The fifteenth of September marks the annual observance of International Day of Democracy, designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 with the aim of promoting and ensuring the upholding of the principles of democracy.
As stated by the United Nations, “International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. (...) only with the full participation of the international community, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality.”
Democracy is a derivative of the Greek word dēmokratia, which when broken down refers to dēmos (“people'') and kratos (“rule”), or ‘rule by the people.’
Beyond a specific form of institution or government, democracy is founded on a group of shared values and practices that aims to ensures the maintenance of law and order, enhances the quality of decision-making, as well as protects the dignity of citizens.
The sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed health systems all around the world and illuminated the fragile nature of many socio-political and legal systems. As states quickly began to implement measures to minimize the public health and economic impact of the pandemic, issues began to arise. We began to see immense limitations placed on the freedom of expression, the shrinking of civil liberties, detention and prosecution of journalists and activists as well as the postponement of elections.
Hence, on this day it is necessary for States to review the state of their governance, and actively work towards being transparent and ensure that measures implemented during situations of emergency are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.
It must be noted that democracy has no alternative. It is essential for sustainable development, as well as transparent and accountable processes and institutions.
Within that context, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights, as it celebrates International Day of Democracy, affirms its adherence to human rights principles such as Group Rights and the Protection of Individual Autonomy, as well as the right to equality and nondiscrimination, which are key components of a genuinely democratic society.
The Institute urges states to diligently uphold the rule of law, respect and protect the principles of legality and ensure the equal participation of all citizens in political and socio-economic aspects of life, as enshrined in the key international human instruments.
Finally, the Institute appeals to all governments, national governing bodies, individuals and international organizations to intensify efforts to ensure that democracy is a reality for all and subsequently foster a natural environment for the effective realization and protection of every individual's fundamental human rights.