16 september 2020

— In a message marking the International Day of Democracy, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “As the world confronts COVID-19, democracy is crucial in ensuring the free flow of information, participation in decision-making and accountability for the response to the pandemic. Yet, since the beginning of the crisis, we have seen the emergency used in a range of countries to restrict democratic processes and civic space. … Governments must do more to listen to people demanding change, open new channels for dialogue and respect freedom of peaceful assembly. On this International Day of Democracy, let us seize this pivotal moment to build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world, with full respect for human rights.”

Others marking the day included Anders Knape, president of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, who said, “If democracy is the foundation on which our common values are based, it is at the level closest to citizens, within our cities and regions, that local democracy offers a unique opportunity to engage citizens in decision making. That is why we must defend it and ensure that democratic principles are respected at all levels of governance: European, national, regional and local.” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, “Democratic governance is far from perfect, but it certainly beats the alternatives. Democratic societies respect human rights and are more peaceful, prosperous, and secure. We stand with people everywhere who seek to live freely, safely, and with dignity under democratic governments.” Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu tweeted, “Greetings on the occasion of #InternationalDayofDemocracy. Democracy gives voice to the common man and ensures that all are equal before the rule of law. I appeal to everybody to strengthen the foundations of Indian democracy and make it more vibrant.”

— The New York Times says that the “celebration” of the UN’s “accomplishments has been overshadowed by a pandemic and rising world tensions. Worldwide contagion, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a warming planet — not to mention rising hunger, growing legions of refugees, xenophobic bombast from strongmen leaders and a new cold war between the United States and China.” The Times says the marking of the UN’s 75th anniversary “will be muted, and not only because world leaders will be unable to gather in person to raise a glass — the pandemic has reduced the General Assembly beginning this week to virtual meetings.”

— The Stimson Center has proposed “an ambitious, yet realizable ‘International Rule of Law Package’ of reforms meant to significantly enhance the integrity of the international governance system,” arguing that “key international justice institutions — the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the UN’s Human Rights architecture — should be strengthened in terms of both their jurisdiction and effectiveness. In addition, the UN75 anniversary represents an opportunity to pave the way for new institutions to fill existing institutional gaps.”

— Amnesty International denounced the arrest of its Kenya chairperson Renee Ngamau, with Amnesty International Kenya’s Executive Director Irungu Houghton saying, “Amnesty International condemns the arbitrary arrest of our Kenya Chairperson Renee Ngamau. We believe she was targeted simply for as acting as human rights defender to protect public land. The Kenyan Police Service must end harassment, intimidation and attack on Renee Ngamau, human rights activists and public land defenders.” The organization says Ngamau was arrested on September 14 for rallying neighbors to peacefully oppose private development on public land designated as a playground.

— Democracy Without Borders used the opening of the 75th United Nations General Assembly to highlight its August study recommending “the establishment of a citizen-elected UN body. According to the Berlin-based international group, a UN Parliamentary Assembly would help ‘promote global collaboration and democracy’ at a ‘critical time.'” The group also released a video statement from Swiss Sen. Daniel Jositsch supporting a global parliament:

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