UN: 15 September 2008 – Marking the first-ever United Nations International Day of Democracy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today how crucial that form of government is to bettering the lives of people worldwide.
In an address to a General Assembly event marking the inaugural Day, Mr. Ban noted that democracy has its detractors, who believe that it has failed to help people or that it is propelled by interfering foreign influences.
“This makes it all the more essential that we always explain the rationale of our mission: that experience has taught us, time and again, that democracy is essential to achieving our fundamental goals of peace, human rights and development,” he said.
Acknowledging that these targets cannot be imposed from outside, the Secretary-General said that countries, backed by the people, must take ownership.
“Although the word democracy does not appear in our Charter, the United Nations does more than any other single organization to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world,” he told the Assembly meeting.
Also speaking at the gathering was the body’s outgoing President Srgjan Kerim, who spoke of his own experiences living under non-democratic and democratic systems.
“I have experienced the difference between being able to realize one’s individual initiative, and in circumstances that limit rights and opportunities,” said Mr. Kerim, who characterized democracy as a “universal” value.
He called for a new culture of international relations that empowers the individual and boosts cooperation among Member States and civil society. That new system “should also embed democracy as an international principle, and stand up for the equal and fair representation of all States, as well as promoting their compliance with international law.”
Several events were held to honour the Day, including a day-long celebration sponsored by the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), featuring speeches, presentations and a question-and-answer session.
In a speech to that body, the Secretary-General said that his home country of the Republic of Korea, a nascent democracy, underwent a difficult transition period that witnessed years of emergency laws, censorship and political imprisonments.
“With our transition to a pluralist State came greater transparency and accountability, a more effective government machinery, and a thriving business sector able to compete with the rest of the world,” he said, voicing his appreciation to the world and the UN for their roles in bringing about the change.
The General Assembly declared the Day to commemorate the 1997 adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) of the Universal Declaration on Democracy.
“It is deeply significant that this Day was brought into being by countries which are themselves working hard every day to nurture and consolidate their young democratic foundations,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the event.
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Democratization is a process, not an event, says Secretary-General Ban