Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


August 18, 2015 - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

This is my first visit to the Dominican Republic and, as OAS Secretary General, it is, therefore, a good time to make an important announcement on behalf of the OAS General Secretariat, an important public admission: The Organization of American States that we want must be true to the fundamental values and principles that guide foreign policy and international law. We have an obligation to act in defense of human rights and to strengthen democracy. It is essential that our work not interfere in the domestic affairs of states and that nothing that we do can be interpreted as interference.

It is vital that we respect the principle of self-determination of peoples and crucial that the OAS adhere to these precepts, not as values in the abstract, but as rules that constantly guide our actions.

It is, therefore, essential that the General Secretariat live by the rule of accepting historical responsibilities, that it take a stand to ensure that certain past acts are never repeated, by admitting the truth, not in order to mend the past, but as a legacy to future generations.

That is why, as OAS Secretary General, I deplore the acts of the Organization that in 1965 validated the invasion of the Dominican Republic and the country’s intervention, diverting it from the sovereign course chosen by its people. I would like to offer our respects and condolences to the victims of the invasion of the Dominican Republic that was internationally validated by the OAS, and of the intervention that it approved. History condemns the OAS for those victims. The past condemns the OAS for its intervention, for perverting the Dominican Republic's history, and thwarting its sovereign political destiny.

Election bodies are critical to the workings of democracy. They must always remain above political parties and the government of the day, and defend the supreme interests of the citizenry and the inalienable right to vote in transparent, fair, efficient elections. They are institutions that must inspire universal confidence.

My friends,

We congratulate the Dominican Republic on hosting this major event for the workings of representative democracy, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dominican Republic for offering to host the next session of the OAS General Assembly, in 2016. I will discuss these and other matters with Minister Navarro later today.

On May 26 this year, when I took up the post of Secretary General of the OAS, I expressed my commitment to strive so that in our Americas region increasingly "more people can enjoy ever more rights.”

Those rights include the right to hold free, transparent, and inclusive elections. And without electoral integrity, the theme that brings us all here today, there can be no free, transparent, and inclusive elections.

Election bodies are ultimately responsible for the preparation and management of elections. What they do has a direct impact, either guaranteeing or placing in doubt the integrity of the election process.

The OAS works—as do many other bodies in the region—to modernize and improve the quality of the services that it provides to citizens and political systems.

Its technical cooperation projects include, audits of electoral rolls and assistance to election authorities in design, support, and analysis of IT systems and processes.

In February 2014, the OAS launched a new cooperation phase with the establishment of an electoral ISO standard, by which the election bodies of the Americas and the rest of the world can be certified The implementation of quality assurance systems allows institutional processes to be improved in line with international standards, substantially enhancing their productivity and efficiency.

The electoral standard sets specific requirements for eight processes considered critical in any election.

It is a governance-improvement tool that promotes a more transparent and efficient administration and has a direct impact in terms of increasing the confidence of the public, political parties, and candidates in their election institutions.

My friends,

These days election bodies in the Hemisphere face an array of challenges that can pose a risk to their continued independence from various types of pressure that emerge when elections come around.

Election violence and insecurity are additional factors that stop the public from turning out to vote for fear of possible violence. In several countries criminality has clearly permeated government at the local and national level, with deeply harmful consequences, such as the use of illegal proceeds to finance campaigns, competition from candidates supported by criminal organizations, and extortion of candidates, election body officials, and voters. Allow me to present a six-point plan as an antidote against these attacks that strike at the very heart of democracy:

First, independence and impartiality: Election bodies are independent and impartial institutions provided that they are financially autonomous and have liberty of action, and that their members are appointed by their own mechanisms. To a large extent, their credibility depends on their ability to preserve that independence and impartiality.

Second, professionalism and precision: Electoral integrity problems are often thought to be the result of dishonesty or fraud; however, they are also caused by human error and unintentional mistakes. Avoiding them requires professional and precise election management.

Third, clear and lawful procedures based on international rules and standards must be followed.

Fourth, their actions must be transparent, so that the public is aware of them and understands them, and it is essential that there is accountability for decisions. Transparency and accountability will strengthen the confidence of the public and political parties in the institution, according the election process and the government that is voted in greater legitimacy.

Fifth, the work of election bodies should be subject to internal and external oversight in order to detect problems and correct them.

Sixth, they must accept that there is room for improvement in all processes and that there work needs continuously to improve in order to perfect their procedures.

Democracy is one of the pillars of the OAS and part of its raison d'être. While it is true that democracy goes beyond elections, without clean and transparent elections there can be no democracy.

Thank you very much