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  Events on the occasion of the
  International Day of Democracy 2008

To mark the first International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2008, the IPU held a special event at the House of Parliaments in Geneva. National parliaments were invited to organize their own democracy-related activities on that day to highlight the role of parliament as the cornerstone of democracy.


Mr. A.B. Johnsson, Mr. S. Ordzhonikidze and Mr. D. Turk President D. Turk addressing the meeting Professor Benjamin Barber

On 15 September 2008, the IPU hosted a panel discussion bringing together democracy experts, politicians and practitioners to interact with diplomats, representatives of civil society and the media as well as university students. The panel took place from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at the House of Parliaments.

09.30 - 09.45Introductory session. Welcome messages from:
  • Mr. Anders B. Johnsson, IPU Secretary General
  • Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva
09.45 - 10.00Brief introduction of the panel and panellists by Moderator, Ms. Muriel Siki (Swiss Television TSR)
10.00 - 10.15Video message from Mr. Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, and President of The Carter Center
10.15 - 12.10Presentations by panellists:
  • Mr. Danilo Turk, President of Slovenia
  • Ms. Marta Lagos, Executive Director of LatinoBarómetro
  • Mr. Benjamin Barber, political theorist, writer, President of CivWorld

Debates with the audience.
12.10 - 12.20Summing up by the Moderator
12.20 - 12.30Closing remarks by the IPU Secretary General
12.30 - 13.30Possibility for media to interview panellists

The panel sought to stimulate debate on the challenges facing democracy today. It addressed a number of issues, including:

  • What are the main challenges that democracy faces today and how should they be addressed? How is democracy affected by globalization and today’s consumer society, the new information and communication technologies and the virtual world in which we increasingly live, the emergence of new forms of social organizations such as civil society organizations, to mention but a few examples?
  • How do parliaments and other political actors and processes perform in this environment? Are they adapting to today’s world? What can and should they do to meet the challenges facing democracy?
The following documents pertaining to the panel can be downloaded from this website:

Concept paper    PDF [English] [French]
Registration form    PDF [English] [French]
Universal Declaration on Democracy    HTML [English] [French]
Message of the IPU Secretary General, Mr. Anders B. Johnsson    PDF [English] [French]
Speech of Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva    PDF [English]
Speech of Mr. Danilo Turk, President of Slovenia    PDF [English]
Speech of Ms. Marta Lagos, Executive Director of LatinoBarómetro    PDF [English]

Recordings of the following parts of the event held at the IPU on 15 September 2008 are available in video streaming format:

Message from the former President of the United States of America, Mr. Jimmy Carter
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Extracts of the panel discussion


National parliaments were invited to celebrate the International Day of Democracy 2008 through their own democracy-related events and organize some form of special activity on or as close to 15 September as possible.

Last updated on 12 October 2008   
CountryDescription of event
AfghanistanThe President of the Wolesi Jirga read out a special message during the parliamentary session on 15 September, underlining the commitment to implement the principles of democracy in Afghanistan. School and university students were able to raise questions on democracy during a special discussion on ‘Peace and Democracy’ that was organized by the Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs. It was decided that similar discussions should be conducted in the future in order to provide more information to teenagers and hence establish a real spirit of democracy.
AlgeriaA conference-debate took place on the theme ‘The role of parliament and parliamentarians in promoting democracy in our country’. The conference was open to the media, political parties and civil society organizations.
AndorraOn 15 September the President of the Parliament read out the Catalan translation of the Universal Declaration on Democracy in the presence of parliamentarians, ministers and other State authorities. There was broad media coverage of the event.
AustriaTogether with the Austrian Museum for Social and Economic Affairs, the Austrian parliament prepared an exhibition entitled "Demokratie hat Geschichte" (Democracy has a history). The exhibition was officially launched on 15 September 2008. It will travel to schools in all federal provinces of Austria, and is expected to reach a total of 50,000 pupils before the end of the 2010 school year.
Primarily, this travelling exhibition is to hone youngsters’ awareness of the fact that democracy and the parliamentary system are not a matter of course but rather constitute values that must be protected. This in turn calls for well-informed citizens willing to take an active role in shaping the future of their country. The exhibition, which describes key stages in the history of Austria’s parliamentary system, as well as the tasks and workings of the federal legislative organs, was conceived as a source of basic information and as an impulse to explore this issue in greater depth.
BelarusA Day of Open Doors was organized to mark the first International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2008. It was conducted with the broad participation of the representatives of general public, mostly youth, invited to get acquainted with the work of the Parliament. The Chairman of the Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs and National Security met with the guests and answered the questions on democracy-related issues.
BelgiumFrom 8 September, the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate organized an exhibition to celebrate the 60th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections. Members of the public visiting parliament on 15 September were briefed on the International Day of Democracy and were given documentation about the Day in French and Dutch.
Burkina FasoOn 14 September, five members of parliament representing the different parliamentary groups participated in a special report on democracy during the 8 o’clock news programme on Burkinabe national television. A media campaign promoting democracy ran on national television and in leading newspapers. A democracy-related game was organized on the national radio station.
BurundiDuring the parliamentary recess, a series of workshops were organized to enable members of the National Assembly and the Senate to examine how parliament fulfils its democratic functions and to assess parliamentary performance. The workshop on 15 September focused in particular on the notion of democracy, and concluded with the declaration on the subject.
Parliament will celebrate the International Day of Democracy at the opening of its next session on 6 October.
CroatiaOn 15 September, the President of the Croatian parliament opened an exhibition on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy.
EthiopiaThe first International Day of Democracy was celebrated in Addis Ababa by a joint programme of both Houses of Parliament in collaboration with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Ethiopian Ombudsman Institution. They organized a symposium, attended by more than one hundred participants from governmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society and other democratic institutions, that discussed "The Role of Democratic Institutions in Building a Democratic System".
FinlandThe IPU group in the Finnish parliament organized an "IPU open day" in celebration of the International Day of Democracy.
GermanyThe constitutive meeting of the Parliamentary Council on 1 September 1948 was the subject of a commemoration hosted by the President of the Bundestag, in the presence of the President of the Bundesrat.
The annual "Day of Insights and Outlooks" took place on 14 September. This is an open day, when the Reichstag building and the surrounding buildings are opened to the public. Individual members of the Bundestag and employee’s of the Bundestag’s administration answer questions and give insights into their parliamentary work.
GreeceTwo celebrations took place. On 14 September, there were festivities at the first Parliament of Greece, in Nafplion. The President of the Hellenic Parliament made the opening speech, followed by excerpts from the memoirs of Theodoros Kolokotronis and General Makriyannis read out by the actress, Anna Synodinou.
On 15 September 2008, at 18:30 p.m., a Special Session was held at the level of Party Leaders in the Plenary Hall of the Parliament, in the presence of the President of the Republic, the President of IPU, Mr. Casini, foreign Ambassadors accredited to Greece, as well as State authority representatives. A special publication prefaced by the President of the Parliament, Mr. Dimitrios Sioufas, together with the text of the IPU Declaration on Democracy in Greek and in English, and the relevant resolution of the UN General Assembly will be sent to all schools located in the country, which will also be called upon to celebrate the International Day of Democracy.In addition, the Parliament opened its doors to the public on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 September
HungaryA parliamentary resolution marking the International Day of Democracy was adopted on the first session day of the Parliament, 15 September. An exhibition of democracy-related publications was arranged in the Parliament.
IndonesiaThe House of Representatives promoted the International Day of Democracy on the radio and in high schools. A photo exhibition took place on 15 September at the parliament building with the theme, the road to democracy in Indonesia. In the afternoon there was an open house event for high school students, with a speech by the presiding officers of the Indonesian parliament and the launch of a civic education programme for youth by the parliament. The students held a simulation of a working session of a parliamentary committee, with students playing the role of parliamentarians and the minister of the environment.
LatviaThe celebration of the International Day of Democracy in Latvia is closely related to celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Latvia (on 18 November 2008). On 19 September, all public institutions held an open-house day during which the main emphasis was on the open-house day in the Saeima (parliament). Visitors had an opportunity to see rooms in which meetings are held with the heads of other parliaments, states, and governments, as well as ambassadors, and other top officials. Members of the Latvian national group at the Inter-Parliamentary Union told visitors about Inter-Parliamentary Union and its functions. Visitors also had an opportunity to see historical materials from the Saeima Archives.
LithuaniaAn international scientific conference on 4 September, "The Genesis of European Parliamentarianism and the Lithuanian Case", was dedicated to the International Day of Democracy. The conference, attended by members of parliament, historians, political scientists and journalists, analyzed the origins, the main features and the characteristics of parliamentarianism as a system of government, and the evolution of the Lithuanian case in the context of European parliamentarianism.
The International Day of Democracy was also commemorated during a plenary sitting of the Seimas on 15 September.
MaldivesThe IPU Maldives Branch organized the following events:
  • An art exhibition depicting themes and messages on democracy produced by secondary school children
  • Broadcasting a discussion forum on democracy organized by members of the Maldives National Youth Centre
  • Telecasting a video documentary produced by Television Maldives in collaboration with the People’s Majlis Secretariat portraying how democracy has evolved in the Maldives.
MexicoBoth Chambers of Parliament, led by the Senate, heard statements and agreed to promote 15 September as the International Day of Democracy in Mexico.
MonacoA press release about the International Day of Democracy was posted on the parliamentary web site, with the Universal Declaration on Democracy.
MongoliaThree activities were organized:
  • An "Open door" day in Parliament
  • A photo exhibition – The Road to Democracy
  • Open door days at the Centres for the Promotion of Parliamentary Activities in 20 aimags/provinces and 7 districts of the capital city Ulaanbaatar.
NamibiaOn 15 September, there was a live interview on the National Broadcaster’s "Good Morning Namibia Show" on the importance of the International Day of Democracy. That evening, there was a Panel Discussion of experts on the National Broadcaster’s TV programme "Talk of the Nation" debating on the topic "Is the Namibian Parliament Democratic?"
As the National Assembly resumed for business on 16 September after a recess period, the Namibian Parliament celebrated the International Day of Democracy on Thursday, 18 September 2008, with topical presentations from various groups of the society, including the judiciary, the national electoral body, civil society, private sector NGOs, academicians and members of parliament. The Honourable Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Speaker of the National Assembly, delivered the key-note address of the day.
New ZealandA Motion was adopted by the House of Representatives recognizing 15 September 2008 as the International Day of Democracy and affirming its commitment to the principles of democratic parliaments. An Open Day took place on 14 September, providing an opportunity for a self-guided, self-paced look through much of the parliamentary buildings, with staff being available along the way to direct people and provide information. There were hourly talks, activities for children such as a mural competition, and a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of services provided by the Parliamentary Library.
PakistanThe Speaker of the National Assembly, and Acting President of Pakistan, Dr. Fehmida Mirza issued a statement stressing the continuing need for the promotion of democracy and the development of the political system in Pakistan.
PhilippinesA privilege speech on democracy was delivered in the Senate, and democracy-related documents were provided to Senators and Senate officials. An essay writing contest for Senate officials on the promotion of democracy and an exhibition were also organized.
QatarCelebrations were organized at the Permanent Delegations of Qatar to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva, and at Qatari embassies in the five countries that hosted the previous International Conferences of New and Restored Democracies (Philippines, Nicaragua, Romania, Benin, Mongolia). Qatar is currently the chair of the Sixth International Conference.
Speaker H.E. Mr. Mohamed Bin Mubarak Al-Khulaifi delivered a speech to the Advisory Council on the importance of democracy as a means of good governance, stability and dialogue. He also held a dialogue with the media on means of making parliaments and the political process in general more transparent, accessible, accountable and effective.
RomaniaTwo events took place on 16 September:
  • a speech on the significance of the Day, with particular emphasis on the IPU’s contribution to the promotion of democracy and on the role of parliaments, in general - to be delivered in the plenum of the Senate by a representative of the Executive Bureau of the Romanian IPU Group;
  • a Day of Open Doors for students in political sciences
Special sections were published on the web pages of both chambers, with information and links to the IPU Universal Declaration on Democracy and other relevant documents.
San MarinoThe Captains Regent addressed a message to parliament about the International Day of Democracy on 15 September. The message, along with the Universal Declaration on Democracy, was also sent to the national press and television channels for wider dissemination.
SerbiaA special ceremonial session of the National Assembly was held on 15 September in the presence of the President and the Prime Minister of Serbia.
SlovakiaParliament celebrated democracy and the International Day of Democracy on 16 September, which is the 160th anniversary of the establishment of the National Council of the Slovak Republic.
South AfricaA group of 10 Members of Parliament were deployed to do radio interviews on the issue to mark the significance of the day. It was foreseen that Presiding Officers of the two Houses of Parliament issue a joint statement on the day. Motions to mark the International Day of Democracy were planned to be placed on the Order Papers of both Houses and passed on the first sitting day after 15 September 2008. The Presiding Officers were asked to make a statement at the start of the People’s Assembly to be held in Mpumalanga Province on 17 September.
SwitzerlandOn 15 September, the presidents of both chambers of parliament (the National Council and the Council of States) dedicated their opening speeches to the International Day of Democracy.
ThailandThe National Assembly organized an exhibition on democratization in Thailand and the International Day of Democracy. A special web site was created, that includes the webcast of the meeting between the President of the National Assembly with provincial local community leaders in northeastern Thailand under the ‘Parliament meets the People’ programme.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of MacedoniaStudents and interested citizens were able to visit the parliament during "Open Doors" day, organized in cooperation with a local NGO.
A workshop on "Parliamentary public hearings and the Law on Parliament" was organized in cooperation with the National Democratic Institute (USA).
The Assembly also hosted a Panel discussion on the Universal Declaration on the Democracy, which brought together parliamentarians, diplomats, academics, representatives of the Government and democracy experts. The whole event was broadcasted by the parliamentary television channel.
TogoThe National Assembly organized a debate on the role of parliament in promoting democracy, and the challenges it faces. The debate was presided by the President of the National Assembly, in the presence of parliamentarians and leading personalities from the political, diplomatic and academic spheres.
TurkeyThe Speaker of the Grand National Assembly delivered a message on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy.
United KingdomA new guide for the public "Parliament and You" was launched in September. A special Parliamentary Democracy fact sheet was publicized, containing a look through the election of MPs, the appointment of peers, democratic scrutiny parliament watching the government, representation etc.
United States of AmericaThe IPU, in cooperation with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the House Democracy Assistance Commission, held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 18 September, focusing on human rights abuses against parliamentarians around the world and how these impact on the democratic process. Participants included members of the US Congress, professional staff and academia, as well as a group of legislators from Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia and Timor Leste, participating in a bilateral exchange program that week.
UruguayThe parliament of Uruguay celebrated the International Day of Democracy in a number of ways:
  • A vote was held to adopt a resolution whereby each 15 September is commemorated as the International Day of Democracy in Uruguay.
  • The Senate conducted a series of activities with local parliaments, international agencies and diplomats on the theme of democracy.
  • On 15 September, there was an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly, comprising both chambers of parliament, such that a legislator from each party can express his/her views on the topic.
  • The House of Representatives sent posters of the Universal Declaration on Democracy to more than 2,400 schools and 450 secondary schools across the country. A CD of patriotic songs frequently sung in schools and colleges as well as a text on the Universal Declaration was also distributed.
  • An essay competition was organized for upper schools on the phrase that appears on the upper walls of the General Assembly, which read as follows: "My authority emanates from you and it ceases before your sovereign presence." ("Mi autoridad emana de vosotros, y ella cesa ante vuestra presencia soberana") (José Artigas, national hero and founding father of the country).
  • For a certain time, the phrase "A parliament does not guarantee democracy, but there can be no democracy without a parliament" appeared on all official documentation issued by the House (except legislative bills).
ZambiaMembers of the IPU national group in the Zambian parliament explained the objectives of IPU and the International Day of Democracy in radio and television programmes on Parliament Radio and the Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation.
Pupils from "Parliament clubs" in schools around Lusaka participated in an event at parliament on 15 September, where members of parliament made presentations on democracy topics, followed by a question and answer session.
Events at the United Nations
An informal one-hour session of the United Nations General Assembly took place of 15 September. Speakers included: outgoing General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; former President of Chile Ricardo Lagos, a representative of Qatar on behalf of the International Conference of New or Restored Democracies (ICNRD); a representative of Portugal on behalf of the Community of Democracies.
The UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) organized an Information Event at the Dag Hammarskjold Library on 15 September, with a keynote address by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Information Event explained how UNDEF operates and hear from voices from the field undertaking UNDEF funded projects. There was a Question and Answer session with members of the UNDEF Board.
A Round Table on "Democracy for Development – Development for Democracy" was organized on 12 September by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), the United Nations Department for Political Affairs (DPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Round Table sought to identify areas of policy for multilateral action in the current global context – especially by the UN – in the field of democracy promotion and support that would enhance sustainable development processes. Key recommendations from the meeting were conveyed to the special informal plenary of the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly on 15 September.
International IDEA
  • To celebrate the International Day of Democracy, 15 September, International IDEA organized a series of activities that highlight the link between democracy, development and diversity.
  • Together with Riksteatern, Sweden’s national touring theatre, and the UNDP, International IDEA organized a Democracy Talk Show on 15 September that blended policy-related discussions important to the Swedish and international publics with cultural performances that highlight both the opportunities and challenges of democracy in an increasingly complex world.
  • A panel discussion on "Electoral Processes and Democracy Building: Experiences from the Arab Region" was organized by International IDEA, Italy and Qatar. The Arabic translations of "The International IDEA Electoral System Design Handbook" and "The International IDEA Electoral System Management Handbook" was launched on this occasion.