15 September 2008

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

Democracy essential to achieving fundamental goals of peace, human rights,

Development, says Secretary-General on international day


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the General Assembly meeting on the first International Day of Democracy, in New York, 15 September:

It is an honour to join the General Assembly in celebration of this first International Day of Democracy.  Let me thank the International Conference of New and Restored Democracies, and its chair, Qatar, for putting forward the resolution proposing this Day.  Let me also pay tribute to the Community of Democracies, whose chair, Portugal, is also with us.

Supporting democracy is a central mission for the United Nations.  Although the word democracy does not appear in our Charter, the United Nations does more than any other single organization to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world.

Normative and consultative processes have ranged from numerous General Assembly resolutions to declarations at the Millennium Summit and the 2005 World Summit Outcome, which described democracy as a “universal value”.

These processes have been matched by an ever greater operational activity on the ground.  A vast number of United Nations entities are engaged -- from the United Nations Development Programme to the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to the United NationsOffice on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

And the United Nations Democracy Fund, created just over two years ago, is now strongly supported by some 35 donors among Member States.  These nations cover a broad range in size, wealth, population and geography -- from India to Italy, from Germany to Japan, from Korea to Qatar.

As we conduct our work, we must be mindful of a tendency in some parts of the world to question the very value of democracy.  There is a perception among some in some countries that democracy has failed to improve peoples’ lives -- even where democracy was believed to have deep roots.  Adding to that is the perception by some that democracy-building is foreign-sponsored political interference.

This makes it all the more essential that we always explain the rationale of our mission:  that experience has taught us, time and again, that democracy is essential to achieving our fundamental goals of peace, human rights and development.  Consolidated democracies do not go to war against each other.  Human rights and the rule of law are best protected in democratic societies.  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.

Our mission, then, is to support democratic institutions in their work to ensure better lives for the population at large.  By the same token, neither peace, nor development, nor democracy can be exported or imposed from abroad.  National actors must be in the lead, backed by the will of the people -- including and especially through a strong and active civil society.

This International Day of Democracy is an opportunity to discuss and highlight the interactions between the agendas for democracy, peace and development, with a view to making them even more mutually reinforcing.  It is an occasion to look at how the United Nations can optimize its role.  Let us seize this Day and make the most of the focus it offers on our mission for democracy.

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For information media • not an official record