Helen Clark: Message on the International Day of Democracy

15 Sep 2012

International Day of Democracy is the occasion to reaffirm our commitment to human dignity, equal rights and equal opportunities, freedom and solidarity.  In celebrating democratic accomplishments around the world, we remember that the struggle to build more inclusive and fair societies, economies, and governance systems continues in many countries, and can also involve threats to life and personal security.

Effective transformations from authoritarian rule to more participatory and equitable systems of governance take time.  They require commitment to building trust between people and the state based on a fair social contract.
 
This year, the theme for the International Day of Democracy is “Democracy Education.” A functioning democracy needs effective institutions but it also relies on people being aware of both their rights and their responsibilities.  It requires those to be respected and upheld.  It requires accountable government.
 
UNDP supports the training of members of civil society organizations and of journalists as part of building systems of accountability.  These initiatives, are, in part, linked to the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). They have both strengthened citizens’ voices in governance and helped strengthen citizen security and the rule of law.

UNDP is able to draw on and share its experiences of working in many countries to strengthen democratic governance. We work to promote the advancement of women in leadership roles.  Out recent publication Empowering Women for Stronger Political Parties is a best practice guide.

We also focus on the engagement of youth in democratic processes.  In Tunisia, UNDP teamed up with Radio Mosaique FM to launch a voter education game to that end.  It was designed to educate youth about the importance of voting in order to ensure their basic rights and freedoms.

In Libya, UNDP is working on training former youth political activists as democracy peer instructors.  This is being done through the BRIDGE programme - Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections.

Throughout human history, democracy has been built through the efforts of people at the grassroots of communities.  When citizens are empowered to demand accountability and transparency; when citizens know their rights and obligations and freely participate in the political processes, democratic governance can take root.