“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.” – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
The International Day of Democracy provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.
The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has resulted in major social, political and legal challenges globally. As states around the world adopt emergency measures to address the crisis, it is critical that they continue to uphold the rule of law, protect and respect international standards and basic principles of legality, and the right to access justice, remedies and due process. The crisis raises the question how best to counter harmful speech while protecting freedom of expression. Sweeping efforts to eliminate misinformation or disinformation can result in purposeful or unintentional censorship, which undermines trust. The most effective response is accurate, clear and evidence-based information from sources people trust.
Around the world civil society organisations have answered the United Nations's call to action to address and counteract the wide range of ways the COVID-19 crisis may impair democracy and increase authoritarianism, by; developing media literacy and digital safety, more critical than ever as activism is forced online, so as to address the risk of suppression, interference and closing of civic space; fighting misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, which have mushroomed in the crisis; training journalists remotely to report on the impact of the pandemic with in-depth, fact-checked coverage, while staying safe on the front line; empowering women against gender-based violence, which has surged amid Covid-19 lockdowns, quarantines, and social and economic pressures; and helping to highlight the challenges of inequality and weak service delivery made worse by the crisis, with specific focus on the needs and rights of women, youth, minorities and other marginalized populations, so as to help hold governments to account.
We, at the World Assembly of Youth, believe that meaningful democracy requires the meaningful participation of youth. Young people have much to offer societies from innovation to creativity to new thinking. Their participation in democracy promotes active citizenship, strengthens social responsibility and can enhance democratic processes and institutions. And today’s young citizens are tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers.
As our contribution in observing the International Day of Democracy, we, at WAY, seek to participate in promoting democracy in every way possible by having a sense of responsibility, especially towards the youth, that is to protect their rights and ensure that their voices are heard. Since our establishment, we have recognised and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in both our internal and external activities, including discussions, dialogues, and workshops with the aims of supporting and endorsing youth’s participation in the communities. Yet young people’s engagement with democracy faces significant challenges threatening the future of healthy democracies.
On this day, we would like to reiterate our call to all young people to be responsibly courageous in speaking up their thought and opinion, to contribute in making betterment and positive changes for better world of tomorrow.