SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, reaffirmed the importance of pursuing a strategy to strengthen the institutional capacity of the OAS to respond in a timely and effective manner to the challenges that the countries of the region face in consolidating democracy.
“Without a doubt this is possible only when the efforts and the commitment of the member states, the political bodies and the General Secretariat converge around the shared principles in the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Insulza said, in opening a forum on “Democratic Stability in the Americas: The Institutional Role of the OAS.” Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin spoke at the closing of the event in the afternoon.
The seminar focused on the experiences of the OAS and its member states in facing and helping to resolve political crises in recent months in Bolivia, Haiti, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The forum took place in the context of the OAS General Assembly, which begins Sunday in this city.
“The OAS can do a lot to support its member countries, and in that regard, the Organization’s preventive role should be broadened and strengthened to improve the existing levels of cooperation, advance the dialogue process and make available to the member states any immediate support they might require in seeking avenues of understanding and solutions to overcome problems that might arise,” the Secretary General said.
Insulza summarized actions taken by OAS special missions in the last year, in the four countries mentioned above. In Bolivia, he noted, the OAS undertook the role of mediator between opposition sectors and the government of President Eduardo Rodríguez so that his constitutional mandate could culminate in general elections. Insulza recalled that in Ecuador, the OAS mission supported the selection process for members of the Supreme Court of Justice, which led to the reestablishment of the judicial branch of government in that South American country. In Haiti, the support provided by the OAS, the United Nations and the international community in general was a decisive factor in the ability to hold free and transparent elections. The Secretary General also discussed OAS efforts in Nicaragua to bring together political actors from the government and the opposition to ensure governance and the reestablishment of the balance of powers in that Central American country.
“The openness, receptivity and collaboration of the governments and of the different institutional actors have allowed the OAS to support and facilitate the adoption of political agreements that were necessary to overcome complex situations,” Insulza stressed.
The forum included an overview of the experiences of these OAS special missions. In presenting the panelists, Insulza noted the efforts that each had made: in Bolivia, former Colombian Minister Horacio Serpa; in Ecuador, José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Special Representative of the Secretary General; Elizabeth Spehar, General Coordinator of the OAS Technical Assistance Program in Haiti,; and Raúl Alconada, Political Advisor for the special mission that addressed the crisis in Nicaragua. The forum was moderated by Victor Rico, Director of the OAS Department of Crisis Prevention and Special Missions.
In his closing remarks, the Assistant Secretary General thanked the participants and reiterated OAS mandates to promote democracy, peace, development and security. “The OAS has played a decisive role in addressing political-institutional crisis in the hemisphere, and as an honorable broker in the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts,” Ramdin said.
He stressed that the OAS can play a valuable role in preventing crises as well as resolving those that have already arisen. “The OAS can take the initiative, where possible, to work to prevent violations of democratic norms,” he said, adding that this requires strengthening the Organization’s capacity to attend these situations. That is why the OAS has created a Department of Crisis Prevention and Special Missions, which seeks to identify potential risks to democracy and help the member countries prevent, manage or resolve crises.
The Under Secretary for Foreign Policy of the Dominican Republic, Alejandra Liviano, welcomed the panelists to the forum, which was organized by the OAS with the support of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and the government of Canada.
At the close of the presentations, the Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the OAS, Roberto Alvarez, moderated a question-and-answer session, and the OAS Secretary for Political Affairs, Dante Caputo, presented conclusions.