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OAS Secretary General Says Electoral Observation "Builds the Foundations" of Democracy

  February 11, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today said that electoral observations "serve to build the foundation of Latin American democracy," during his opening remarks at a Roundtable entitled "International Election Observation: Progress and Challenges," held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

"Elections are an essential pillar of a democratic regime, precisely because of the legitimacy they give to the origin of the political process in free, transparent and inclusive elections," said Secretary General Insulza during the opening of the event, organized as part of the OAS Day of Electoral Observation, celebrated on February 4 in accordance with a decision of the Permanent Council. He added that these constitute an area in which the OAS is a pioneer and world leader that "seeks to improve the quality of such elections." Since the first mission in 1962, the hemispheric organization has accompanied more than 200 electoral processes in the hemisphere, and has provided support to other national and regional institutions to develop their own systems of observation.

"This celebration of 50 years of election observation is a source of pride for all of us," emphasized Secretary General Insulza, and added: "pride in the work done, but also in the democracies that our people have been able to build. Growing democracies constantly seeking improvement." For the OAS, he then said, "it is time to reflect and analyze how to continue to support our peoples to strengthen every day their sovereignty and their electoral systems and processes that make it a reality."

The head of the hemispheric organization highlighted that "the Electoral Observation Missions of the OAS have evolved with the changes the region has experienced and, although the early work focused primarily on the possibility of the commission of fraud, today the missions cover a range of issues such as access, equity, gender perspectives, the financing of political campaigns, access to media, transparency and general support to electoral institutions of each country."

"There is no doubt that elections in our region today have improved from when we started this work," said Secretary General Insulza. "The issue here is to discuss the elections, assess what we have done, see what remains to be done in terms of improving the quality of electoral systems and to see how we can better evaluate these electoral services," he added.

The Roundtable is part of the celebrations to mark 50 years of OAS electoral observations. Participating in the event were the OAS Director of the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation, Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian; the Director of the Center for North American Studies and Co-Director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University, Robert Pastor; Senior Associate and Director of Electoral Programs at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Patrick Merloe; the Director for the Americas and Europe Division of the UN General Secretariat and former Director of the OAS Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, Elizabeth Spehar; and the Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS, Ambassador Bayney Karran. Following a questions and answer session, the OAS Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, delivered the closing remarks for the event.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-040/13