On democracy day, UN seeks more roles for civil society


Ban Ki-Moon

IN commemoration of this year’s International Day for Democracy, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has called on governments to provide enabling environments for the smooth operations and contributions of the civil society groups in deepening democracy, even as the world governing body again praises Nigeria for the smooth transition from a ruling party to the opposition.

Mr. Ki-moon in a statement delivered yesterday by the country director of the UN Information Center (UNIC), Mr. Ronald Kayanja, expressed dismay over actions capable of inhibiting activities of the groups, saying without them, democratic practice would prove impossible. Kanyaja was hosting gender-based groups under the aegis of The Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality (STAGE) for Women Coalition, as part of the activities marking the 2015 Democracy Day in Nigeria.

According to K-moon, vibrant and stable democracies would be achieved where governments and civil society work together for common goals. “Civil society acts as catalyst for social progress and economic growth. It plays a critical role in keeping government accountable, and helps represent the diverse interests of the population, including its most vulnerable groups.

“The role of civil society has never been more important. Soon we will start to implement an inspiring new development agenda, agreed by all the world’s government.”

Curiously, the UN does not have in its charter ‘democracy’ and the decision-making organ of the body, the Security Council, has come repeatedly under criticism over lack of democratic credentials, particularly as regarding veto-wielding permanent members, it however, started marking every September 15 as World Democracy Day since 2008. The theme for this year’s anniversary being “Space for Civil Societies.”

But insisting that the body remains the major single supporter of democracy, the Nigerian country Rep noted that without democracy it would be extremely difficult to guarantee global peace and harmony. “Nigeria in particular is a pace setter in this regard. The May 29 smooth transition delighted the UN and the world in general. We are delighted that the country lived up to its billing. We congratulate Nigeria yet again for achieving this feat. We may have to still remind ourselves that such smooth transition is yet uncommon on the continent of Africa.

Making a case for adequate women political representation, he said to improve and sustain the democratic gain, “I will be happy if at least 18 women are elected state governors in not too distant future,” he said to the delight of various gender activists present. The activists include Mrs. Amy Oyekunle, coordinator Forum for African Women education, Prof Virgy Onyene, President/CEO of the Initiatives for Sustaining Gender Empowerment, Mrs. Hilda Nwanekwu, and deputy director in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mrs. Ijeoma Okey-Igbokwe.

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