The International Day of Democracy 2023: A Review of Global Democracy and its Challenges

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This text was written by Carlo Zucchini, arlo Zucchini is currently serving as a Communications Intern at the headquarters of RWI in Lund. He is simultaneously pursuing a Master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability at Malmö University. 

The International Day of Democracy, celebrated every year on the 15th of September, presents a momentous occasion to assess the state of democracy globally. As much a process as it is a goal, democracy requires the collective participation and support of the international community, national governing bodies, civil society, and individuals alike. Today, the concept of democracy has evolved into a widely accepted universal value, viewed by many practitioners as a potent political remedy.

The Role of the United Nations

The United Nations, an embodiment of international society, plays a critical role in the promotion of democracy. As newly-independent states sought support during the era of decolonisation, the phenomenon of democratisation marked a significant impact on the United Nations. Today, member states turn to the United Nations for support in democratisation, mirroring the trend seen during the wave of political independence.

The Essence of a Democratic Society

Democracy, in its essence, is a state where the people have rights, particularly the right to vote for their government and exercise regulation from among themselves. It is a system that safeguards the people from being controlled by a government over which they have no right of protest, dissent, or election. A lack of democracy can lead to a lack of rights or a voice, impacting human rights as set out by the United Nations.

Freedom of Press: A Pillar of Democracy

The theme for the International Day of Democracy 2023 is “Protecting Press Freedom for Democracy”. A free, independent, and pluralistic media, capable of keeping the public informed on matters of public interest, is a vital component of a democratic society. It empowers the public to make informed decisions and hold governments accountable. However, when media freedoms are under threat, the flow of information can be stifled, skewed, or cut off entirely. Therefore, the protection of press freedom stands as a crucial part of upholding democracy.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Universal Declaration on Democracy

In 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy, affirming the principles of democracy, the elements and exercise of democratic government, and the international scope of democracy. The declaration stands as a testament to the global commitment to upholding democratic values.

History and Evolution of the International Day of Democracy

The International Day of Democracy came into being as an initiative of the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy and raising public awareness. Since its inception, the day has seen a variety of themes reflecting the evolving challenges and opportunities in the realm of democracy.

2008: The Inauguration

The inaugural International Day of Democracy in 2008 emphasised the importance of democracy, its challenges, opportunities, and the central responsibility of parliaments as the key institution of democracy.

2009: Democracy and Political Tolerance

In 2009, the theme was “Democracy and Political Tolerance”, reflecting the critical need for acceptance of differing political views in a democratic society.

2013: Strengthening Voices for Democracy

The year 2013 emphasised the theme “Strengthening Voices for Democracy”, aiming to inspire individuals to take action in their communities.

2014: Engaging Youth on Democracy

In 2014, the theme was “Engaging youth on democracy”, acknowledging the vital role of the youth in shaping the present and the future of democratic societies.

2015: Space for Civil Society

In 2015, the theme was “Space for Civil Society”, underscoring the importance of promoting an environment where civil society can thrive.

2016: Democracy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In 2016, the theme was “Democracy and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development”, highlighting the interconnections between sustainable development and democracy.

2017: Democracy and Conflict Prevention

In 2017, the theme was “Democracy and Conflict Prevention”, focusing on the role of democracy in preventing conflicts and maintaining peace.

2018: Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World

In 2018, the theme was “Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World”, aligning with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2019: Participation

In 2019, the theme for democracy day was “participation”, underscoring the importance of active participation in democratic processes.

2020: COVID-19: A Spotlight on Democracy

The theme for International Day of Democracy 2020 was “COVID-19: A Spotlight on Democracy”, reflecting the challenges posed by the global pandemic to democratic institutions and processes.

2021: Strengthening Democratic Resilience in the Face of Future Crises

In 2021, the theme was “Strengthening democratic resilience in the face of future crises”, focusing on the need for democracies to prepare for and withstand future crises.

2022: Protecting Press Freedom for Democracy

The theme for International Day of Democracy 2022 is “Protecting Press Freedom for Democracy”, emphasising the crucial role of a free press in a democratic society.

The Importance of Celebrating the International Day of Democracy

The International Day of Democracy is a significant observance that encourages individuals and organisations worldwide to work together for democracy. It is a day for raising awareness of democracy through various events, including conferences, discussions and debates, press conferences, and publicity campaigns.

The United Nations Headquarters will mark the International Day of Democracy on September 15th, 2022. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals Roundtable series, the UN Office for Partnerships and the UN Democracy Fund will hold a discussion in the SDG studio to commemorate the Day. The discussion will demonstrate why maintaining media freedom is essential to a strong democracy. Additionally, it will put up and talk about ideas to achieving SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

As we look forward to the International Day of Democracy in 2023, it is a timely reminder for all of us to reflect upon the state of democracy in our societies. It is a call for us to engage in constructive dialogue, ensure the freedom of the press, and strive for the full participation of all individuals in the democratic process. The road to democracy may be long and fraught with challenges, but with collective effort and commitment, the ideal of democracy can be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.

Photo by a Joao Marcelo Martins on Unsplash

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