1 March 2012
Community of Democracies
Remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
at the Opening Session of the Governing Council
of the Community of Democracies
Thursday, 1 March 2012, Room XXIII
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to address you this afternoon. I am pleased to have this opportunity to strengthen our partnership. Further cooperation will be required if we are to continue meeting the challenges of democracy globally.
These are remarkable times for democracy, and the Secretary-General has identified supporting nations in transition as one of the priority areas for the United Nations.
The challenges of the past year, as complex as they have been, have also opened up opportunities that must not be squandered. We must all take this opportunity to support countries in transition, ensuring that the best practices of peacebuilding, human rights, the rule of law, national reconciliation and democratic practices are put to use. Our collaboration in this field must be broad-based, including regional organizations, international financial institutions and other stakeholders. Most importantly, it must aim to put ordinary people back on their feet, and back in control of their countries.
The empowerment of people that we are seeing across the world is truly remarkable. The Arab Spring has been a great step forward, empowering millions of people. These movements have been home-grown, and we are working to support these efforts. With technical assistance from the United Nations, Libyan authorities are preparing for the first elections that most people in the country will ever have experienced. Very few people would have believed that this would be possible even just half a year ago.
But democracy is of course much more than just elections. It is an ongoing challenge that must be responsive to our populations. As the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has pointed out, a key lesson of the past year is that leaders must listen: listen to the voices of the people, to understand and respond to their hopes and aspirations. Even in established democracies, we see a malaise manifested for example through the ‘occupy’ protests. Effective representation, accountability and issues of equity remain central to democracy. Your focus on intercultural dialogue during the last Ministerial Conference in Vilnius is particularly appropriate in this regard. But further challenges remain: in a world in which women drive 62 per cent of activity on networking sites such as facebook, but only account for some 20 per cent of parliamentarians globally, there is clearly a mismatch that we must deal with. We should not shy away from innovative approaches, but must stay current with new ideas and technologies that empower our citizens.
The Community of Democracies, with a collective wealth of experience, has a great deal to contribute. Under the Mongolian Presidency, I hope that your work in sharing experiences also with non-Members can continue.
Supporting effective democracy is central to our work in the United Nations, and I am confident that our cooperation can grow in the coming years. I value that you have chosen for the Governing Council to meet also here in Geneva. The United Nations family here has unique experience in the different facets of democratization, which I believe can be of benefit to the Community of Democracies. The debates in the Human Rights Council over the past few days have also served to highlight the pivotal role that Geneva plays in supporting human rights and the rule of law.
I encourage you to continue this engagement so that we together can strengthen our support for democracy across the world.