“Strong and healthy democratic societies rely and thrive on equality, freedom, good governance, dignity, inclusiveness,” said Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), speaking on the eve of the International Day of Democracy (15 September).
“We are living through extraordinarily challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a serious challenge to the very essence of our democracies. The situation has intensified the lack of trust in our institutions, further exacerbated social and digital divides, inequalities and marginalisation of the most vulnerable. Europeans aspire for more equality, transparency, justice and sustainable solutions, especially in the face of global threats such as the health and climate crises,” he added.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary mobilisation. We must reach out to citizens to renew and strengthen the links between them and their governing institutions. We need to address the threats to democracy – marginalisation, isolation, corruption, bad governance – and restore trust. Innovative models of inclusive and pluralist democracies must provide inspiration for the meaningful participation of citizens in the decisions that affect their everyday lives. Citizens must be able to put their trust in a forward-looking and human-rights compliant political agenda. Transparent systems of checks and balances, open democratic electoral processes, as well as practices that allow for citizens’ participation in deliberation between elections need to be ensured,” he said.
“Our Assembly has shown resilience through these challenging times. We continued to provide a space for dialogue between democratically elected representatives and European citizens. We shifted focus to be able to respond to the needs of national parliaments and our citizens for solutions which address the impact and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in a comprehensive way. In a true democratic spirit, our Assembly and the 47 national parliaments it brings together continue to support and drive forward the Council of Europe’s political agenda by providing a forum where all voices are heard, all views are debated and decisions aim to strengthen democracy, human rights and rule of law,” he concluded.