The International Day of Democracy takes place annually on 15 September. The purpose of the International Day of Democracy is to raise public awareness about democracy and promoting and upholding the principles of democracy. It was created in September 1997 after the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted a Universal Declaration on Democracy. That Declaration affirms the principles of democracy, the elements and exercise of democratic government, and the international scope of democracy.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU; French: Union Interparlementaire [UIP]) is a global inter-parliamentary institution established in 1889 by Frédéric Passy (France) and William Randal Cremer (United Kingdom). It was the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations. Initially, the organization was for individual parliamentarians, but has since transformed into an international organization of the parliaments of sovereign states. The national parliaments of 178 countries (the last three member countries are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu; Memberships were given during its 137th conference) are members of the IPU, and 12 regional parliamentary assemblies are associate members. The IPU has permanent observer status at the United Nations General Assembly.
The international conferences on new and restored democracies (ICNRD process) also began in 1988 under the initiative of President Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines after the so-called peaceful “People Power Revolution” overthrew the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Initially an inter-governmental forum, the ICNRD process developed into a tripartite structure with participation of governments, parliaments and civil society. The sixth conference (ICNRD-6) that took place in Doha, Qatar, in 2006 reinforced the tripartite nature of the process and concluded with a declaration and Plan of Action which reaffirmed the fundamental principles and values of democracy.
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. Qatar took the lead in drafting the text of a United Nations General Assembly resolution and convened consultations with UN member states. At the suggestion of the IPU, 15 September (date of the Universal Declaration on Democracy) was chosen as the day when the international community would celebrate each year the International Day of Democracy. The resolution entitled “Support by the United Nations system of efforts of Governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies”, was adopted by consensus on 8 November 2007. The IPU urged parliaments to celebrate the International Day of Democracy through some form of special activity, to be held on or as close to 15 September as possible depending on circumstances As an opportunity for parliaments to:
- Emphasize the importance of democracy, what it involves, the challenges it faces as well as the opportunities it offers, and the central responsibility that all parliaments have as the key institution of democracy.
- Examine and discuss how well parliament performs its democratic functions, and identify what steps may be taken to strengthen it’s effectiveness.
To mark the first International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2008, the IPU held a special event at the House of Parliaments in Geneva. National parliaments were invited to organize their own democracy-related activities on that day to highlight the role of parliament as the cornerstone of democracy. In 2013, IPU promoted the International Day of Democracy through its Member Parliaments in 162 countries around the world. As a result, a number of parliaments from all over the globe announced their events to be held on or close to 15 September. The theme for 2013 was “Strengthening Voices for Democracy” and IPU launched an online contest to hear and gather stories from local democracy champions that managed to make their voices heard. These stories were to inspire people to take action in their own community.
In 2014 The theme for the International Day of Democracy Was “Engaging youth on democracy”. During this event the IPU urged action and changes in mindset if disillusioned and alienated youth the world over are to be engaged in political decision-making. The IPU President Abdelwahad Radi stated “It is a cliché to always link youth to the future. Young people not only have the power to define the future, but also decide on the present. However, they are largely absent from formal decision-making politics and this has to change.” The IPU also stated that youth participation had a special meaning for it and that a programme to promote young men and women’s involvement in the democratic process is getting underway, in follow-up to the resolution adopted by the IPU Assembly in 2010. The IPU organised the first Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians on 10 and 11 October 2014 and all parliaments were invited to attend. A photo contest titled “Engage for Change” was also held, encouraging youth to show what action they would take to bring about positive change in society by sending a photo that shows them working for positive change in their community, region, country or the world. The theme for The International Day of Democracy 2015 was: Space for Civil Society.