Democracy, human rights complement each other

Anjana Sankar
Filed on March 13, 2006

ABU DHABI Human rights and democracy cannot contradict, rather both complement each other, Cherie Blair told Khaleej Times yesterday.

"I don't accept the notion that the two are in conflict anywhere," Cherie Booth, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and noted Human Rights activist stated on the sidelines of the 'Women as Global Leaders' Conference that opened at the Emirates Palace.

When asked how it had been proved contrary in Iraq where coalition forces, including the British army, have been accused of trampling human rights in the name of establishing democratic regime, Mrs. Blair affirmed, "And I say again, democracy and human rights go hand in hand, they are not in conflict."

While toeing the same line, Richard Makepeace, the British Ambassador to the UAE told this reporter that the Iraq issue is more complicated. "I think that each system is open in their own rights. While some are more open politically, others are open economically. The most important thing is not the governments. The important thing is to what extent the individual is able to grow and realise his aspirations in any given set up.

Earlier in her address to the gathering consisting of women delegates and leaders from over 70 countries, Cherie Booth said that she would like see protection and promotion of human rights for all regardless of their gender, race and ethnicity.

"The aspirations of women to gain equal rights, political, economic and social, has to be translated into national law," noted Cherie, a renowned human rights activist herself.

Elaborating on the history of women's suffrage and the Convention on International Human Rights, and highlighting some of the international women leaders, Cherie remarked that there is a sweeping trend in many parts of the world where women are emerging as global leaders. "The Arab world especially is making great strides as UAE itself has two women ministers, Qatar has women parliamentarians and so also is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a fact that the number of women parliamentarians in UK is much lower to what you have in Afghanistan and Iraq," she noted. However, she reminded the audience that there is no country that can actually claim of gender equality that can be measurable in equal opportunities, political and economic freedom, access to education and healthcare and total output of the women workforce to national development.

Cherie also expressed appreciation for the recently launched Gender mainstreaming effort in the Arab region, a project initiated by General Women's Union in cooperation with United Nations and British embassy hoping that those efforts would go a long way in empowering women and addressing the gender specific issues.

"They say that behind the success of every man there is a woman. But we women should also not forget that behind our success there are other women, like those who cooked and cleaned for us or looked after our children," she summed up.

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