Thursday, 16 September 2010

International Day of Democracy - 15 September 2010

Democracy vital tool for achieving development, UN Secretary General Ban says on International Day

15 September 2010 – Democracy is an “indispensable” tool to better the lives of people around the world, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, marking the International Day of Democracy.

This year’s Day falls just days before the start of a three-day gathering at United Nations Headquarters in New York, where world leaders will measure progress with just five years to go before the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight globally-agreed targets against poverty, hunger, disease and other social and economic ills.

At next week’s summit, “we have an important opportunity to underline the pivotal role that democracy plays in reducing poverty and promoting human well-being,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day.

He noted that at the 2005 World Summit, global leaders agreed that democracy, development and human rights are linked and mutually reinforcing, while in the 2000 Millennium Declaration, all of the world’s governments vowed to “spare no effort” to promote democracy, bolster the rule of law and enhance respect for the right to development.

“Transparency, accountability, and responsive governance are essential if our work for development is to succeed,” the Secretary-General underlined.

Oversight, civil society and the free exchange of ideas are among the hallmarks of democracy essential to spurring economic growth and achieving social justice, he added.

“Democratic advancement is neither a linear nor irreversible process,” Mr. Ban stressed, pointing to serious threats jeopardizing hard-won gains in democratic governance around the world.

“Setbacks in democratic advancement are setbacks for development,” he said, emphasizing that the more people have a genuine say in their own governance, the more development is likely to take hold.

At a General Assembly thematic debate on the Day today, the Secretary-General noted that people the world over look to the UN to help safeguard and promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“We are determined to do just that,” he stressed.

Many of the world body’s entities – including the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – are working to advance democracy around the globe, the Secretary-General said.

This year’s Day is the third to be celebrated. The General Assembly declared the Day to commemorate the 1997 adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) of the Universal Declaration on Democracy.

The occasion was marked in the fledgling nation of Timor-Leste with a speech contest for high school students.

More than 145 students from all 13 districts of the South-East Asian nation took part in this year’s competition, whose theme was “As a citizen of Timor-Leste, what does democracy mean to you?”

The final round of the contest – opened by Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Ameerah Haq and Timorese Education Minister João Câncio Freitas – kicked off today in the capital, Dili.

The celebration of the International Day of Democracy “symbolizes Timor’s achievements from post-conflict to democratic nation building,” Ms. Haq said. “Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the national governing bodies, civil society, international community, and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.”

UN News Service