Today, 15th September 2018, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Democracy under the theme; Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Challenging World, and to take stock of the key milestones achieved towards strengthening and consolidating democracy.
The day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2007, with the aim of promoting and upholding the Principles of Democracy, a system that has come to define the vast majority of UN Member States.
In this respect, SADC re-affirms the United Nations General Assembly’s observation that democracy is a universal value, which upholds the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems, and their full participation in decisions that affect their welfare. The region also notes that while democracies across the world share common characteristics, no single model of democracy can be considered to be ideal for all contexts. As such, our experiences and expectations of democracy across the world may be shaped by our unique historical and cultural contexts as nations and regions of the world.
The late 1980s witnessed an unprecedented wave of democratic transitions from single party states to multiparty systems in Many African countries. The amendment of the SADC Treaty in 2001 further spurred Member States of our newly formed regional body to approach democratic development in a coordinated and strategic manner. The SADC Treaty enjoins us to build common democratic institutions based on shared political values, human rights and a common developmental vision.
It is pleasing to note that there have been significant steps taken by Member States to support democratic development through the creation of mechanisms that seek to secure this democratic dispensation through the sustenance of peace and stability. Across the SADC region, we see smooth transfers of power and people having the right to choose their leaders through free and fair elections. The region has also made great strides in allowing civil society and the media to provide checks and balances. These are some of the gains the region has made in entrenching democratic systems and we need to consolidate these gains. The 38th SADC Theme; Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development calls for youth participation in the development process. As we commemorate this day, we must take into account the needs of the youth and ensure that they active participants in the democratic process.
As we move further into this new Millennium, I call upon the region to continue to be guided by the strategic vision set out in the SADC Treaty and its Protocols in order to strengthen efforts at developing more inclusive political and economic institutions, which ultimately provide the basis for fostering not only a sustainable democracy – but also a sustainable human development as integral elements to regional integration.