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In 2023 the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement marks its twenty-fifth anniversary. For many the Agreement projects a global image of a successfully concluded end to conflict. However, key aspects of the agreement remain under-enforced or simply undelivered: in particular, provisions related to significant and wide-ranging guarantees addressing human rights and equality of opportunity. As a result, socio-economic and cultural deficits persist, undermining the capacity to achieve a ‘positive peace’. In this article we address the question of how transformative the Agreement and associated reforms have been in addressing the root causes of the conflict and the structures that underpinned it. In doing so, we deploy Clara Sandoval's typology of different forms of societal change – ‘ordinary’, ‘structural’ and ‘fundamental’ – to guide our thinking and analysis, and tackle the most fundamental of questions in peace agreement literature and practice: whether, in fact, peace agreements can undo the fundamental causes that trigger and sustain violence. The article outlines the transformative promise of the Agreement, the multiple interlocking factors that have undermined that promise and the role of civil society in sustaining that transformative potential. Our conclusions point to a more nuanced understanding of what constitutes the ‘ordinary’ in transitional settings and a caution against the hyperbole of the transformative. We view transformative change as slothlike in its emergence, specifically grounded in progressive and cumulative re-orderings that can accompany peace processes. Rather than a moment of radical change, transformation follows from the cumulative impact of symbolic gesture, specific legal provision, procedural practice, mechanisms of accountability, and an engaged and vibrant civil society.
This chapter examines the free assembly and free association case law, focusing on political parties and, to a lesser extent, trade unions. The case law on political parties shows a commitment to liberal democracy; there is a substantive democratic component as well which appears in the party dissolution cases. The chapter concludes by looking at how the free association rights support deliberative and participatory democracy especially in the context of trade unions.
This chapter discusses the scope of the right to free elections in the Convention. It explores how this is largely limited to legislatures but there are debates about the application to presidential elections and referendums. The chapters includes a discussion on globalisation and the development of the free elections case law in respect of the European Parliament.
This chapter discusses the protection of the right to vote in the Convention. It examines case law on restriction of the right to vote, in particular residence-based and nationality-based restrictions as well as the case law on voting rights of prisoners.
The European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (the Convention) has long been associated with the idea of democracy. Its preamble speaks of the importance of an ‘effective political democracy’ while several articles refer to the ideal of a ‘democratic society’.
This chapter discusses the Court's free expression jurisprudence. This supports a liberal democratic conception of democracy but there are other concepts discussed also. A substantive conception comes across in some of the earlier case law on obscenity and blasphemy and more recently a substantive commitment to pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness is emphasised. The case law on free expression during elections and political advertising suggests a more deliberative conception of democracy, while recently there is a stronger commitment to freedom of information, essential for a participatory democracy.
The conclusion summarises the Convention's commitment to a liberal, representative and substantive democracy and highlights how the Convention might be interpreted to support more deliberative, participatory and inclusive models of democracy,
This chapter discusses how the European Court of Human Rights interprets and applies the European Convention on Human Rights. It examines the Court's approach to interpretation which stresses the Convention receives an effective, evolving and autonomous interpretation. The key principles involved in deciding whether a right has been appropriately limited or restricted are presented: legality or lawfulness, legitimate aim and proportionality. The margin of appreciation and positive obligations doctrines are explained.
This chapter examines different theories of democracy, highlighting the relevance of liberal, representative and substantive democracy for the European Convention on Human Rights. It outlines deliberative, participatory and inclusive models of democracy that address limitations of liberal representative democracy.
This chapter reviews the historical context for the creation of the Council of Europe and the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the decision to enshrine a provision about free elections in a separate protocol.
The chapter looks at how the European Court of Human Rights deals with restrictions on the right to run for election. It includes a discussion on how the Convention deals with issues of inclusion in respect of women and minorities.