Today, September 15, is International Democracy Day. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to this effect in 2007, focusing on the growing significance of democracy in the world today.
This year, the UN is focusing on celebrating the Democracy Day as an ‘International Day of Peace & Democracy: Making Your Voices Heard’. In many parts of the world, various debates, forums and parades are being organized to celebrate the ‘triumph of democracy’ against tyranny and authoritarianism. International Parliamentarians Union (IPU) is convening their member parliamentarians to make democracy work in legislatures.
It is true that many more countries around the world have embraced democracy as a form of political governance. The recent efforts in Myanmar signal that trend, after its rise in the Arab world and North Africa during the past couple of years. Governments, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Mayors and others are democratically elected by voters around most countries of the world today. Yet, the practice of electoral democracy is not satisfying the citizens.
In Egypt and Tunisia, electoral democracy is in turmoil because elected representatives didn’t pay heed to the voices of all citizens. In Cambodia, several thousand citizens came on the street to protest against voting fraud in recent parliamentary elections. In Moscow mayor’s elections, many voters came out in support of the candidate who was denied victory. In recent opinion polls on ‘war on Syria’, most citizens in America and UK disagreed with their elected President and Prime Minister.
These stories illustrate that democracy is not merely about capturing state power through elections. Democracy is about listening to the aspirations and concerns of all citizens in a sensitive and open manner. Democracy is about valuing opinions and analysis of those who may have lost an election, but still have wide public support to their ideas and programmes. Democracy is about respecting differences in everyday life.
Therefore, making your voice heard is every citizen’s responsibility if democracy has to work well in society and governance. More than that, democracy will work best when such voices, howsoever disagreeing and different, are respected, heard and taken into consideration with authenticity.
These different voices represent different forms and expressions of knowledge—different modes and articulations of knowledge from diverse experiences, locations and perspectives. This is the essence of ‘knowledge democracy’—a movement that respects multiple modes, forms, sources and idioms of knowledge production, representation and dissemination.
Knowledge democracy is the bedrock for authentic democracy in everyday life—in society and in governance.
Rajesh Tandon September 15, 2013