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Guterres urges strengthening democratic resilience against future global crises

by Haruna Gimba
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By Asmau Ahmad

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the world to learn from the lessons of the past 18 months, to strengthen democratic resilience in the face of future crises.

In his message on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy, António Guterres explained that in the wake of COVID-19, this meant identifying good governance practices that could counter all kinds of emergencies, whether public health, environmental or financial.

“It means addressing the egregious global injustices laid bare by the crisis, from pervasive gender inequalities and inadequate health systems to unequal access to vaccines, education, the internet and online services,” he said.

For the UN chief, along with the human toll carried by those most deprived, “these persistent historical inequalities are themselves threats to democracy.”

The UN secretary-general argued that strengthening democracy also meant embracing participation in decision-making, including peaceful protests, and giving a voice to people and communities that have traditionally been excluded.

“The silencing of women, religious and ethnic minorities, indigenous communities, people with disabilities, human rights defenders and journalists is an impediment to creating healthy societies,” Guterres said.

He further stressed in the message the importance of phasing out emergency powers and legal measures by governments, which in some cases have become repressive and contravene human rights law.

Some States and security sector institutions relied on emergency powers because they offer shortcuts, he noted while cautioning that with time “such powers could seep into legal frameworks and become permanent, undermining the rule of law and consuming the fundamental freedoms and human rights that serve as a bedrock for democracy.”

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the secretary-general warned that “every crisis poses a threat to democracy, because the rights of the people, in particular those most vulnerable, are all too quickly ignored.”

It is for that reason that protection of rights in times of crisis is a key element of his Call to Action for Human Rights, issued in February 2020.

As the world starts to look beyond the pandemic, Guterres called on the international community to “commit to safeguarding the principles of equality, participation and solidarity,” so that it can better weather the storm of future crises.

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