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. Yet since the beginning of the crisis, we have seen the emergency used in a range of countries to restrict democratic processes and civic space. This is especially dangerous in places where democracy’s roots are shallow and institutional checks and balances are weak.
The crisis is also highlighting – and aggravating – long-neglected injustices, from inadequate health systems to social protection gaps, digital divides and unequal access to education; from environmental degradation to racial discrimination and violence against women. Along with the profound human toll, these inequalities are themselves threats to democracy.
Well before the pandemic, frustration was rising, and trust in public authorities was declining. A lack of opportunities was driving economic unease and social unrest. Today, it is clear that Governments must do more to listen to people demanding change, open new channels for dialogue and respect freedom of peaceful assembly.
On this International Day of Democracy, let us seize this pivotal moment to build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable world, with full respect for human rights.