Secretary General's message on the first International Day of Democracy

15 Sep 2008

I am moved to join you in celebration of this first International Day of Democracy - declared by the General Assembly to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Democracy by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1997.

When the IPU issued the Declaration 11 years ago as a comprehensive guide to Governments and Parliaments throughout the world, it established a milestone in the work for democracy promotion. Like the enduring and shining example of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more than 50 years earlier, it filled a gap in the normative architecture of our age. Today, we are well informed and supported by the Universal Declaration on Democracy when it comes to the basic principles of democracy, the elements and standards for the exercise of democratic government, and democracy’s international dimension.

It is deeply significant that this Day was brought into being by countries which are themselves working hard every day to nurture and consolidate their young democratic foundations. When the International Conference of New and Restored Democracies, through its chair Qatar, put forward the General Assembly resolution proposing the Day, it sent a powerful signal to the rest of the world.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am determined to ensure that the UN works globally, wherever we can, to help people and nations everywhere build and strengthen democratic systems. Experience has taught us, time and again, that democracy is essential to achieving our fundamental goals of peace, human rights and development. Consolidated democracies do not go to war against each other. Human rights and the rule of law are best protected in democratic societies. And development is much likelier to take hold if people are given a genuine say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress.

Our mission recognizes a fundamental truth about democracy everywhere - that it is ultimately the product of a strong, active and vocal civil society. It is such a civil society that fosters responsible citizenship and makes democratic forms of government work.

In other words, democratization is not a spectator sport. And it is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. It is a long struggle that must be waged by individual citizens, myriad communities, and entire nations. Let us ensure that each of us plays our part to the full.

Ban Ki-moon