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The Secretary-General’s message on International Day of Democracy

International Day of DemocracyA year ago, the world’s Governments agreed on an ambitious sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years. They recognized that what people want is not so complicated — but that it does require a transformation of how our economies and societies work.

People want food and shelter; education and health care and more economic opportunity.  They want to live without fear.  They want to be able to trust their Governments and global, national and local institutions.  They want full respect for their human rights and they are rightly demanding a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. 

Each of the Sustainable Development Goals on its own reflects fundamental desires shared by people everywhere. Together, the 17 Goals  make up an intricate tapestry of challenges, choices and opportunities that people encounter in their everyday lives.  Delivering a better tomorrow will require integrated responses to interconnected challenges. 

Democratic principles run through the Agenda like a golden thread, from universal access to public goods, health care and education, as well as safe places to live and decent work opportunities for all. Goal 16 addresses democracy directly: it calls for inclusive societies and accountable institutions.  

The Goals demonstrate an important dynamic: effective democratic governance enhances quality of life for all people; and human development is more likely to take hold if people are given a real say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress.  

Our new Agenda aims to leave no one behind, which means we must reach those who are rarely seen or heard, and who have no voice or group to speak on their behalf. The implementation of the Goals must be underpinned by a strong and active civil society that includes the weak and the marginalized. We must defend civil society’s freedom to operate and do this essential job. 

On this International Day of Democracy, let us rededicate ourselves to democracy and dignity for all.

 

Secretary-General’s Message for International Day of Democracy

640845Civil society is the oxygen of democracy.

We see this clearly in the world’s most vibrant and stable democracies, where Government and civil society work together for common goals. Civil society acts as a catalyst for social progress and economic growth. It plays a critical role in keeping Government accountable, and helps represent the diverse interests of the population, including its most vulnerable groups.

The role of civil society has never been more important. Soon we will start to implement an inspiring new development agenda, agreed by all the world’s Governments.

Yet, for civil society, freedom to operate is diminishing — or even disappearing.

An alarming number of Governments have adopted restrictions that limit the ability of NGOs to work, or to receive funding, or both.

That is why the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy is space for civil society.

On this Day, let us recall that progress and civic participation go hand in hand.

A confident nation gives citizens a say and a role in the development of their country.

As the United Nations continues to work towards a democratic, pluralistic future for all, the State and civil society can and should be partners in building the future people want.

Ban Ki-moon