Seoul, Korea – On this day 15 September 2018, the Asia Democracy Network welcomes the celebration of International Democracy day extending appreciation and solidarity to all democracy advocates who stand for democratic principles around the world. On this auspicious occasion it’s vital to acknowledge regression as well as progress on the front of defending and promoting democracy. This year, we are at a critical juncture where it is necessary for democrats in the region to renew our commitment to uphold and further promote and maintain democratic culture.
This year, the region had a tremendous victory in democracy advocacy when Malaysians took to the polls to vote out the 60 year reign of the country’s ruling party. This change came about through peaceful, free, and fair elections opening up an opportunity for enhancement of democratic principles. The region also noted the positive development toward political change in Pakistan, with a new popular government taking rule however, much is still left to be done.
As there is much to celebrate, there is also much to be concerned when it comes to democracy. Globally we are seeing a regress in the public’s faith in democracy and its principles. Which raises much alarm as with the decline of democracy we are witnessing a decline in upholding fundamental rights. Asia is no exception, in our region we have seen an increase of authoritarianism, political turmoil, public disharmony and insecurity. The advancement of technology has brought about insecurity and intolerance in different countries.
Despite benefits of new technological platforms, global society is faced with challenges as it has become the breeding ground for intolerance mainly targeting minorities and the vulnerable including in the countries that have been hailed champions of democracy. However, there is still much hope for the sustainability of democracy. That hope would be the strong civil society that is still present across Asia ready to continue the movement for human rights and democracy. Civil society is vital as it is in the strategic position to convince the government in upholding its democratic commitment in their national policies and international relations.
The rising economic and political influences of neighboring countries like China and India should be treated as an opportunity to consolidate and strengthen democratic principles in the region rather than framing it as pragmatic that harms current democratic practice. Civil society must step up the game and become creative in the approaches and as a region take the initiative to set the agenda that is customized to Asia’s current needs in progressing democracy.
Finally, in commemorating International Democracy Day ADN stands in solidarity with the oppressed and persecuted for expressing their free thoughts and choosing to take action for what they believe in. We stand with you and we are committed to continue the fight for freedom and justice for all.