To commemorate the international days of Democracy and Universal Access to Information, the University of Guyana (UG) yesterday unveiled a mural, which it has dubbed the “Democracy Wall.”
Painted and designed by students Elodie Cage-Smith, Collis White and Rayann Darrell, the mural, located on the western end of the Natural Sciences building on the Turkeyen Campus, is intended to serve as a canvass for the inscription of views on the significance of the two days.
UG’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith and European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana Jernej Videtič were the first and second persons, respectively, to sign the mural, after inscribing their concepts of democracy.
The launch of the ‘Democracy Wall’ was a collaborative effort between UG and the EU.
Delivering the feature address at the simple ceremony yesterday, Videtič said that democracy goes far beyond the idea of merely casting ballots in an election. He told the small gathering of students and staff members that democracy must be seen as “a whole way of life.”
He said democracy can be exemplified by simply solving disputes in the classroom through dialogue, as opposed to fighting, as well as by insisting as citizens that “our leaders serve us, and not themselves.”
According to the Ambassador, the International Day of Democracy, observed on September 15, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 and represents an opportunity to promote the principles of democracy, by inviting states and organisations to appropriately commemorate the day to raise public awareness.
Videtič said that the EU is founded on a strong engagement to promoting democracy and the rule of law worldwide and added that “sustainable peace and stability, long term development and prosperity cannot exist without respect for democratic institutions.”
Such commitments to democracy, he said, underpins both internal and external qualities of the EU. He noted that the EU’s democracy policy encompasses “civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”
The Ambassador said it is the belief of the EU that democracy is the only political system which can fully realise all human rights even as he reminded that democracy is an ongoing process which has to be carefully nurtured.
Underscoring that democracies are not always perfect, Videtič said that it is the essence of democracy “to be aware of the shortcomings and realise that it is never achieved once for all, hence the need for constant care and a critical and vigilant eye.”
The ambassador said the EU stays committed to democratic reforms, so much so that it “remains a leading global actor in deploying election observation missions, earmarking 45 million euros annually, as well as providing electoral assistance, funding projects of more than 180 million euros in 39 partner countries in the last few years.”
While echoing the ambassador’s sentiments, Vice-Chancellor Griffith stressed that the rights conferred by democracy must conform to concomitant responsibilities, even as he drew the nexus between democracy and access to information.
Griffith noted that to have the accentuation of rights without responsibilities “is to be doing only part of the pursuit of democracy.”
Quoting from the late Nelson Mandela, Griffith noted that “an educated, enlightened and informed population, is one of the surest ways of promoting the health of a democracy.”
The International Day of Democracy and the International Day for Universal Access to Information, were celebrated on September 15 and 28, respectively.