SAID is excited to celebrate today with the global community the International Day of Democracy, and this year's theme is, "Space for Civil Society." U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls civil society "the oxygen of democracy." Recently, August 25-27, the 2015 NGO Conference was held at the UN. The idea came as a result of the need to celebrate the relationship between NGOs around the globe and the United Nations. This was to mark and celebrate 70 year relationship between the United Nations and Civil Society on the historic anniversary of UN’s 70th anniversary.
The event was also inspired by the need among global NGOs to connect, network and share information among themselves and with the UN. The celebration reflected the theme for the celebration which was: Honouring the Past, Recognizing the Future, Imagining the Future. The Conference was regarded as one of the best ways to build the voice of strong civil society at the United Nations well into the future As the beginning statement from the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon describes civil society as “the oxygen of democracy”. This could not be better expressed and SpringAid International Development (SAID) agrees completely with this description.
Throughout the world, different activities are organized yearly to mark and celebrate the International Day of Democracy. These activities organized by government and nongovernmental organizations are all aimed at promoting democracy. Events marking the day include conferences, rallies, panel discussions, press conferences and other activities. The UN works to achieve peace, respect for human rights and the development of peoples. It believes that human rights and the rule of law are best promoted and protected in democratic societies. Furthermore, the UN recognizes and emphasizes that democracy is the product of a strong civil society. This was why on November 8, 2007, the UN general assembly declared that September 15 is the annual celebration of the International Day of Democracy.
The UNin resolution A/62/7 (2007) encouraged Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy. It is a way governments can use to strengthen and consolidate their democratic program in accordance with the UN Charter. The International Day of Democracy was first celebrated in 2008. The UN general assembly recognized that the year 2008 marked the 20th anniversary of the first International Conference of New or Restored Democracies, which gave people a chance to focus on promoting and consolidating democracy worldwide.
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. While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy. This year is exciting for civil society as the world prepares to implement a new development agenda, agreed to by all the world’s Governments. We know that the space is shrinking for many civil societies in many countries that is why this year’s time is greatly important. Some Governments are enacting laws and policies that limit the ability of NGOs to truly be change makers, to do their work and receive funding.
In Nigeria, many NGOs have no space at all and any responsive government would see to it that such a space exists. “That is why the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy is "Space for Civil Society." It is a reminder to Governments everywhere that the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society -- in which Government and civil society work together for common goals for a better future, and at the same time, civil society helps keep Government accountable”.
SAID has marked this Day by a panel discussion in collaboration with 12 other NGOs at its office in Owerri. In order that civil society may truly be a genuine voice for democracy; the organizations who promote democracy must themselves have a strong intern democratic culture. Barr Francis Igiriogu MSC Director of Advocacy, (SAID), Nigeria.