Vanguard or laggard? Democracy and Human Rights in Australia

Stream: Panel 35 - Human Rights & Democracy: Human Rights & Democracy Panel 1: The Democracy – Human Rights Nexus 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


This is a joint by Professor Louise Chappell in addition: The end of the 20th century witnessed a worldwide spread of democracy and human rights that was unprecedented in history. The number of democracies worldwide has never before been as high. Likewise, endorsement of international human rights norms appears to be near universal, with major international human rights frameworks and treaties having now been ratified by the vast majority of the world’s nation states. Yet, while democratic and human rights norms have spread globally, practice still varies widely. Moreover, it seems increasingly clear that democracy and human rights not necessarily always go together. On the one hand, human rights violations are often being justified in the name of democracy and freedom, as examples of the war on terrorism, privacy and surveillance demonstrate. On the other hand, even in established democracies human rights violations are still common, as examples of violations of indigenous, refugee, and gender rights demonstrate. In this paper we seek to explore these tensions between democracy and human rights as well as better understand the conditions under which democracy strengthens human rights. This paper sets out the theoretical connection between democracy and human rights, outlining democratic accountability mechanisms and how they relate to different sets of human rights, and provides an empirical test of these relationships using Varieties of Democracy data.


Carolien van Ham (Presenter), UNSW
Dr. Carolien van Ham

Lecturer in Politics, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award recipient (2015-2017)
Senior Research Fellow Electoral Integrity Project
Research Associate Varieties of Democracy Institute