28 March 2008

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



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Advisory Board of the United Nations Democracy Fund in New York, today, 28 March:

It is a pleasure to be here today and to address the Advisory Board of the United Nations Democracy Fund.  Let me begin by welcoming all of you and by congratulating the new members who have joined the Advisory Board.

How fitting that our meeting caps a week in which Bhutan embarked on the path of democracy -- assisted by United Nations electoral experts. 

This is an exciting time all around for advocates of democracy.  Sixty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed the right of every citizen “to take part in the Government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives”.  Today this ideal appears closer to reality than ever before.

In every region, on every continent, democracy is on the rise.  Yet, as you know better than anyone, democratization is a process, not an event.  It needs to be nurtured and entrenched through awareness, participation, norms and institutions.  It seeks rule of law over rule of man, it requires respect for civil and political rights, and it demands constant interaction between those who govern and those that are governed.

I have been privileged to witness this process at first hand in my own country.  The Republic of Korea underwent a long and difficult political transition before emerging as a strong, vibrant and pluralist State.  I will always be grateful to the international community and the United Nations for their support to my country during this trying period.  And as Secretary-General, I remain determined to ensure that the United Nations continues to provide similar support to people and nations everywhere.

Already, all across the United Nations system, efforts to promote democratic governance are inseparable from our work for human rights, development, and peace and security.  Our political work requires that we promote democratic outcomes.  Our development apparatus seeks to bolster national institutions like electoral commissions and court systems that form the bedrock of any democracy.  Our human rights efforts support freedom of expression and the rule of law.

Support for democratic governance and institutions has seeped into the work of practically every UN entity.  And the United Nations Democracy Fund has taken just a few years to be able to lead efforts to strengthen democracies from the grass roots up through its support for innovative projects and partnerships.  The nearly 2,000 project applications submitted to the Fund in the second round amount to a strong vote of confidence in your judgment and in the Fund’s work.  I now look forward to receiving the Advisory Board’s recommendations on which proposals to fund.

As you make your selections, I expect that you will continue to pay particular attention to submissions by civil society organizations.  Their work and participation remain key to building democracies from the ground up.  I hope that you will also build on your existing support for female participation in democratic processes.

Beyond grant-making, I understand that the Board will also review its terms of reference for membership.  I believe the current Advisory Board size remains appropriate for the tasks at hand.  However, the criteria for membership, as well the length of service of members, should be further clarified.

Democratization is not a spectator sport.  And it is more akin to a marathon than a sprint.  It is a long struggle that must be waged by individual citizens, myriad communities, and entire nations.

But wherever and whenever democrats take up this challenge, the United Nations has a solemn duty to support their efforts.  With your support and guidance, the Democracy Fund can help deliver on this commitment, and it can help the United Nations build a better, freer world for all.

I thank you all for your service and assure you of my full and unstinting support.

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For information media • not an official record