Today is the International Day of Democracy, a commemoration of the date twenty years ago that the Inter-Parliamentary Union passed the Universal Declaration on Democracy, affirming the principles of democratic governance, including public accountability and respect for rule of law. This year, the United Nations marks the day under a theme of “democracy and conflict prevention,” highlighting the importance of citizen engagement and empowerment in conflict mitigation and peace-building. Programs such as ABA ROLI’s support for women’s participation in governance in the Central African Republic or its facilitation of citizen engagement in Libya’s constitutional process help build toward sustainable peace in those countries and in turn enhance security globally.
At a time when democratic values are challenged throughout the world, it is important to remind ourselves of the difference these values make — how respect for human rights and the rule of law help make the world more stable, secure, and prosperous. In a letter sent this week to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, ABA President Hilarie Bass urged that he continue to prioritize these values in U.S. diplomacy and development assistance.
It is easy to argue that countries should put their own interests first or that imperfect democracies shouldn’t promote freedom and democratic rights for all. But the International Day of Democracy is a chance once a year to remember that the values of democratic governance are universal, that all people deserve to have access to justice, opportunity, and human rights wherever they may live, and that efforts to advance these rights serve all our interests.
Happy Democracy Day!
Associate Executive Director and Director, Rule of Law Initiative
American Bar Association