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Leaders State Importance of Inter-American Democratic Charter

Charter called instrument for promoting democracy in Americas

Posted: June 7, 2005 Main article: United States to host June 5-7 inter-American meeting in Florida  

President Bush speaks at the OASGA. - The United States shares a commitment with its Western Hemisphere neighbors to build a hemisphere “that lives in liberty, trades in freedom, and grows in prosperity," says President Bush. Speaking June 6 to the 35th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the president hailed the region's democratic gains of recent decades, but warned that such progress "must not be taken for granted." [Complete text] (Photo © AP/WWP)

Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- The nations of the Western Hemisphere must fully comply with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in September 2001 to defend and promote democracy in the region, say the leaders of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Jose Miguel Insulza (OAS/OEA photo by Roberto Ribeiro)Speaking June 5 at the opening session of the 35th OAS General Assembly, the inter-American body's recently elected secretary-general, Jose Miguel Insulza, called the charter the "only instrument that embodies the right of peoples to democracy and the obligation of governments to promote and defend it." The charter, he said, is "much more than a mere declaration of intentions; it expresses a desire and resolve to defend solidarity, justice, and understanding."

Speaking in Spanish, Insulza, who is from Chile, said the OAS member states must agree on the "necessary mechanisms for full compliance with their obligations under the Charter." In the face of the "persistent dangers of backsliding" in defending democracy, the countries of the Americas must work to reinforce democratic principles, said Insulza.

The OAS leader, who was elected to his position May 2 and took office May 26, said it is difficult to discuss "full democracy in a region with high rates of poverty and inequality." For that reason, he said the OAS must strengthen its social agenda and "spearhead a serious effort to promote the cooperation needed" to help meet the U.N. Millennium Development goal of cutting global poverty in half by 2015.

Addressing that goal, he said, requires a strategy that focuses on helping the countries with the least developed and smallest economies. But Insulza said promoting economic development must be combined with protection of the environment.

The OAS assistant secretary-general, Luigi Einaudi, told the General Assembly that a "regional jurisprudence of democracy" was codified by the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Einaudi, a former U.S. diplomat, said "many ambiguities" remain in the charter. But overall, he said, the "fiercely sovereign states that make up the OAS have agreed that democracy should be the architecture of regional cooperation."

Unfortunately, said Einaudi, the OAS member states have not yet completed the "design" for the charter.

"When a member state stumbles, cries of alarm are still more common than a supporting and steadying hand," Einaudi said. "There is no system of solidarity, only the potential punishment of ostracism."

He said a "system of solidarity" should be developed to assist OAS members when, or even before, they "stumble -- not be intervening, but by strengthening the rule of law or by helping to improve public education."

Einaudi offered a generally positive outlook for the Western Hemisphere, saying that with the important continuing exception of Cuba and a "few recent stumbles" elsewhere in the region, the Americas have become democratic.

The last time the United States hosted the OAS General Assembly, in Atlanta in 1974, South America was run largely by dictators, while most of the Caribbean and Canada had yet to become OAS members, Einaudi said. He added that in 1974, Cuba had already completed 15 years of communist rule under Fidel Castro.

But the days of "colonialism and military dictatorship" in the region are long past, said Einaudi, adding that he was encouraged by the pace of regional integration in the Western Hemisphere.

"For all of us in this room," Einaudi told the OAS gathering, "the opportunity to build in this hemisphere a strategic foundation based on democracy ... has never been better."

Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer


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