Dr Orla Drummond is a senior research analyst and human rights lawyer at Trilateral Research
Prof Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou is the head of the School of Law at the University of Central Lancashire in Cyprus and the Founding Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law, Alternative and Innovative Methods (ICLAIM)
At the 2023 Cyprus Forum, Prof. Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou and Dr Orla Drummond featured a fireside discussion on measuring rule of law and values in Cyprus and Europe. The event provided our PREPARED partner organisations with an opportunity to discuss research and disseminate the findings of the legal and human rights analysis conducted for PREPARED.
The Cyprus Forum is an independent conference which brings together political leaders, academia, civic society and the media. Essentially, it provides an inclusive platform to initiate dialogue, exchange ideas and find creative solutions for socially responsible policy in Cyprus and the wider Eastern Mediterranean. The event was attended by many high-profile organisations and individuals, including representatives from NATO, the United Nations and the European Commission as well as local and international NGOs. As the 2023 edition of the Cyprus Forum was dedicated to Transparency, it was very important for the PREPARED project to be present and platform its work on rule of law and human rights in times of global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof. Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou and Dr Orla Drummond
With a particular focus on the rule of law and transparency, the speakers provided an overview of the PREPARED project, emphasising the need for robust research ethics and integrity in times of global crises. Key issues discussed were the need to sustain rule of law principles in times of crises, to enable the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, and in particular, to ensure the protection of marginalised communities from disproportionate and negative impacts.
Stéphanie discussed why, in times of crisis, it is important to measure the state of the rule of law and European values locally, nationally but also internationally. Various research, ethics and integrity frameworks such as the ones under development at PREPARED can talk to each other and mutually enhance results and impact.
Stéphanie referred to open access research findings at CRoLEV that identify transparency as “both a necessary precondition for, and a key feature of a functional democracy. In the absence of transparency citizens cannot engage in meaningful decision-making. Without a commonly agreed-upon information base, people are unlikely to be able to participate in deliberation. Yet the effects of a lack of transparency extend beyond this, to a declining trust in public institutions. Civic distrust is often associated with increased apathy, disillusionment with democracy, and disengagement from political processes. A lack of civic engagement leads to the misplacement of public trust in private networks, further diminishing satisfaction with democratic institutions. At its worst, it may bolster anti-establishment sentiments.”
Both speakers focused on the need for transparency, fairness and inclusiveness in all public emergency responses, advocating for adherence to the principles of good governance in law-making and human rights protection in a public health crisis.
As stated by Orla, “As a human rights lawyer, the rule of law provides safeguards for fundamental human rights, helping to shield the most vulnerable in our societies, and protects democratic political structures from being abused or highjacked by negative political forces. High-quality democracy requires a truly democratic rule of law that ensures political rights, civil liberties, and mechanisms of accountability which in turn affirm the political equality of all citizens and constrain potential abuses of state power.”
The session was well attended and included lively debate and questions from audience members. Input was generally in relation to legislative and governmental responses to COVID 19 and the rapidity of law making during the pandemic. Audience members asked how law-making could retain its rigid oversight during times of rapid social change. The speakers mentioned the need for oversight mechanisms during crisis and emergencies to ensure the quality of any laws created, and keep authoritarian governance in check.
The Cyprus Form provided a vivid platform to appraise the key findings from PREPARED’s legal analysis and to disseminate key learning to policy makers and civil society, highlighting democratic values of universal reach such as fairness, legitimacy, solidarity and inclusiveness, informing the work of all organisations on PREPARED.
View the video recording of the session below: