Launch of the International Democracy and Peace Day Celebrations

14 Sep 2012

Your Excellency, President of the Senate;
Your Excellency Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies;
Honorable Ministers;
Members of Parliament and Senior Government Officials here present;
Heads of Diplomatic Missions and Development Partners;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with great pleasure and privilege that I address you today for the launch of the International Democracy Day and International Peace Day Celebrations.
On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, I wish to salute the Government and the People of Rwanda for their hard work in building a democratic and peaceful state which we all celebrate today.
On 8 November 2007, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 15 September as the International Day of Democracy, inviting Member States, the United Nations System and other regional, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to commemorate this day each year.  
Today we look back on yet another year of remarkable events in the story of democracy – a story that continues to be written by people who yearn for dignity and human rights, for an end to corruption, for a say in their future, for jobs, justice and fair share of political power.
While democracies share common features, there is no single model of democracy. It is important to acknowledge that democracies are not born overnight, nor are they constructed by holding one or two elections. Democracies are about acceptance and respect for the principles of equity, participation, transparency and accountability. It is also about the respect for human rights and the rule of law. This is why the UN supports not only the electoral process but a wide range of democracy initiatives.
Approximately USD 1.5 billion each year is provided through UNDP to support democratic processes around the world, making the United Nations one of the largest providers of technical cooperation for democracy and governance globally.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, clearly projected the concept of democracy by stating “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”  The Declaration spells out the rights that are essential for effective political participation. Since its adoption, the Declaration has inspired constitution-making around the world and has contributed greatly to the global acceptance of democracy as a universal value.
The UN considers the following to be among the essential elements of democracy:

•    Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
•    Access to power and its exercise in accordance with the rule of law
•    The holding of periodic free and fair elections by universal suffrage as the expression of the will of the people
•    A pluralistic system of political parties and organizations
•    The separation of powers and independence of the judiciary
•    Transparency and accountability in public administration and;
•    Free, independent and pluralistic media

The Government of Rwanda acknowledges that the ultimate goal of democracy is to preserve and promote the dignity of its people, achieve social justice while strengthening social cohesion. The Government has further prioritized “Accountable Governance” as a pillar for sustainable development of the country. Many reforms have been put in place or are underway. Principal examples include the adoption of the decentralization policy, the reform of the justice, rule of law and order sector, the public sector reform, and more recently, the media sector reform.

Rwanda is also widely hailed for having the successful implementation of the gender policy and more specifically largest percentage of females in parliament world over. It is becoming increasingly evident that having a critical mass of women in leadership and decision-making positions is positive for human development in all countries – whether developed or developing, and whether countries are living in peace, recovering from conflict, or in the process of a democratic transition. We also take this opportunity to appreciate all the opportunities given to the youth through education, employment and active participation in local and national decision making processes. The role of youth in promoting peace, democracy and good governance cannot be undermined for it is now becoming obvious that the future of Africa lies in good leadership and those responsible are without dispute, young leaders.  
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here today because we recognize that democracy cannot be attained without peace and it is in this regard that the International Peace Day marked every 21st September will be equally celebrated in the week-long events.  The United Nations Peace Day provides an important opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It is a day for all people to come together in a spirit of hope and possibility, with a unifying spirit of Peace and unity. The International Peace Day transcends beyond politics, religion, race, nationality, class or any other dividers.
In this regard, UNDP is committed to continue working with the Government of Rwanda to foster inclusive participation and strengthen the political processes with the purpose of increasing informed and pluralistic participation. One such strategy has been through the “Inclusive Participation in Governance” Programme of UNDP which works with different stakeholders here today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year’s theme for the UN is focusing on education which coincides well with the emphasis of this week’s celebration with policy dialogue sessions in various universities.  The UN peace theme for 2012 is “sustainable peace for a sustainable future”. In Rwanda, we celebrate both events under the theme “Dialogue and Inclusiveness: Central to Democracy and Sustainable Peace.”
Let us therefore not cease to encourage the youth to get involved for as the saying goes, “youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but partners of today”. The Former Secretary-General of the United Nations rightfully put it, “a society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline”.
As we celebrate these events with due attention to dialogue and inclusiveness, let us all recall that Rwanda has various dialogue platforms and inclusiveness strategies which give us ample opportunity to enjoy our rights and contribute to national development. Let enjoy the peace and democracy we are benefiting from and use adequately dialogue and inclusiveness to make them sustainable.

 I thank you for your attention.