Nearly 400 people gathered in the Swedish Parliament on Wednesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of International IDEA on 16 September.
As well as representatives from all 28 Member States, the event was attended by Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, his Excellency Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and former Secretary-General of the United Nations. The event was co-hosted by the Speaker of the Parliament Urban Ahlin.
In his opening remarks International IDEA’s Secretary-General Yves Leterme said anniversaries like these are a good opportunity to look back and to look forward.
“Twenty years after the End of History, with more than 400 targeted publications and having implemented effective assistance programs in some 40 different countries around the globe, we have a more nuanced view”, Leterme said, referring to Francis Fukuyama’s book End of History.
“We now recognize that democracy is permanently challenged and never fully achieved or guaranteed for the future”.
Delivering the keynote speech, Annan, who was Secretary-General of the UN between 1997-2006, said that even though the past 20 years have been a period of unprecedented democratization much work remains and new threats to democracy have formed.
“Economic inequality is deepening. Pandemics threaten the health of entire regions. And we grapple with the disturbing consequences of our changing climate”, he said. “Perhaps the greatest danger, however, is the seeming inability of leaders and institutions of democratic governance to effectively respond to these threats. As a result, faith in democracy itself is eroding, and many are looking for facile alternatives”.
During the event, HRH Crown Princess Victoria presented the award for International IDEA’s 20th Anniversary Essay Competition to Gillian Miswardi. In addition to the prize, Miswardi won a six-month internship at IDEA’s office in Stockholm. Her essay, entitled “Digital Media: A Double-Edged Sword for Representative Democracy”, is available online.
The second part of the event was a panel discussion focusing on Regional Developments and Future Perspectives which included Margot Wallström, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Brigalia Bam, former Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Minister J. A. Dias Toffoli, President of the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Surin Pitsuwan, Former Secretary General of ASEAN and Ambassador Hesham Youssef, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The panel was moderated by Karin Gardes, IDEA’s Director for External Relations and Governance Support.
In his concluding remarks Leterme said that the efforts to strive for “ever more, ever deeper and ever more inclusive democracy” were not simply idealistic. “I am convinced that we can assist governments to give a better life to more people on this rich planet; step by step and always reminding our counterparts of the universal human aspiration for popular control over political decision-making”.
The celebrations in the Swedish Parliament were one of the events this week marking the 20th anniversary of International IDEA.
On 15 September, International Democracy Day, high-level representatives from all 28 Member States met for the 9th Extraordinary Session of the Council of Member States. The Council Session was held at International IDEA headquarters in Stockholm and was chaired by Mr Didier Burkhalter, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, as the Chair of the Council of Member States in 2015.
The Member States reaffirmed their commitment to IDEA by adopting the Declaration of the International IDEA Member States on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy 2015. In the Declaration, Member States re-iterated their support to IDEA's mandate and mission, and underlined the interlinkages between democracy and human rights.
"We, the Member States, reaffirm our strong and continued engagement and support for International IDEA and its non-prescriptive approach and reaffirm our commitment to its mandate and the principles expressed in the Statutes of International IDEA, which state that democratic participation forms an integral part of human rights and that democracy remains essential for guaranteeing human rights, that sustainable democracy, democratic governance, access to information, accountability and transparency remain central elements of national, regional and international development commitments and that strengthening democratic institutions and democratic norms remains a vital goal in itself and a key component in conflict-prevention and peace-building efforts."
The Member States also expressed their confidence in the future directions set for International IDEA and shared their hopes for the organization in the future:
"We, the Member States, note with appreciation the increased scope and depth of International IDEA’s programmes and activities, both in terms of geographical presence and range of issues addressed, which illustrate the growing demand for International IDEA’s assistance. We express our support to an expanded, geographically balanced and complementary membership of International IDEA and encourage the organization to continue responding to the evolving nature of requests for support and the growing need for supporting and strengthening the capacity of democratic actors at all levels."
"We, the Member States, confirm the relevance of the future directions set for International IDEA and express pride in the achievements, and confidence in the prospects and the strategic position of International IDEA as an important actor on the international democracy landscape."