Human rights and democracy – Why voting matters

In the run up to International Human Rights Day 2020, CDN Curriculum and Teaching Lead Suzanne Marshall writes about human rights and democracy…

Article 21 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Human rights and democracy are both values that are almost universally endorsed around the world. We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the importance of voting. Politics impacts everything around us: from how long young people stay in education, to the rules of renting, from 5G availability, to how often our bins are collected.

To make a change in our community and society, we need to do our bit for democracy. One way to get involved is by voting in elections, so we can help to choose who represents us and makes decisions on our behalf, whether that is choosing our student representatives in college; our community councillors; our local councillors, our MSPs or our MPs.

Right now, more people can vote in Scotland and Wales than ever before. It doesn’t matter where we were born or what our nationality is, as long as we are resident in Scotland we can vote in some elections from the age of 16.

Ahead of next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, the Electoral Commission in Scotland has launched a new set of political literacy resources: Welcome to your Vote.

These resources are designed to help young people and new voters feel more confident about casting their vote, and to give them a stronger understanding about which elections they can vote in and the impact this has.

The resources include:

  • Interactive web pages which you can direct young people to, or that they can access independently, with short videos and quizzes to test their new knowledge
  • A handbook for you, including information about voting and democracy, and activities and games you could run with your group
  • A handbook for young people which can be downloaded and printed so you can share information about voting and democracy with your group

The Electoral Commission will present these resources and discuss how best they can be used by lecturers, community educators and youth workers at a free webinar on Tuesday 1 December at 12.30pm, as part of activities and events taking place around International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Register for the ‘Helping Young People Feel Better Prepared to Vote’ webinar here.

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