International Day of Democracy

September 15, 2015

Statement from Secretary General Maria Leissner on the International Day of Democracy

Warsaw, Poland
September 15, 2015

The 8th International Day of Democracy is celebrated today against a backdrop of increasing attacks on fundamental values of democracy and human rights. This year, it is celebrated with a particular focus on civil society space.
As the Secretary General of the United Nations puts it, civil society is the oxygen of democracy
When the Warsaw Declaration was founded fifteen years ago, its intention was to provide a space for the strengthening and promotion of democracy around the world. As a result, the Community of Democracies was founded and included several pillars to assist with the development, progress and stability of both, successful and transitioning democratic governments.
If citizens are not free to organize, if they can not hold governments accountable, if they cannot provide feedback to elected leaders and inspiration for elected parliamentarians, and if they are unable to help organize peaceful manifestations of public discontent, the world suffers – which is already happening.
Lack of engagement by civil society hinders delivery on the global development goals. Lack of possibilities for citizens to hold governments accountable leads to kleptocracy followed by state capture.
Lack of proper legal environment increases the risks for violent unrests that may lead to national instability, creating a pretext to increased oppression, thus ending in a vicious circle. The increased tensions and violent conflicts are connected with the push-back of space for civil society. Peace and stability do not co-exist with restrictions on civic freedoms. The global human rights framework is based on the concept of non-violence.
Despite attacks against democracy and personal liberties, I wish that citizens all over the world claim their rights in a peaceful manner and that citizen-driven change happens all the time, everywhere, sometimes even where you least expect it for the benefit of their countries and future generations.
The Community of Democracies continues to defend democratic actors, values and institutions, and the notion that all human beings are created equal as pillars of the world we want, free from poverty, war and oppression.
On this day, let us continue to remind each other of the heroic actions taken by individuals around the world in their efforts towards a safe and promising democratic future.