International Day of Democracy, September 15

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International Day of Democracy, September 15

Post  Sirop14 on Thu Sep 15, 2016 7:49 am

International Day of Democracy, September 15

Democracy in Seychelles and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Ms RöhslerFour days ago, the people of Seychelles elected new members of their National Assembly. Today – the International Day of Democracy – is a fitting time to celebrate progress and consider how democracy in Seychelles can be further nurtured.
Why is democracy important? Well, there are many answers to that question. In my experience, when people feel they have a choice about the bigger things in society, they tend also to feel more empowered in other aspects of their lives. If your choice is taken away or ignored, it’s easy to look to big brother and expect him to do everything else for you. That way lies a society that weighs heavy on the governing few, as well as those they govern.
Of course, it can be challenging when almost half of the people choose one thing and half choose another. The UK referendum on “Brexit” – a binary issue of whether to remain in the EU or not – means that a significant number of people will find themselves living in circumstances they didn’t want. That’s democracy: its success depends on a certain degree of acceptance and compromise.
In the National Assembly election, while candidates who lost and those who voted for them may be disappointed, overall you have an Assembly that broadly represents the views of the voting population. Differing opinions on policies affecting everyone can be debated and refined by representatives of the general public. That means there needs to be regular dialogue between MNAs and those they represent. In the UK that is done through a weekly ‘surgery’ – a day Members of Parliament spend in their constituency office seeing ordinary people to hear about their problems and opinions. It also, importantly, allows the public to hold their MP to account. What would you ask your MNA to do or say in the National Assembly? How will you make him or her aware of your views, and how will you follow up?
At the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon underlined the vital contribution parliamentarians would make to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda – the UN Sustainable Development Goals: “People will look to you to hold your governments accountable for achieving the goals, and to write the laws and invest in the programmes that will make them a reality,” he said.
Sustainable Development Goal 16 addresses democracy by calling for inclusive and participatory societies and institutions. It aims to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The Goal is both an end in itself and a crucial part of delivering sustainable development in all countries. It has been seen by many commentators as the transformational goal and key to ensuring that the Agenda can be accomplished. Seychelles has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals, and they would make a good agenda for the National Assembly.
The National Assembly is a significant and vital part of Seychelles’ democracy; my impression is that most people can see that, while it may be challenging for one party to govern (the executive) and another holds the majority in the legislature, it is a better scenario than one party dominating both. While you, the public, can do your bit to ensure accountability, the international community is ready to help too. For example, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association links the Assemblies and Parliaments of all Commonwealth countries and shares experience and best practice around the world. Subject to an invitation from the Speaker of the National Assembly, I know they are only too happy to visit, and would work not only with the Assembly but also discuss with young people, through a schools outreach programme, how they can support democracy. I wish all the MNAs, and those who support them as clerks and other officials, success working together to develop Seychelles for the benefit of all its people.

Caron Röhsler
British high commissioner


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