Challenges in preserving basic human values

When we talk about human values, we refer to the legacy of the Enlightenment as an era that provided one of the most significant impulses to the development of modern civilization. To what extent do universal human values live in Montenegro nowadays?

Freedom, equality, and human rights are inherent to every individual and should be protected and respected as a precondition for inalienable human dignity. In the Montenegrin context, it is clear that there are challenges in preserving and implementing basic human values. Global processes such as post-truth and intellectual scepticism, which undermine reliance on reason and evidence-based decision-making, are present today in Montenegro. The process of clericalization of society threatens the maintenance of a secular character and the preservation of achieved standards in the areas of human rights, education, and social norms. Emotions and subjective beliefs exceed objective facts and scientific consensus, undermining trust in expertise and rational dialogue.

This complexity has become particularly evident during the crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as numerous events that are part of the arduous process of democratic consolidation in recent years, which is the current result and trend of increasing polarization and radicalization in society and the tendency for certain national and religious identities to take priority over universal human rights and individualism are concerning. Society is fragmenting along ethnic, religious, and ideological lines, weakening the spirit of unity.

Research indicates that beneath the narrative of multiculturalism in Montenegro, there lies a sea of prejudices instead of a full acceptance of diversity. Unfortunately, this is illustrated by data about high ethnic and religious distance, where at least half of the citizens would never marry someone of a different faith or ethnic background.

Instead of uniting in diversity, it seems that these differences have become strong barriers among us, primarily fueled by politicians and religious leaders who wield their power without responsibility toward the community.

Montenegro is not an inclusive society today because not all citizens feel it is an environment where they are accepted and where they have the right to be who they are and freely express themselves. Certain groups live excluded and neglected on the margins of society, such as Roma and the poor, as well as LGBT persons, PWDs, and numerous others who face discrimination based on various personal characteristics. Gender equality is constitutionally proclaimed, but the country records systemic unresponsiveness in adequately addressing violence against women and the increasing number of femicides.

One of the key problems in society is the weak trust, both among citizens themselves and in the institutions of the systems – in short, a lack of faith that we are a just, safe, and solidarity society. Without strong cohesion that binds us together as a community, it is hard to expect progress in creating a social environment where human values are living. In this sense, the efforts of all stakeholders in society are necessary to confront the challenges that aim to undermine universal values, recognize and understand the crisis in which they are currently, to defend and strengthen them for future generations.

Petar Đukanović, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)

Note: the text is published on okruž