The subject of the year's theme -- democracy education -- is essential for the long-term success of democracy. All citizens in all nations need to fully understand their rights and responsibilities, especially in countries that have recently transitioned to more democratic societies. Questions such as, “Why should I vote?”, “How can I influence my leaders?” “What can I reasonably expect from my elected officials?” or “What are my constitutional rights?” need to be addressed through civic institutions, in the free press and in classrooms. It is only with educated citizens that a sustainable culture of democracy can emerge.
To mark the International Day of Democracy at UN Headquarters, the UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF), the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR, New York Office), and the Council for a Community of Democracies joined with the Permanent Missions of Mongolia and Poland, the Organization of American States, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at a panel discussion on democracy education on 17 September.
The event coincided with the launch of a new UNDEF-funded project to put democracy education into wider practice.
The 2011 International Day of Democracy coincided with the observance at UN Headquarters of the International Day of Peace, under the theme of "Peace and Democracy: Make Your Voice heard".
Following the traditional Peace Bell Ceremony in the morning, an event for youth was held in Conference Room 4, North Lawn Building, with the participation of the Secretary-General as well as Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall and Stevie Wonder, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Yuna Kim and Ishmael Beah, and UN Youth Champion Monique Coleman.
The event also featured a screening of 'Young People Building Democracy and Peace in Guatemala', a short film illustrating a field project of the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF.
UN General Assembly interactive debate
A panel discussion on “Democracy and the Millennium Development Goals” was co-organized by the International Conference of New and Restored Democracy and the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
UN Democracy Fund donor event
Government donors to the UN Democracy Fund spoke at an event on the International Day of Democracy about their individual countries’ journeys towards democratic governance, reflected on the challenges ahead, and reaffirmed their commitment to UNDEF as a unique tool to strengthen democratic processes and values at the grassroots of societies around the world.
Worldwide Democracy Photo Challenge
The Democracy Photo Challenge, a worldwide competition that engages people around the world in a global dialogue on democracy, launched the 12 winning photos in an exhibition in the South Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby on 15 September, the International Day of Democracy. Press release
The winners of a global online video competition aimed at engaging people in a conversation centred on democracy were announced at a gathering at UN Headquarters in New York.
Over 900 contestants from 95 countries submitted videos completing the phrase “Democracy is …”.
2008 - The First International Day of Democracy
According to information provided by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the first International Day of Democracy was observed by 46 national parliaments. Events included the adoption of a resolution marking the day in Uruguay, television and radio programmes in Namibia, an “open doors” day in Indonesia, the organization of a seminar on the role of Parliament in Thailand’s political reform and an exhibition to promote concepts of democracy by Thailand and a special session of the Greek Parliament in Athens, which was attended by the then IPU President Pier Ferdinando Casini. Events that sought to bring the public, especially young people, into contact with parliament — such as an open doors day, a special debate or an exhibition — were among the most common forms of celebration. Thailand also designated 15 to 19 September 2008 as “Democracy Awareness Week”.
At UN Headquarters, the outgoing President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, in close collaboration with the Chair of the Sixth International Conference, the Government of Qatar, organized an informal session of the General Assembly on 15 September 2008. Speakers included the outgoing President of the General Assembly, the former President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, who gave the keynote address, the Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations (as the main sponsor of resolution 62/7), the Permanent Representative of Portugal to the United Nations (as Chair of the Community of Democracies) and the Secretary-General.