance, a readiness to confront that which is clearly wrong, and which undermines the building of a just society.
This alternative narrative sets forth ActionAid’s vision
for just and inclusive democracy and how ActionAid and partners intend to support and work with women and young people, in their diversity, as a priority to strengthen inclusive democracy and improve electoral accountability. Our alternative narrative is based on the experiences of women, young people, civil society and political parties in 14 countries, and their suggested alternatives to challenge and disrupt the dominant narratives on democracy that are focused on form rather than substance.The purpose of this alternative narrative is:
1.To consolidate staff and partner experiences, and their alternative propositions for how democracy could be made inclusive, into a counter alternative narrative on inclusive democracy that responds to the needs and desires of the people, rooted in their lived experiences.
2.To challenge and disrupt dominant narratives on democracy that focus on form rather than substance. Dominant narrative/s formed by narrow private or parochial interests at the expense of the majority undermine human rights, abuse public resources, fail to deliver public services and are neither accountable nor transparent.
3.To specifically inform the design of ActionAid and partners’ future advocacy strategies for joint actions on electoral accountability towards the realisation of our vision of inclusive democracy and electoral accountability.
Our vision of inclusive democracy and electoral accountability is one that shifts power from political and economic elites to citizens, particularly women and young people. Ultimately, it is a vision in which the belief in elections as a road to democracy and social change can be restored. This is critical to the realisation of ActionAid’s mission – social justice, gender equality and poverty eradication.