Emphasizing the links between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and people's fundamental needs, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has marked the International Day for Democracy by stressing that delivering solutions to today's challenges also requires an integrated and interconnected response.
“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,” said Mr. Ban in his message marking the International Day, observed annually on 15 September.
“The [Sustainable Development] 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,” he added.
In particular, he stressed the important role of Goal 16 on building effective accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“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,” he said, adding: “They are rightly demanding a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives.”
Underlining that the 2030 Agenda aims to leave no one behind, he also noted the need to defend the freedom of the civil society given their important role in bringing forward the issues of the weak and the marginalized.
One year ago, Member States of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of the 17 goals focuses on democracy. Credit: United Nations
Meanwhile, in a separate message on the occasion, the UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, called on parliaments and governments to be responsive to people and not to lobbyists.
“Democracy means a genuine correlation between the will of the people and legislation and policies that affect them, be it domestic or international,” he said, stressing: “Representative democracy can only be considered 'democratic' when parliamentarians proactively inform constituencies about laws and treaties that will affect them, consult with them regularly and endeavour to implement their wishes in good faith.”
Noting that frequent disconnect between parliaments and the people leads to a feeling of disenfranchisement, which could turn into apathy, absenteeism and distrust, Mr. de Zayas warned that it also opened the door to exploitation of social problems by populist politicians.
Further noting that a correlation between the public interest and policies affecting them is best secured through the direct democracy mechanisms of public initiative and referenda, Mr. de Zayas said: “Direct democracy is undoubtedly one of the most efficient, reliable and transparent methods to determine the will of the people.”
He underscored that in order to generate democratic change, human rights, in particular pluralism, electoral law principles, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association must be respected.
“Direct, participatory and responsive democracy has been shown to be conducive to achieving a more just world order. Only such an approach will allow progressing from predator societies to human rights oriented societies,” he emphasized.
Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.