CARIBBEAN DISABLED NEED BETTER
ACCESS TO ELECTORAL SYSTEM
April 1, 1998
Caribbean countries need to find innovative ways to give persons with disabilities better access to their electoral systems. More needs to be done as well to encourage more women and youth to participate in elections, the Assistant Secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) has said.
The OAS deputy chief issued the challenge while addressing the founding general assembly meeting of the Association of Caribbean Electoral Officials. The event was in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday, March 30, and used as its theme "Ensuring Access for the Disabled to the Electoral Systems."
The Assistant Secretary General went on to point out that accurate voter registries and accurate information in those registries also posed a challenge, stressing also a need for continuous job training and modernized information systems.
While pointing to those areas of deficiency, Ambassador Thomas, however, had strong praise for the Caribbean region's longstanding tradition of transparent elections, a tradition, he observed, that had "set an example for efficient, transparent and fair elections."
Praising the initiative to form an association of Caribbean electoral officials, the OAS official observed that joint effort offered a most feasible approach to dealing with the challenges he had identified. "We can learn from each other's experiences: take from what is relevant for our countries and modify them when needed."
OAS activities in electoral assistance in the Americas also featured prominently in Ambassador Thomas' presentation in which he also highlighted the work by the Organization's Unit for the Promotion of Democracy in fostering horizontal cooperation. Computer specialists from various countries have helped improve the accuracy of electoral registries in countries like Honduras, Belize, Ecuador and Guatemala, and in Guyana, the Unit facilitated technical services to help train workers for last December's general elections.
At the Puerto Rico meeting, some 23 Caribbean countries signed the charter for the Association, whose aim is to bring together electoral officials from the region's countries to share experiences to find ways to deal with common problems in the electoral systems.
Other personalities attending the meeting included the interim governor of Puerto Rico, Norma Burgos, Richard Soudriette, president of the International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), and Danny L. McDonald, chairman of the US Federal Elections Commission.
The event was jointly sponsored by the OAS and the IFES, both Washington-based institutions that will also serve as interim co-secretariat for the newly-formed Association, members of which will be all the islands of the Caribbean, and Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland.