Assistant Secretary General Speech


December 15, 2017 - Washington, DC

▪ Colleagues, it has been a pleasure to host you at the OAS over the past four days. I regret that neither I nor the Secretary General has been able to attend the sessions, but, as you know, the work of organizations like ours often takes us away from our office and far afield.

▪ Nevertheless I have been reliably assured that your discussions during the course of the meeting have been vibrant, engaging and productive, and we are happy to have facilitated these interactions.

▪ The fifty-three organizations that currently endorse the Declaration of Principles are diverse, with varying structures and multiple mandates, and are dispersed throughout the various regions of the world. But as Endorsers we commit ourselves to a common ideal – to support the achievement of genuine democratic elections and to defend the human right of all persons to freely express their political will through the casting of their ballot in such elections.

▪ Over the past four days, twenty-one of the current 53 endorsers of the Declaration of Principles have sent 62 representatives to reaffirm their commitment to this ideal, to renew the institutional connections that facilitate our collaboration, and to reflect on some of the contemporary challenges we must confront as international election observers.

▪ It is imperative that we continue to do so. Globally, democracy is under threat, as citizens question its ability to improve the quality of their lives or to deliver on their expectations. The Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP)'s 2016/2017 report, entitled The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas, 2016/17: A Comparative Study of Democracy and Governance, found as follows:

- In the Latin America and Caribbean region, support for democracy, its core principles and institutions declined significantly between 2014 and 2016/17. From 66.4% to 57.8%, almost 9 percentage points.

- In 2016/17, the average citizen is more likely to support extra-legal actions (i.e., coups) to remove elected leaders from office, upsetting the most basic premises of modern democracy - that elections are the only legitimate way to alternate power.

- Citizens have low levels of trust in elections, political parties, and political leadership and are increasingly concerned about deficiencies in the supply of basic liberties, the rule of law, citizen security, and robust service provision.

▪ Research in other areas tells us that this is not a phenomenon confined to this hemisphere.

▪ The opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Principles notes that professional, accurate and impartial election observation “has the potential to enhance the integrity of election processes, by deterring and exposing irregularities and fraud and by providing recommendations for improving electoral processes. It can promote public confidence, promote electoral participation and mitigate the potential for election-related conflict”.

▪ In this spirit, I am now pleased to hand over the baton for the DOP to the Commonwealth Secretariat, Mr. Martin Kasirye

▪ At the OAS we will continue to apply the principles of the Declaration in our work, along with the guidelines enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in the interest of defending and promoting democracy in our hemisphere.
▪ We are grateful to work with our committed partners in the DOP in this regard and look forward to our continued collaboration on our shared values and objectives.