Countries around the world have much to learn from San Marino's democratic system, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday, lauding the European nation's efforts to strengthen its Government while listening to the demands of its citizens.
"Monday we celebrate more than the investiture of two leaders. Here, in the oldest republic in the world, we prove the enduring power of democracy," Ban said at the inauguration ceremony of the two newly elected Captains Regent, who rotate every six months as the heads of State.
Ban noted that San Marino's system of having two heads of State at once is an example of how not all countries must follow the same type of democratic system.
"Other countries can learn from your model. The lesson is not that they should have two heads of State who rotate every six months. The lesson is that each country should adopt whatever model of democracy works for them - as long as it truly empowers all citizens," he said.
Ban also praised San Marino's system that allows citizens to make petitions to the Captains Regent on topics of public interest. He noted that engaging with civil society is particularly important in countries where a lack of communication between the government and its people has led to social unrest.
"I am deeply disturbed by the growing pressures and restrictions on civil society groups in some countries. Authorities have introduced troubling legislation making it almost impossible for civil society organizations to operate. Champions of democracy are up against new confrontational measures," Ban said.
"I have repeatedly called on leaders to listen to their voices. Listen carefully what their people's genuine aspirations are, and how leaders can help them realize their aspirations. The past two years have taught us that you cannot ignore the voice of the people. Demands for justice cannot be silenced," he added.
Ban encouraged San Marino to share its experiences and act as a global citizen, helping spread transparency and civic engagement beyond its borders. He also pledged his full support to help raise the profile and take into account the views of small States like San Marino, which is the third smallest country in Europe.
The Secretary-General's visit to San Marino is the first stop in his five-nation European trip. He will next travel to Andorra and Monaco, two countries that are commemorating the 20th anniversary of their membership in the UN. That will be followed by Spain and the Netherlands.