International Day of Democracy 2018: Democracy "under great strain" according to the UN

On Saturday, 15 September we will celebrate the International Day of Democracy. The 2018 editions' theme is "Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World".

Democracy has been celebrated around the world each 15 September since 2007 – the day when, in 1997, the Inter-Parliamentary Union adopted the Universal Declaration on Democracy in Cairo. This declaration lays out the constitutive principles of democracy and defines the characteristics and functions of a democratic government. This year's edition coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, stating that "the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government" (Article 21.3).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres acknowledged that "democracy is showing greater strain than at any time in decades. That is why this International Day should make us look for ways to invigorate democracy and seek answers for the systemic challenges it faces" – hence the name of the 2018 edition: "Democracy under Strain: Solutions for a Changing World".

In this context, the UN further suggests the following avenues for future action:

  • Tackling economic and political inequalities.
  • Making democracies more inclusive by bringing the young and marginalised into the political system.
  • Making democracies more innovative and responsive to emerging challenges such as migration, climate change, and new technologies.

One of the main reasons why democracy is under threat directly touches upon the Better Internet for Kids' (BIK) line of work – social media. Indeed, as highlighted by Zeynep Tufecki, "digital technologies went from instruments for spreading democracy to weapons for attacking it". The fact that some actors conduct disinformation campaigns is nothing new; but Web 2.0 provides them with tools allowing them to reach an incredibly wide audience – including children and young people – with fake news, conspiracies and outrageous opinions, thereby aggravating the political polarisation in many societies and putting democratic systems under strain.

In this context, fostering greater critical thinking and media literacy has been a key objective of many Safer Internet Centres (SICs) within the Insafe network. Such initiatives include the following:

  • Lithuanian Safer Internet Ambassadors have shared best practices to develop media and information literacy in school communities across the country.
  • The Austrian Safer Internet Centre has published a fully-illustrated storybook for children aged 3-6 entitled "The Online-Zoo", aiming to already teach media literacy to the youngest users in a playful, age-appropriate way.


For more information, read the tenth edition of the Better Internet for Kids Bulletin focusing on fake news, search the BIK Resource gallery for more digital literacy resources and visit the United Nations website.


Related news

Conflict prevention for the International Day of Democracy

When it comes to democratic values, prevention has a clear role to play in promoting peace and stability in both the online and offline world. As reflected in our 2016 celebration article, the International Day of Democracy has been celebrated annually on 15 September since 2007 when the United Nations General Assembly set this date aiming to promote and uphold the principles of democracy.

Celebrating the International Day of Democracy

"Let us rededicate ourselves to democracy and dignity for all" were words used by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on this International Day of Democracy, focusing on Democracy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.