It’s around us every day, though we often pay little attention to it. It’s given us a new form of government that gives the power to the people, and it’s reshaped entire countries, led to revolutions in how we think, and freed whole populations from tyrannic rule. Today, on September 15, we celebrate International Day of Democracy. The United Nations created the holiday to celebrate the system of values democracy promotes, which give citizens the power to make decisions regarding all aspects of their lives. The UN’s goal is to promote government’s role in maintaining open democracy among all member nations of the UN Charter. When we think of democracy, we often think of its origins in Athens and Rome. However, anthropologists have uncovered evidence that suggests humans have been practicing this form of free expression and group decision making as far back as pre-agrarian societies. Over thousands of years — and much trial and error — we’ve arrived at the free forms of government found all over the world today.
Why International Day of Democracy is Important
A. It gives the power to the people
Though many different forms of democracy have cropped up over the centuries, at its foundation, democracy gives a voice and a power to all citizens to make changes as they see fit. This enabled new economic theories to emerge, and ultimately lead to a world of innovation and improvement.
B. It allows for change
A cornerstone of democratic societies is that they have the power to make change — if necessary. In principle, if things are going well, citizens have the power to maintain the status quo. But if things start to go south, it’s up to them to interrupt that pattern, and start anew.
C. It’s based on equality
The founding documents of democratic governments put great emphasis on equality — one person, one vote, no matter who you are. While this has been seen to wax and wane within democracies over the centuries, it has nonetheless been a central tenet of democratic governments around the world.
How to Observe International Day of Democracy
1. Get involved
Every year, the UN holds official events all around the world that spread awareness about a specific idea that democracies can help support. Past themes have included encouraging young people to take part in democracy, addressing sustainable development, and promoting civility within societies. Learn more about this year’s theme and events and see what you can do to take part.
2. Learn about democracy’s bumpy history
From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the dark ages and Enlightenment, and onward to today, the spread of democracy has played a pivotal role in the development of the world we know today. Sit down with a good book or choose a documentary that will help you understand this powerful way of thinking and governing.
3. Become a better citizen
As a member of a democratic government, you wield the power — if you choose to. Democracy is both a goal and a process, and to take part, you must learn that process. Thanks to digital advancements, it’s now easier than ever to learn how to contact representatives, cast votes, and take part in other pillars of democracy.
International Day of Democracy - Key Moments
The US Constitution
The document establishes the principles of democracy in the United States of America
French revolutionaries' overthrow the last monarchy in France (and sentence the last monarch, Louis XVI, to death by guillotine)
King John of England cedes absolute power by signing the Magna Carta. Doesn't create a democracy, but an organization with the seeds of parliamentarian government