Ombudsman message on the International Day of Democracy 2021 Strengthening democratic resilience in the face of future crises |16 September 2021
On International Day of Democracy in this Year Two of the Covid-19 pandemic, we dedicate our reflection to the state of our democracy and the need to strengthen its resilience in the face of future crises.
We are all, the international community as well as national governments and citizens, called to action to address and counteract the many ways the pandemiccan impair democracy and open up a path to authoritarianism. By opening the door to misinformation, disinformation and hate speech, by suppressing, interfering with and closing civic space through lockdowns and quarantines, and through increased social and economic pressures, Democracy is in danger the world over.
Let us be reminded that in 1993, “We, the People” considered that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness free from all types of discrimination would be most effectively maintained and protected in a democratic society in which all powers of Government would spring from the will of the people.
The people hold that power and lay claim to a society where fundamental rights and freedoms are respected and protected through democratically elected representatives and through a respectful and effective working relationship between the three arms of government – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
The Ombudsman also forms part of and contributes to this democratic system by serving as an independent and autonomous ‘quality assurance controller’ tasked with inspecting the effectiveness and efficiency of our public service. The Ombudsman’s role is vital to upholding democracy, which is done through the checks and balances of administrative practices and decisions that ensure transparency in the process, accountability of the results and good governance in the outcome.
Through its quality checks and investigations into complaints of maladministration, the Ombudsman holds our government and public authorities and public officers accountable to the international standards of best practices and helps to highlight the challenges of inequality and weak service delivery made worse by the Covid crisis. The Office ensures that in delivering public services every public authority treats citizens and the general public fairly, justly and without discrimination in line with the laws and regulations, and the policies and administrative guidelines.
Democracy is an ongoing process that requires the collective and sustained contributions of everyone. For democracy to take root and build resilience in these difficult times, we also need the people, as citizens of our country and the world, to play a central role in upholding it and respecting our duty to safeguard it. Government for the People, with the People, by the People makes us all duty bound to report maladministration where we see it and to challenge policies, laws and regulations that are wrong or unfair. As individuals, we must exercise our rights while fully subscribing to our responsibilities and duties to recognise the rights and respect the dignity of others and to uphold the rule of law. The Constitution makes it our duty to always strive towards fulfilling the aspirations contained in its Preamble.
In return, the public can expect and demand an accountable public administration and the right to a fair, open, accountable and effective public service, and a right to redress in case of failure. Any public service that falls short of these values will be neither effective nor fair and is ultimately a threat to democracy.