Day: 15 September 2015. Theme: Space for Civil Society
Every year, on the 15th of September, the world celebrates the International-al Day of Democracy (IDD). These celebrations have been held annually around the world since 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly marked September 15 as the International Day of Democracy. It provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy worldwide.
Democracy is a universally recognized ideal and is one of the core values and principles of the United Nations. Democracy is also as much a process as a goal, and only with the participation of all, national governments, civil society and international community, can the ideals of democracy such as the unbridled participation of the mass of people in electing leaders and in governance processes; accountability of leaders to the people who bring them to power; guaranteeing civil liberties and respect for human rights; maintaining the rule of law and ensuring national and personal security; sustained anti-corruption efforts and measures can be translated into a daily reality for all citizens.
It is important to note from the out-set that the UN does not promote any particular model of democracy, but supports states to entrench democratic governance as a set of values and principles that should be followed for greater participation, equality, security, guarantee of rights and human development for all.
The 2015 UN theme for IDD is ‘Space for civil society.’ This theme puts civil society at the centre in the democratic process. A well-organized, vibrant and responsible civil society is essential for a well-functioning democracy. Civil society can play an essential role of bridging the gap between governments and citizens.
Civil society should be understood as a broad societal space which can act as a catalyst for political account-ability, social progress and economic prosperity. As a concept, it en-compasses a great variety of formal and non-formal actors ranging from non-governmental organizations, human rights groups, youth movements, social movements, trade unions, individual activists professional societies and cooperatives to cite only a few.
While there is no universal model of democracy, democracies share common features, such as active civil society participation. A democratic society ensures that all citizens are included and actively engage in all processes of governance, including deliberations over public decisions, and the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies and their outcomes. That is why the UN actively supports efforts to empower, expand and engage civil society at all levels of governance and in all aspects of development within a country.
For civil society to thrive, it needs to be given the necessary space to operate freely. An enabling environment for civil society is crucial if we believe that democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in all aspects of their lives. There can be no genuine democracy without focusing on civil society and public participation.