I thank the Permanent Missions of Botswana and Sweden, and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance for hosting this important event. I am glad to meet so many friends and colleagues from both my national and international service, in particular Margot Wallström who has experience in both spheres.
We are at a crucial time in our fight against poverty and our quest for dignity, peace and prosperity in the world. One key aspect of this challenge is to promote institutions and processes that are more responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens.
People across the world are demanding a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. They are calling for democratic freedoms and participatory governance. World leaders must unite behind a common strategy that can meet these aspirations.
Member States are now working to formulate a post-2015 development agenda. The Open Working Group has been asked to submit a proposal for sustainable development goals. Today’s meeting is an opportunity to emphasize the central role of democracy and governance in this agenda. This was already acknowledged by Member States at the Rio+20 Conference, which agreed that “to achieve our sustainable development goals, we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic.”
Strong governance institutions breathe life into legal frameworks, delivering justice and supporting sustainable development.
Institutions that are accountable to the law, and to the people they serve, build public confidence in governance. This ensures that everyone, including the most vulnerable individuals and communities, can benefit from democratic processes.
Women, and also vulnerable groups, frequently face structural and cultural barriers, which prevent their voices being heard. We must do more to empower them, not least by making institutions more accessible.
Institutions must also be representative, a basic principle of democracy. Building institutions that are more responsive to ordinary citizens fosters equality, security, and human development. Boosting women’s participation in decision-making around the world is fundamental for achieving sustainable development.
As an example, India has introduced a system whereby first a third, and now fifty percent of local government seats, such as mayors and village leaders, are reserved for women. Increased representation of women advances gender-sensitive governance policies, programmes and resource allocations.
A similar success story can be seen in Rwanda, which has achieved strong representation of women in the country’s parliament and cabinet.
Institutions also need to be transparent. Lack of transparency is closely related to corruption. Corruption can cost a country over 15 per cent of its GDP and prevent access to public goods and services. This was recently corroborated by the report on corruption within the EU members published by the European Commission.
Conversely, anti-corruption efforts have engendered positive results, not only in access to justice but also in sectors such as education and health. Transparency reduces inequalities, ensures better management of natural resources and promotes inclusive economic growth.
Governance may seem like a vast, complex and even abstract concept; one that is difficult to evaluate in concrete terms. In fact, many of its key dimensions can be measured. Significant progress has been made in developing indicators in relation to transparency, inclusion and the effectiveness of institutions, especially at the national level. There is also a growing recognition that governance indicators play a useful role in national policy-making and resource allocation.
But developing and measuring governance indicators, especially at the global level, can be challenging. Lessons from past experience can help guide a constructive process for incorporating governance and rule of law elements into the post-2015 framework.
Democratic governance is both a goal in itself, and a crucial enabler for the advancement of any new sustainable development agenda. An inclusive, transparent and accountable system of governance is indispensable, if we are to meet the demands and hopes of the people we are here to serve.