Amidst Coronavirus pandemic, UN observes International Day of democracy

by Times of India

NEW DELHI: International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world, is how the United Nations explained the purpose of observing the day on Tuesday. Given the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, the resilience and transparency of democracies across the world has undergone a test.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged governments to be transparent, responsive and accountable in their Covid-19 response and ensure that any emergency measures are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory. “The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

Brief history of International Day of Democracy

On September 15, 1997, the “Universal Declaration on Democracy” was adopted by Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organisation of national parliaments. The declaration affirmed the principles of democracy, the elements and exercise of democratic government, and the international scope of democracy.

In 1988 began the process for International Conferences on New and Restored Democracies (ICNRD) as the Philippines overthrew the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon C. Aquino took over as its first President.

In 2006, the sixth conference of the ICNRD that took place in Doha, Qatar, where the organization of national parliaments reinforced its tripartite nature with the participation of governments, parliaments and civil societies.

Following up on the outcome of ICNRD-6, an advisory board set up by the chair of the process – Qatar – decided to promote an International Day of Democracy.

The resolution titled “Support by the United Nations system of efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies” was adopted by consensus on November 8, 2007.

How coronavirus pandemic poses a challenge for democracies

United Nations explains, “The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights.”

UN has raised following concerns in the context of Covid-19:

* Measures to control the flow of information and crackdown on freedom of expression and press freedom against an existing background of shrinking civic space.

* Arrest, detention, prosecution or persecution of political opponents, journalists, doctors and healthcare workers, activists and others for allegedly spreading “fake news”.

* Aggressive cyber-policing and increased online surveillance.

* Postponement of elections is raising serious constitutional issues in some cases and may lead to rising tensions.

How do you contribute to strengthen democracy

The subject of democracy are people. Hence, educating oneself about your rights, duties, campaigning for a strong civil society structure, transparent elections along with actively participating in policy-making, is a way to start.

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