Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

29 April 2013

Secretary-General's message to the Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies [delivered by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva]

I am pleased to convey my warmest greetings to all participants at this Ministerial meeting of the Community of Democracies.  I thank the Government of Mongolia for hosting and for its excellent stewardship of the organization during its Presidency.

The Community has undertaken a successful reform process initiated with Lithuania’s Presidency and implemented during Mongolia’s tenure.  You have chosen important themes for your sessions, including education for democracy, emerging democracies in Asia and the Arab world, corruption and other threats to democracy, and democracy and the Millennium Development Goals.  The debate on democracy and the MDGs will be particularly timely as we work to achieve our targets and craft the post-2015 development agenda.

I especially look forward to your discussions on the role of governance and civil society in sustainable development.  And I applaud El Salvador for choosing “Democracy and Development” as the main theme during its upcoming presidency.

This is a dramatic and inspiring time in the history of democracy.  Around the world, people are struggling for an end to corruption, for justice and dignity, for a fair share of political power and a say in their future.

At the same time, we have seen alarming threats to hard-won gains in nations both young and old.  In some countries, civil society groups face growing legislative and other restrictions, making it almost impossible for them to operate.  Champions of democracy have encountered new confrontational measures.  The rights to freedom of expression and of the press have also been under threat.

We should all resist such backsliding.  Vibrant civil society groups and the open exchange of information are crucial to the well-being of any nation and the function of democracy.  I continue to call on leaders to guarantee fundamental freedoms and listen to their people.  This is why, as we approach this year’s International Day of Democracy, I have decided to focus on the theme “Strengthening Voices for Democracy.”  I invite you to consider this theme and work with us to give the Day the high profile and practical impact that will contribute to stronger, better democracies.

The United Nations looks forward to a strengthening our partnership with the Community of Democracies.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful gathering.