Celebrating International Day of Democracy in Pakistan
In 2007, a United Nations General Assembly resolution encouraged member States to strengthen national programs for the promotion and consolidation of democracy and decided that September 15 should be observed annually as the International Day of Democracy. The theme of the 2015 International Day of Democracy is “Space for Civil Society,” providing the opportunity to remind electoral stakeholders that the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society.
To mark International Day of Democracy, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Pakistan organized a seminar on civil society engagement in social and political life in Pakistan. At the seminar, avenues for expanding the space for civil society and enhancing the engagement of civil society organizations with State institutions were crosscutting topics of discussions among all the presentations. Sixty-seven participants attended the seminar, including representatives from the Election Commission of Pakistan, civil society and the international community.
Civil society representatives spoke about the evolution and role of civil society in Pakistan, with a particular focus on women; inclusion of persons with disabilities; assisting government institutions with research and analysis; and holding the government accountable. Key themes from the seminar included:
- How civil society has evolved into taking a rights-based approach to advocacy;
- How civil society can support informed policy making through research and demanding freedom of information; and
- How civil society organizations stand stronger when applying the same transparency and accountability standards to themselves as the government.
The seminar also served as a networking platform for civil society organizations and election officials, with a constructive environment that allowed an open exchange of ideas. Recommendations that were provided at the seminar will be used to improve strategic thinking and larger advocacy campaigns.
IFES Pakistan and its local sub-awardees also engaged in several other activities in September to celebrate International Day of Democracy, including:
- Special posts on Pakvoter’s social media platforms to highlight the history and purpose of International Day of Democracy;
- Pakvoter.com featured an in-depth article on International Day of Democracy;
- Pakvoter.com hosted a blog post writing contest, encouraging participants to write about democracy, elections or their own experience engaging in political and electoral processes in Pakistan;
- A radio program from IFES’ partner the Special Talent Exchange Program, which discusses the state of democracy in Pakistan with a focus on the participation of persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes; and
- During the month of September, 23 events took place in universities across four provinces to highlight International Day of Democracy.
This IFES-facilitated event was made possible by the generous support of the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the European Commission, and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
Since 2002, IFES has provided technical and commodity assistance to strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions. This has included assisting the Election Commission of Pakistan in poll worker training, building the capacity of legislators to perform civic functions, polling voters to assess opinions of elections, reforming the voter registration system, partnering with national civil society organizations to educate rural women about voting procedures and increasing stakeholder knowledge of the electoral dispute resolution process.