On the occasion of the International Day of Democracy: Making Democracy Work for the Maldives
By Tony E. Lisle - UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Maldives.
In 2007 the United Nations General Assembly resolved to observe 15 September as the International Day of Democracy—with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy. This year’s International Day of Democracy falls amidst decisive political transitions, prolonged economic challenges and dramatic social changes in the Maldives. There is a critical need to strengthen people’s voices in how they are governed, and ultimately decide the future they want.
In his statement this year, the UN Secretary-General calls on leaders to hear, respect and respond appropriately to the voices of the people, whether expressed directly or through elected representatives. The Secretary-General also calls on the world’s citizens to think about how they can use their voice to not only take control of their destiny, but to translate their desires and the desires of others into a better future for all. Participation therefore, is fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society. Inclusion of all -- women, persons with disabilities, children, other vulnerable groups, as well as marginalized communities in the Maldives -- in decision-making processes is an essential precondition.
The United Nations has been a long-standing partner in advancing democracy in the Maldives. Our focus has been on creating spaces for dialogue and discussion, strengthening institutional capacities and coordination, and promoting participation and inclusion. The UN has extended support to advance human rights, and the rule of law. We have been working with all stakeholders, including democratic institutions, government, media and civil society, and have contributed towards promoting tolerance, acceptance and respect for the principles of equity, participation, transparency and accountability across different groups.
As the Secretary-General said in his Freedom Lecture at the University of Leiden in August this year, the way to build stable, democratic, free and united societies is to listen to the concerns, demands and hopes of the people. As we look beyond this important Presidential Election to the local and parliamentary elections which will follow closely, political differences needs to be resolved through dialogue, reconciliation and compromise to the greatest extent possible, to ensure the country is on the path towards a united, just and democratic nation.
We have seen in the last few days signs of progress in the democratic agenda, not only from the high level of participation in the election, but also in the fact that despite challenges and diverging views, people are making efforts to utilize the democratic system in moving forward. It is evidence that political and community leaders, and civil society actors are working together to strengthen confidence in democracy and institution. The progress of democracy is in the best interest of every man, woman and child in the Maldives. In marking this year’s International Day of Democracy, let us use all our energy and creativity to advance this mission. The United Nations will continue to support the Maldives’ aspirations to consolidate democratic processes.