Celebrating International Day of Democracy and the Call for Political Inclusion

14 Sep 2011

On 8 November 2007, the General Assembly proclaimed 15 September as the International Day of Democracy, inviting Member States, the United Nations System and other regional, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations to commemorate the Day. The International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Belize, as elsewhere in the world, supports through its Democratic Governance focus, the continuous strengthening of Democracy and, in particular, women’s political participation. Together with several government and non-government partners, a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Women’s Commission launched: analysis of the political and policy context of Belize with special emphasis on developments and issues related to gender; updating of previous research on the situation of women in Belize; expansion of the analysis of socio-economic, cultural and political obstacles to political participation; and fostering of a national dialogue on the issue. The mission of the Director of the Gender Unit of UNDP, New York, Ms. Winnie Byanyima, and in particular her Distinguished Lecture on the topic “Gender Responsive Economic Policy Management and Sustainable Development: The Critical Link”, strongly supported the process.

As part of the joint commitments with the National Women’s Commission, a Gender Advisory Committee comprised of 16 organizations, including political parties, international organizations, embassies, media and non-governmental organizations, was formed. One of the critical outputs of this collaborative effort is a research paper on “A Situational Analysis of Gender and Politics in Belize”. The focus of the report is on women’s political representation in governing bodies which is critical to the inclusion of women’s experience and perspective in decision-making.

Barriers to women’s political participation in Belize include: political, socioeconomic, ideological and psychological. Factors that have enabled greater participation of women in political office in other countries include: quotas, reforming of electoral systems, campaign financing, solidarity among women across party lines, (affirmative) action by political parties, strength of the women’s movement and of civil society, and gender friendly parliaments.

Taking part in government is a human right as stated in Section 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Women’s political participation and representation are essential to ensuring women’s human rights, and are recognized as such by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, CARICOM, the Commonwealth and the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 3 “promote gender equality and empower women” with its specific indicator on the proportion of seats held by women in the National Parliament.

As the world joins in observing and celebrating the International Day of Democracy, the full inclusion of women at all levels of political life, including in the House of Representatives is a worthy goal to aim for in Belize.

For more information on the International Day of Democracy, visit the UN Website: http://www.un.org/en/events/democracyday/index.shtml

On this International Day of Democracy, let us redouble our efforts to support all people, in particular the young – the drivers of this year’s momentous events – in making democracy a working reality. This Day belongs to them. Let us honour their commitment to a lifelong journey in democracy.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Democracy 2011