Secretary-General's Message for 2011
This year has been a remarkable one in the history of democracy. Millions of people participated in the dramatic events in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, and yet more followed with intense interest. Their engagement confirmed that democracy is a universal model yearned for by all peoples and alien to no culture. This year also served as a reminder that democracy cannot be exported or imposed from abroad; it must be generated by the will of the people and nurtured by a strong and active civil society. The world saw the truth of the saying that countries do not become fit for democracy; they become fit through democracy. Young people, above all, brought home this message. They championed the democratic ideal and now face the challenge of working to realize the potential of the transitions they helped to set in motion.
The same truths are borne out by another milestone this year -- the 20th anniversary of the massive transformation in Eastern Europe. Many of the region’s countries are still in the early stages of their democratic passage. They know the painstaking work involved in building the rule of law, fostering transparency and accountability, and overhauling political and economic systems. They know the setbacks that can disappoint expectations, and the passion needed to keep moving forward. Their experiences provide important lessons.
The United Nations is there to support these efforts. It does more than any other single organization to develop and strengthen democratic institutions and practices around the world. The UN supports free and fair elections, encourages popular participation by civil society, and nurtures dialogue when parties are deadlocked after a disputed vote. It mediates in fragile political situations to prevent conflict, and fosters accountable security institutions after a conflict has ended. It deploys experts to help strengthen the rule of law, develop multi-party structures and build effective, accountable public administration, ombudsman institutions, anti-corruption agencies and gender equality bodies.
In all these endeavours, the UN does not seek to export or promote any particular national or regional model of democracy. It works on the understanding that the democratic ideal is rooted in philosophies and traditions from all parts of the world; that effective democratic governance enhances the quality of life for men and women everywhere; and that democracy provides the foundations for durable peace, security and development.
On this International Day of Democracy, let us redouble our efforts to support all people, in particular the young – the drivers of this year’s momentous events – in making democracy a working reality. This Day belongs to them. Let us honour their commitment to a lifelong journey in democracy.