September 15 – International Day of Democracy

Democratic Governments from 1900 to 1950

World Map Showing Democratic Governments from 1900 to 1950

2014 Theme: Engaging Young People on Democracy

Let us contemplate today as to where democracy stands in our modern times? The classic definition of democracy that we learnt is to have a government for the people, of the people and by the people. This means it is a form of government in which people choose their rulers. Democracy makes for a universal system where everyone can freely express their will to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. In modern times democracy allows people to elicit their full participation in all aspects of their lives.

Today democracies share many common features but there is really no single model of democracy. The basic feature of democracy is the capacity of all voters to participate freely and fully in the life of their society. With its emphasis on notions of social contract and the collective will of all voters, democracy is characterized as a form of political collectivism. On the other hand representative democracy is equated with the republican form of government that may encompass both democracy and aristocracy – UK remains a classic example of this form.

Democracy contrasts from other forms of government where power either is held by an individual (monarchy) or by a small number of individuals (oligarchy). Several variants of democracy exist, but two basic forms are more prevalent. One form is direct democracy in which all eligible citizens have direct and active participation in the political decision making. In the other form, the whole body of eligible citizens remains the sovereign power but political power is exercised indirectly through elected representatives and is known as representative democracy.

The United Nations culls out activities in support of Governments to promote and consolidate democracy in accordance with the UN Charter. The UN General Assembly encourages Governments to strengthen national programmes devoted to promotion and consolidation of democracy. For this purpose the UN celebrates 15 September each year as International Day of Democracy. Year 2014 addresses the theme: Engaging Young People on Democracy by highlighting challenges and opportunities for young people engaged in democratic processes.

Today, all over the world youth constitute one fifth of the world’s population. In developing countries this proportion is still higher. Majority of young people today are living in under developed countries. However, increasingly studies are showing declining faith of young people in politics. With each passing year there seems to be a decrease in levels of participation in elections, political parties and social organizations across the world. This fact is true for both established and emerging democracies.

On the other hand it is also true that several educated youth-led movements for democratic change are on the rise in a number of countries. These technology savvy democratic groups are using new communication channels through social networks making a mark on democracy-building through unconventional ways. So from the time of the Greeks in 5th century BCE who build up this political form, modern social media networks take Democracy to a new level. The social media now is abuzz with political thought of the day! The Inter-Parliamentary Union thus proudly promotes International Day of Democracy through Member Parliaments of 162 countries round the world. Long live Democracy!

“I call on members of the largest generation of youth in history to confront challenges and consider what you can do to resolve them. To take control of your destiny and translate your dreams into a better future for all.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Democratic Countries in 2000

World Map Showing Democratic Countries in 2000