In recognition of the International Day of Democracy on September 15, we reaffirm the right of every citizen to take part in the processes of democratic self-governance. Democracies are accountable to their citizens. They respect the Rule of Law, protect lives and property, and respect the freedoms, dignity, and equality of every person.
Democracy remains the aspiration of people all over the world because each of us yearns to be free. From the time we are children, we instinctively assert our ability to self-govern, to make decisions that shape our lives. As citizens, we understand that we must be free to engage others in debates over the wisdom of the decisions of leaders to whom we entrust the power to protect our lives, our property, and our freedoms. And, as human beings, we know we cannot go it alone. Democracies are inclusive communities of individuals who are free to work together to accomplish goals they have freely chosen, and they flourish because freedom unlocks the talents and creativity of all.
Today, the world reels from one of the greatest public health crises in modern times. Democracies, authoritarian governments, and dictatorships are equally challenged by the coronavirus pandemic, but only democracies are free to debate openly how to respond. Authoritarians of every stripe, meanwhile, remain true to form. Their first priority is not public health, but the protection of their own power. They refuse to answer hard questions. They sow disinformation, scapegoat vulnerable groups, expand mass surveillance, and suspend the rule of law. People suffer when their leaders are accountable only to themselves or to the parties they control.
Democracies, by contrast, thrive in times of adversity. Because of freedom of expression and the equality of all persons before the law, citizens of democratic societies are able to confront public health problems together. Individuals in democratic nations demand access to information so that they can protect themselves and others. And societies that embrace equality before the law live out that belief by taking active steps to promote the full participation and protection of all people.
Democratic governance is far from perfect, but it certainly beats the alternatives. Democratic societies respect human rights and are more peaceful, prosperous, and secure. We stand with people everywhere who seek to live freely, safely, and with dignity under democratic governments.