On 15 September the United Nations observes the International Day of Democracy. There is no single model of democracy exemplified by a given country or region; rather, democracy is a universal value based on the freely-expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. But ultimately, democracy is about people, about their full participation in all aspects of life, about inclusion and equal treatment, about dialogue between the society and its political representatives.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” (article 21.3), inspiring the global acceptance of democratic values and principles. It is built on equal treatment and respect for all, to safeguard people’s rights and human dignity.
Democracy is also a fundamental building block for advancing peace, human rights and development. It rests on foundations that are built over time, such as; strong institutions, responsible and accountable government, a free and responsible press, the rule of law and equal rights for all men and women.
Sri Lanka has a long and proud democratic tradition. It is important that the voices of bigotry or extremism, those fostering discrimination, violence, hate speech or intolerance are not allowed to tarnish the strong democratic values of Sri Lankan society.
Democratic societies foster inclusion and build trust by listening to communities that feel threatened or left behind. Policies that emerge through democratic processes should respond to the growing fears in marginalised communities and offer rule of law responses to any sense of impunity that can undermine social cohesion.
The civic and political participation of women and young people is vital to ensure leadership and decision making that is truly representative and inclusive – more needs to be done to provide them the democratic platforms they need.
Inclusive societies are the foundation of democracy and is the best chance to ensure decisions and policies that truly leave no one behind.