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Celebrating the International Day of Democracy in a Troubled World

September 15 marks the International Day of Democracy, a day established by the United Nations to promote the tenets of democracy: freedom, equality, and human rights. This year’s theme underscores a pressing concern: empowering the younger generation. As the very foundation of our future, the youth’s perspective on democracy will shape our world for decades to come.


A Troubling Global Landscape

Recent reports, such as the Open Society Barometer, have raised alarming findings: young people globally exhibit the least faith in democracy of any age group. Such a revelation not only paints a grim outlook for the current state of democracy but also poses significant questions about its future. Even in Western countries, traditionally considered strongholds of democracy, we are witnessing concerning trends. Declines in press freedom, an increasing concentration of power in the executive branch, and the undermining of judiciary systems are creating an environment where the foundations of democracy are being eroded.


The Pressing Concerns of the Youth

With the looming shadow of climate crisis, an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and a distrust and skepticism towards political leaders, many in the younger generation find themselves grappling with uncertainties. Their pivotal question: Is democracy equipped to navigate the monumental challenges ahead? Their concerns are not unfounded. If democracy cannot address the pressing challenges of our time, its relevance in the eyes of the younger generation may wane.


The Heroes in the Shadows

In the backdrop of these challenges, human rights defenders, journalists, and activists continue their tireless work to protect democratic values. Their efforts, often at significant personal risk, shed light on abuses of power, corruption, and human rights violations. They persist, driven by the conviction that an informed public is crucial to the survival of any democracy.

Their resilience in the face of adversity is admirable. However, admiration alone won’t protect them from the growing threats they face. For many journalists and activists, the price of truth has been harassment, intimidation, and even their lives. Their sacrifices underscore the dire need for international mechanisms and support structures to ensure their safety.

The global community must intensify efforts to provide tangible assistance to these defenders of democracy. Financial support, training, protective measures, and even international sanctuary when needed, are all essential to making the freedom of expression a reality rather than just an abstract concept. If we are to truly honor the International Day of Democracy, we must not only celebrate our shared democratic ideals but also act decisively to protect those who champion them.


Making Freedom of Expression a Reality, Not Just a Concept

On this International Day of Democracy, the call to action is clear. We must find sustainable ways to support those who champion democratic principles and, crucially, address the concerns of the youth.

The freedom of expression should not remain a mere concept but must be a living reality, accessible to all without fear. As we engage in dialogue and reflection today, let’s remember that democracy is not static; it must evolve and adapt to the needs of every generation. As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wisely stated, “Democracy does not happen by chance; it has to be achieved and renewed by each generation.” Today, let’s renew our commitment to that ideal, ensuring it resonates with, and delivers for, our youth.

DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.

Publish Date
September 15, 2023