Weakening Democracy

Maldives is out of the Commonwealth, but its problems still need the world's attention

Crumbling democracy and human rights in the island nation have worsened rather than improved in recent times, several fact-finding missions have reported.

Last week, Maldives decided to leave the Commonwealth. In the government’s official statement, the move was described as "difficult, but inevitable".

The decision came on the back of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting in September, which placed the Maldives on the group’s formal agenda. The oversight body, tasked with addressing serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth political values, expressed deep disappointment at the country’s lack of respect for the standards of democracy and human rights. In the absence of substantive improvements in the political sphere, the group of ministers agreed to consider suspension of the Maldives from the Councils of the Commonwealth at its next meeting in March 2017.

In February this year, the action group had convened an extraordinary meeting to discuss the findings of its mission to the Maldives. Expressing concern at the continuing erosion of democratic functioning in the country, it identified six priority areas for improvement and decided to review the progress at its next meeting. In April, the action group members noted that no progress had been made in five of the six priority areas. The ministers welcomed discussions between the government of Maldives and the Commonwealth Secretariat on technical assistance as the sixth priority area.

Amidst growing concern over falling standards of democracy and rising human rights violations, the United Nations tasked its senior adviser on political affairs, Tamrat Samuel, with resolving the protracted crisis between the government and the Opposition. After his second visit in July – his earlier visit was in April – the UN envoy left the Maldives with no sign of meaningful progress.

The Commonwealth also sent its special envoy, Dr Willy Mutunga, to the island nation. Mutunga painted an alarming picture of the breakdown of political and constitutional administration in Maldives, and a complete absence of internationally acceptable standards of law and order.

Fact-finding missions by the International Commission of Jurists in August 2015, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in November 2015, too, found no improvements. In fact, according to the latter’s second fact-finding mission in September 2016, the political situation on the ground had worsened over the months with increasing numbers of arbitrary detentions and arrests, disregard for rule of law and the promulgation of laws aimed at curbing fundamental freedoms.

In light of the mounting evidence against the administration of President Abdulla Yameen, the Maldivian government’s statement highlighting legislation that “resulted in strengthening the rule of law and produced tangible outcomes in strengthening democratic institutions in the country” appears to go against the grain of facts. Its accusations against the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and the Commonwealth Secretariat of treating it “unjustly and unfairly” appear baseless. Indeed, and perhaps to the chagrin of some human rights organisations, the Commonwealth has appeared rather lenient on the archipelago nation for course correction.

Yet, evidence shows the government of Maldives made no genuine effort to ameliorate the political crisis and prevent its slide back to the authoritarianism of its past.

The Maldives now joins the unenviable grouping of countries – including Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe and Gambia under an equally dictatorial President Yahya Jammeh – that have left the Commonwealth of Nations. Unilaterally, and without consulting Parliament and the people, snapping its 34-year-long ties with the association further confirms the unwillingness of Maldives to tread a democratic path.

The purpose of democracy and human rights advocacy is rarely to suspend, expel or isolate a country. Rather, it is to compel governments to reform. Although the Commonwealth’s leverage may have ceased for now, UN and multilateral diplomatic pressures should be sustained to realign Maldives on the path of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The Green Climate Fund – the UN initiative to tackle crises arising from global warming and climate change – is spending more than $23 million in Maldives. Likewise, the European Union has allocated upwards of €6 million for Maldives’ Climate Change Trust Fund. Making climate change financing contingent upon democratic reforms in Maldives could impel the country to honour its international human rights commitments. Indeed, to prevent Maldives from becoming a pariah state, the international community has a responsibility to bring back the country from the brink of the political abyss.

The writer is a Programme Officer (International Human Rights Advocacy) at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Delhi. He tweets at @trinanjan_

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Why should inclusion matter to companies?

It's not just about goodwill - inclusivity is a good business decision.

To reach a 50-50 workplace scenario, policies on diversity need to be paired with a culture of inclusiveness. While diversity brings equal representation in meetings, board rooms, promotions and recruitment, inclusivity helps give voice to the people who might otherwise be marginalized or excluded. Inclusion at workplace can be seen in an environment that values diverse opinions, encourages collaboration and invites people to share their ideas and perspectives. As Verna Myers, a renowned diversity advocate, puts it “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Creating a sense of belonging for everyone is essential for a company’s success. Let’s look at some of the real benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace:

Better decision making

A whitepaper by Cloverpop, a decision making tool, established a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. The research discovered that teams that followed an inclusive decision-making process made decisions 2X faster with half the meetings and delivered 60% better results. As per Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino, this report highlights how diversity and inclusion are practical tools to improve decision making in companies. According to her, changing the composition of decision making teams to include different perspectives can help individuals overcome biases that affect their decisions.

Higher job satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is connected to a workplace environment that values individual ideas and creates a sense of belonging for everyone. A research by Accenture identified 40 factors that influence advancement in the workplace. An empowering work environment where employees have the freedom to be creative, innovative and themselves at work, was identified as a key driver in improving employee advancement to senior levels.


A research by Catalyst.org stated the in India, 62% of innovation is driven by employee perceptions of inclusion. The study included responses from 1,500 employees from Australia, China, Germany, India, Mexico and the United States and showed that employees who feel included are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty, suggest new and innovative ways of getting work done.

Competitive Advantage

Shirley Engelmeier, author of ‘Inclusion: The New Competitive Business Advantage’, in her interview with Forbes, talks about the new global business normal. She points out that the rapidly changing customer base with different tastes and preferences need to feel represented by brands. An inclusive environment will future-proof the organisation to cater to the new global consumer language and give it a competitive edge.

An inclusive workplace ensures that no individual is disregarded because of their gender, race, disability, age or other social and cultural factors. Accenture has been a leading voice in advocating equal workplace. Having won several accolades including a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate equality index, Accenture has demonstrated inclusive and diverse practices not only within its organisation but also in business relationships through their Supplier Inclusion and Diversity program.

In a video titled ‘She rises’, Accenture captures the importance of implementing diverse policies and creating an inclusive workplace culture.


To know more about inclusion and diversity, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Accenture and not by the Scroll editorial team.