– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

19 November 2020


Ms. Ann Linde, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden


Distinguished delegates,

Thank you for your kind introduction, Mr. Tommasoli, and for the opportunity to join you to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

As you are no doubt aware, there is another important anniversary this year: The United Nations is seventy-five years old. This has prompted a great deal of reflection within the multilateral system; indeed, the theme of the commemoration is the future we want, the UN we need.

So, as Member States made clear in the Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN, there is no other global organization with the legitimacy, convening power and normative impact as the United Nations. No other global organization gives hope to so many people for a better world. I therefore expect that Member States will remain committed to this organisation and will employ it to pursue advancements across the three pillars that the UN was founded on: which are peace and security, development, and human rights. These three pillars are equally important, interrelated, and interdependent. And one cannot advance without the other.


Democracy is a core value of the United Nations. The opening words of the Charter, “We the Peoples”, reflects the fundamental principle of democracy – that the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of sovereign states and, therefore, the United Nations as a whole.

Since the UN Charter was signed 75 years ago, the UN has promoted good governance, monitored elections, supported civil society to strengthen democratic institutions and accountability, ensured self-determination in decolonized countries, and assisted with the drafting of new constitutions in post-conflict nations.

The United Nations does not advocate for a specific model of government but promotes democratic governance as a set of values and principles that should be followed for greater participation, equality, security and human development.

These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It projects the concept of democracy by stating “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”. And the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights develops them even further and lays down the legal basis for the principles of democracy in international law. It covers, for instance, freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association with others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, not least democracies and key democratic processes, such as elections. We must ensure that the policies we implement to combat the pandemic do not undermine the democratic institutions that underpin the long-term health of our economies and societies. And we must ensure that recovery efforts are built on democratic principles, empowering citizens whenever and wherever possible in building the future they want.

Democracy is a core value of the United Nations. The opening words of the Charter, “We the Peoples”, reflects the fundamental principle of democracy – that the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of sovereign states and, therefore, the United Nations as a whole.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly


Democracy provides an environment that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in which the freely expressed will of people is exercised. People have a say in decisions and can hold decision-makers to account. Women and men have equal rights and all people are free from discrimination.

As recognised in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979, the right to vote and stand in elections is crucial to eliminate discrimination and support political participation, which is vital not just for women, but across vulnerable groups.  

Parliamentarians, who directly represent their constituents, can have a deep impact on the health of our democracies. I welcome the efforts to strengthen parliaments, ensuring inclusion and representation. This approach will only serve to strengthen our institutions. Organizations that fail to address the expectations of their constituents are doomed to failure. Furthermore, they lose trust and respect if commitments are not in line with the needs or the actions are not effective. And they fail when commitments made do not become realities.

Cities and local governments are often much closer to those we serve than national governments and sometimes are the best avenue for people to express their preferences and views. We must continue to invest in these institutions, as well as those at a national level.

Youth also have a pivotal role to play to strengthen democratic systems. They are our future generations. Their engagement matters. Their foresight on issues such as climate change has proved invaluable, and their energy can create lasting and sustainable change for the better.

The independent press plays a critical role in a healthy democracy. The free press informs, investigates and ultimately enables constituents to hold elected officials to account. However, media can also be manipulated and used to sew disinformation and undermine our democracies. We must work closely in order to protect journalists and media workers, so they continue to inform and educate.


Enabling, strengthening and protecting democracy requires sustained effort.

We must strengthen our democratic mechanisms to ensure the legitimacy of these institutions are upheld. We must lead by example, and through our own actions, demonstrate the value of the democratic system. We must engage all elements of our societies, so they do not lose faith in the institutions we have built to serve them.

I warmly welcome all efforts to those ends and congratulate the 25th Anniversary of IDEA.

Thank you very much for having me at this event and I look forward to joining you at future events.