|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Democracy Essential in Achieving Development for All, Secretary-General Says,
in Remarks to Panel Discussion Commemorating International Day
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the panel discussion on “Democracy and the Millennium Development Goals” (on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy), co-organized by the International Conference of New and Restored Democracy and the Permanent Mission of Venezuela, in New York today, 15 September:
It is a pleasure to join you for the observance of an important day on the United Nations calendar.
We gather just days before political leaders, citizens’ groups, the private sector and others descend on the United Nations for the Millennium Development Goals Summit to push for faster progress. That makes this observance an important opportunity to underline the pivotal role that democracy plays in reducing poverty and promoting human well-being.
Five years ago at the World Summit, all the world’s leaders agreed that democracy, development and human rights are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. And 10 years ago, in the Millennium Declaration, Governments resolved “to spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law”.
The political consensus is clear and experience bears it out: transparency, accountability, and responsive governance are essential if our work for development is to succeed. Robust oversight, a vibrant civil society, popular participation, the free exchange of information and ideas — all these hallmarks of democracy are also crucial for generating economic growth and securing social justice.
Democratic advancement is not a linear process. It is also not irreversible. As we have seen recently in many parts of the world, to our great dismay, hard-won gains in democratic governance face serious threats.
In some societies, champions of democracy and civil society activists have faced new confrontational measures: harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, abridgements of their right to gather and speak out. In others, the constitutional order has been subverted, upended, overthrown — at times by violence, at times with severe injury and loss of life.
We should all be troubled by any such backsliding. Down such dark paths lie instability, injustice and worse. Moreover, setbacks in democratic advancement are setbacks for development. Development is far more likely to take hold if people are given a genuine say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress.
This imposes a responsibility on the international community. People the world over look to the United Nations to help safeguard and advance democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They look to us to live up to the commitments we have expressed over the past decade. We are determined to do just that.
Across the United Nations family, a large number of entities are engaged in the work for democracy worldwide. The Department of Political Affairs provides electoral assistance, and employs diplomacy and mediation to encourage and defend democratic progress and peaceful, democratic transitions.
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations works to rebuild democratic institutions in post-conflict settings. The United Nations Development Programme works with Governments to build good governance. And the United Nations Democracy Fund, created five years ago, reaches more than 100 countries through projects that strengthen the voice of civil society, promote human rights, and encourage the participation of all groups in democratic processes.
On this third International Day of Democracy, let us recognize that democratic governance is a yearning shared and voiced by people the world over. Democracy is a goal in its own right, essential for strong, healthy and just societies. It is also an indispensable means for achieving development for all humankind.
Let that message be heard at next week’s MDG Summit and throughout the world.
* *** *