Human Rights and Societies in Transition: Causes, Consequences, Responses

By Shale Horowitz; Albrecht Schnabel | Go to book overview

Barbara Ann J. Rieffer and David P. Forsythe1

"The defense of freedom and the promotion of democracy around the world
aren't merely a reflection of our deepest values. They are vital to our national
interests."

Bill Clinton, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 12 December 1991

In the last 25 years, and especially after the Cold War, the international community has witnessed remarkable changes. More and more countries are turning away from their authoritarian past and moving towards liberal democracy. Since 1975, when there were approximately 30 liberaldemocratic societies, there has been a vast increase in the number of such democracies in the world: now more than 120 countries arguably offer their citizens at least a liberal-democratic constitution.2 These transitions toward liberal democracy have varied from country to country. Some countries such as the Czech Republic have been largely successful in achieving free and fair elections and in protecting a broad range of human rights (although, like all societies, the Czech Republic still violates some human rights). Other countries have made progress, but have a long way to go (e.g. South Africa), while some have not fared as well (e.g. Haiti). As countries have attempted to implement liberal democracy, many Western governments, including the United States, have developed democracy-assistance programmes as part of their larger foreign policy to promote liberal democracy.3 These programmes encourage transition societies to promote democracy and to protect human rights.

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