United Nations | Xinhua | UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for efforts to strengthen democracy in face of future crises by learning from COVID-19.
“As the world struggles to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating consequences, we must learn from the lessons of the past 18 months to strengthen democratic resilience in the face of future crises,” he said in a message for the International Day of Democracy, which falls on Sept. 15 each year.
This means identifying and developing good governance practices in situations of emergency — whether public health, environmental or financial, he said.
It means addressing the egregious global injustices laid bare by the crisis, from pervasive gender inequalities and inadequate health systems to unequal access to vaccines, education, the Internet and online services. Along with the profound human toll borne by those most deprived, these persistent historical inequalities are themselves threats to democracy, he said.
Strengthening democracy also means embracing genuine participation in decision-making, giving a real voice to people and communities that have traditionally been excluded, he said.
Safeguarding democracy means phasing out emergency powers and laws as the worst of the pandemic subsides. Some states and security sector institutions rely on emergency powers because they offer shortcuts. With time, such powers can seep into legal frameworks and become permanent, undermining the rule of law and consuming the fundamental freedoms and human rights that serve as a bedrock for democracy, he said.
“On this International Day of Democracy, as we look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, let us commit to a future in which we recognize human rights and the rule of law as fundamental to democracy. Let us commit to safeguarding the principles of equality, participation and solidarity, so that we can better weather the storm of future crises,” said Guterres.