15 September 2008
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

Observance of International Day

of Democracy (AM)




Although the word democracy did not appear in the United Nations Charter, “supporting democracy is a central mission for the United Nations” and essential to achieving the United Nations central goals of peace, human rights and development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this morning, as the General Assembly held its first-ever observance of the International Day of Democracy.

“Consolidated democracies do not go to war against each other,” noted Mr. Ban, who was joined in marking the International Day by Assembly President Srgjan Kerim; former President of Chile and the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Climate Change, Ricardo Lagos; Chairman of the sixth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies (ICNRD), Nassir Abdelaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar; and the Chair of the Community of Democracies, Joao Salgueiro of Portugal.

“Human rights and the rule of law are best protected in democratic societies,” Mr. Ban continued.  “And development is much likelier to take hold if people are given a genuine say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress.”

However, neither peace, development, nor democracy could be exported or imposed from abroad, he stressed, saying that national actors must be in the lead and backed by the will of the people, especially by a strong and active civil society.

The General Assembly proclaimed the new International Day on 8 November 2007, through resolution 62/7, Mr. Kerim noted.  The Day coincided with the twentieth anniversary of ICNRD, as well as the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Democracy by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1997.  In the resolution, the Assembly also urged the Secretary-General to improve the United Nations capacity to support States’ efforts to achieve good governance and democratization.

Sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law were interdependent and mutually reinforcing, Mr. Kerim said.  Noting that he had lived in both non-democratic and democratic political systems, he said that he had learned that it was crucial for everyone to have the right to determine their own future in order to realize their potential.  He said that the Assembly provided a comprehensive framework within which the international community should work to enhance and promote democracy and human rights.

He said that, over the last year, as the President of the Assembly, he had been promoting the notion of a new culture of international relations.  That culture, he maintained, should embed democracy as an international principle, promoting the equal and fair representation of all States, as well as their compliance with international law.

Remarking on his country’s long and hard-won transition to democracy, Mr. Lagos said that it was important that Chileans understood that recovering democracy would demand toil, patience and accelerated, equitable economic growth.

The International Day provided an opportunity to review progress in the promotion of democracy, Mr. Lagos added.  The spread of the rule of law and respect for human rights was crucial for the deepening and broadening of democracy, but it was also important that citizens defined which other goods, such as health and education services, should be available to all.  It was equally important that a democratic, international federation of nations arise in the international realm.

That kind of order could be created in the future, he said, but on the United Nations agenda today was the creation of global public goods such as a compact on climate change.  By December 2009, it was expected that every State would submit itself voluntarily to restrictions on the volume of their carbon emissions to make possible a healthy, sustainable planet.

Mr. Al-Nasser, who noted that his country had sponsored resolution 7/62, said the International Day was vital for providing an opportunity for all peoples and cultures around the world to promote the principles, rules, institutions and procedures of democracy.

“We stand today on the threshold of a new burst of energy for all democracy movements, where commitment to attain democratization as a universal value is a central task of Governments, the United Nations system, parliamentarians and civil society organizations,” he said.  Describing some of the contributions of ICNRD, he added that, in the coming year, it aimed to catalyze investment in democracy through partnerships, by establishing national focal points on the issue in the coming year.

Mr. Salgueiro agreed that democracy had indeed become a global phenomenon since the 1990s, and now existed in virtually all types of States and societies.  Nevertheless, he noted that many individuals remain deprived of the fundamental right to freely express their will and determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems.  Furthermore, all democratic governance faced constant and ever-changing challenges.

Mr. Salgueiro expressed the hope that the International Day would help the international community remain focused on the continuing need to support democratization, development and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The best way States could pay tribute to democracy, however, was by remaining faithful to the commitments they had undertaken.

He emphasized, in addition, that there was no single model of democracy, but governance could only be truly democratic if it was based on the essential pillars of free and fair elections, strict division of powers, rule of law, freedom of the media, accountable Government, protection of human rights and equal participation by all.

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For information media • not an official record