-- The 34 countries that will participate in a June 5-7
inter-American meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have
pledged their mutual cooperation to better deliver the benefits
of democracy to the Western Hemisphere.
The pledge, made in a "Declaration
of Florida," issued June 1, restates a theme of the
Fort Lauderdale meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization
of American States (OAS) that democracy is the best political
system for guaranteeing human rights and achieving social
and economic development. The United States is hosting the
OAS General Assembly meeting of the region's foreign ministers
for the first time since 1974.
The declaration calls on the OAS Permanent
Council to develop "further means" of ensuring
that civil society organizations can present their views
and advice to the OAS on a "systematic and regular
basis" on issues pertinent to the Inter-American Democratic
The Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted
in September 2001, declares that "the peoples of the
Americas have a right to democracy and their governments
have an obligation to promote and defend it."
The June 1 declaration said the OAS secretary-general
will develop a draft plan of action for strengthening the
Charter, and that the OAS Permanent Council should examine
how it can address threats to democracy "in a timely
fashion, anticipating crises that might undermine democracy."
The full text of the declaration is available
on the OAS Web site.
The U.S. mission to the OAS said in a March
9 working paper that the Inter-American Democratic Charter
"sets forth basic principles for preserving and consolidating
democracy in the hemisphere." The charter is a "firm
commitment" by the OAS member states "to help
all citizens of the Americas claim their democratic freedoms,"
the U.S. paper said.
It added that alleviating poverty cannot
succeed "without sustained economic growth, which in
turn requires good governance."
At the upcoming November 2005 Summit of
the Americas in Mar de Plata, Argentina, the countries of
the Western Hemisphere "should reinforce our collective
efforts toward creating sustainable jobs through policies
that promote more competitive economies, attract investment,
and foster private sector-led growth," the U.S. paper
John Maisto, U.S. permanent representative
to the OAS, said in April 11 remarks that "delivering
the benefits of democracy" was chosen as the theme
for the Fort Lauderdale meeting because the "hemisphere
has now entered a new democratic era." With the exception
of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's regime, elected governments
in the region are the norm, he said. (See related article.)
"This hemispheric consensus in favor
of democracy is a truly extraordinary achievement,"
said Maisto. "Given the state of play elsewhere in
the world even today, it is not a consensus to be taken
The OAS General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale
will be chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The United States last hosted the OAS event 31 years ago
in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Declaration of Florida: The Benefits of Democracy