New York – Today we look back on yet another year of remarkable events in the story of democracy — a story that continues to be written by people who yearn for dignity and human rights, for an end to corruption, for a say in their future, for jobs, justice and a fair share of political power.
Their story is just beginning. Democracies are not born overnight, nor built in a year, or by holding one or two elections. They require sustained and painstaking work. Yet, once begun, there can be no going back.
Reform must be real. People do not seek authoritarianism with a human face. They want a virtuous circle of rights and opportunity under the rule of law, a vibrant civil society and an enterprising private sector, backed by efficient and accountable state institutions.
Inclusive dialogue is crucial. Diversity is a strength. We must work to promote pluralism and protect the rights of minorities and the vulnerable. And women must be at the centre of efforts to build democratic futures. They have been at the forefront of movements for change. They have a right to a real say in governance and decision-making.
The voices of the young must also be heard and heeded. Profound demographic pressures around the world make this an imperative. Faced with bleak prospects and unresponsive governments, young people will act on their own to reclaim their future.
Underpinning these prerequisites — and essential for long term success — is democracy education, the theme of this year’s observance. It is needed so that all citizens in all nations, in democracies young and old, established or fragile, fully understand their rights and responsibilities. And it is especially needed in countries that have made recent democratic gains so that progress made does not unravel.
The United Nations is strongly committed to working with partners to develop global and local initiatives that elevate democracy education as an integral part of all education initiatives and as a component of long-term governance strategies. Let us build partnerships between international education experts and Governments to develop and disseminate best practices. Let us develop a culture of civic participation to explore opportunities made possible by new media, and support countries in devising curricula and training methods.
In marking this year’s International Day of Democracy, let us use all our creativity to advance this mission. Let us work to bring democracy education to all, and in particular, to those societies in transition that need it most.