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Democracy and the rule of law

This was archived on 12 March 2015

This information is out of date and is being reviewed.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, has been widely accepted as the fundamental norms of human rights that everyone should respect and protect. A series of other international human rights treaties support the UDHR and the International Bill of Human Rights to form the basis of international human rights standards.

Spreading democracy

The UK believes that democracy is the system of government that provides the most accountable and responsive states able to safeguard people’s human rights and achieve development. We work to support democracy in individual countries, taking account of the individual characteristics of each country, its history and its culture.

Reforming the European Court of Human Rights

On 7 November 2011 the UK became the Chair of the Council of Europe for 6 months. The theme of the chairmanship was the protection and promotion of human rights. In particular, the UK-led reforms of the European Court of Human Rights.

The government saw the Court’s main challenges as:

  • the Court should be free to deal with the most serious violations of human rights; it should not be overloaded with an endless backlog of cases
  • the Court should hold us all to account; it should not undermine its own reputation by revisiting national decisions where it does not need to

The Brighton Declaration, reached at a two-day conference of the Council of Europe in April 2012, made clear that responsibility for guaranteeing human rights rests with the government, parliament and courts of a country.

The Council agreed to amend the European Convention on Human Rights so that trivial cases can be rejected, to reduce the time limit for claims from six months to four, and to improve the selection process for judges.