15 September 2009

SAHA celebrates the International Day of Democracy

In 2009, South Africa celebrates fifteen years since the birth of its democracy. With this in mind, SAHA both recognizes and lauds the celebration of the second International Day of Democracy on 15 September in South Africa, Africa and the world. SAHA, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights and basic freedoms for all citizens, sees democracy as the basis for social justice and socio-economic development.

In November 2007, the United Nations declared 15 September as the International Day of Democracy. This date was chosen to correspond with the September 2007 adoption by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of a ‘Universal Declaration on Democracy.' In the UN resolution A/62/L.9, where recognition of this day was enshrined, the need to strengthen democratic values within society was recognized. Democratic principles involved the recognition of "all human rights and fundamental freedoms."

While different democracies shared common characteristics, there was "no single model of democracy" as each political system had to take into account cultural diversity and relative level of development. To commemorate the 2009 celebration of the International Day of Democracy, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon argued that democracy was "not only an end in itself." It was a powerful driver of "economic and social progress, international peace and security and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms."

For the African Union, 15 September was significant, particularly in light of calls for the endorsement of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, written by the AU. This charter was adopted in January 2007, and by 15 September 2009 it had been signed by 26 African countries, and ratified by Mauritania and Ethiopia. The charter recognized strengthening democratic principles as pivotal to the amelioration of political, environmental, economic and public health problems facing the continent. This required good governance and popular participation within a system which promoted free, fair and transparent systems of transparency from public representatives.