The Organization of American States (OAS) held its 53rd Policy Roundtable on the topic "Mediation and Dialogue in the Americas in the XXI Century," in which two guides produced by the OAS and the United Nations (UN) were presented, which aim to understand and help solve the new dynamics of regional conflict.
During the Roundtable, the "OAS-UNDP Practical Guide on Democratic Dialogue" and the "UN Guidance for Effective Mediation" were presented.
In his address, the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, highlighted the vast experience of the hemispheric institution in resolving conflicts in the Americas. "Perhaps no issue is more rooted in the OAS that the theme of this meeting. The strengthening of peace and security in the Americas are in the very essence of our Organization," he said.
Secretary General Insulza recalled that after the end of the Cold War and when democracy returned to most of the countries of the Hemisphere, the region deepened his own definition of the system of government and defined the measures that could be applied in case of deterioration or disruption of the democratic order in a member state. "Thus it was that the OAS General Assembly in 1991 adopted Resolution 1080 on Representative Democracy and, ten years later, the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” he said.
The OAS leader said the civilian missions of the Organization during the 90s played a key role in the demobilization and disarmament of armed groups in Nicaragua and Suriname, in monitoring human rights in Haiti, and building capacity for dialogue in Guatemala. All these successes, he said, served as precedents for the two peace missions the OAS is presently implementing: the Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP) in Colombia, and the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone between Belize and Guatemala.
"Both guides presented today are a good example of this tradition of renewal and learning from its own experiences that has characterized our Organization in the field of the search for peace and conflict resolution," said Secretary General Insulza, and added that "our challenge now is to implement these guides as we continue to create new models to meet emerging challenges."
In this regard, Secretary General Insulza mentioned areas in which the Organization faces challenges today. "The first is related to the increase and intensification of social conflicts, and in many cases with the exploitation of natural resources," he said. He noted that in the hearings conducted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last week, a large number of petitions were related to social protest, mining and the rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants. The second challenge, he said, refers to the situation related to the activity of "maras" (gangs) and other similar groups, "which are a new and complex phenomenon, combining criminal activity and the use of violence in situations of control over territory, identity and group loyalty. "
For his part, the OAS Secretary for Political Affairs, Kevin Casas-Zamora said the "Practical Guide on Democratic Dialogue" contains "a set of tools to underpin democratic governance, so that the democracies the region has built work."
Secretary Casas-Zamora said that in analyzing the functioning of democracies in the region, "we realize that what the region needs is the application of some of the principles found in the Guide on Democratic Dialogue." In this regard, he warned that in the Western Hemisphere "some countries have the capacity to hold democratic elections, but do not have the ability to coexist democratically."
The Team Leader and Senior Political Affairs Officer of the Mediation Support Unit in the Department of Political Affairs of the UN, Stephen Jackson, said mediation "is in the DNA of the UN." Mediation is a voluntary effort in which “the consent of the parties is critical for the process and a durable outcome,” he added.
The UN expert said the "UN Guidance for Effective Mediation" contains eight essential elements that must be taken into account to achieve success in the negotiation of a conflict: Preparedness; Consent; Impartiality; Inclusivity; National Ownership, International Law and Normative Frameworks; Coherence, Coordination and Complementarity; and a Quality Peace Agreement.
The OAS Director of the Department of Sustainable Democracy and Special Missions, Christopher Hernández-Roy, who presented the "Practical Guide to Democratic Dialogue," explained that the document contains four sections. "The first provides a look at the conflict situation being experienced by the region today and, based on this reality, the second chapter presents criteria and principles for genuine democratic dialogue," he said. The OAS official continued that "in the third section is a journey through each of the stages of a process of dialogue, and finally, the fourth chapter provides the reader with a practical toolbox that can be used at different stages of the process."
The UNDP Democratic Governance Coordinator for the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Gerardo Noto, said that after three decades of democracy in the region, there remain significant conflicts in the region with street demonstrations and various groups that express themselves. “For many people, this can be problematic as a sign of weak institutions, but it can also be seen in a positive light, because after several years of democratic exercise our citizens feel more empowered, and they demonstrate for their rights," he said.
For his part, the former OAS Secretary General Luigi Einaudi said both guides “are consistent with one another but really rather different.” Ambassador Einaudi noted that while none of documents refer to a particular country, the "UN Guidance for Effective Mediation" contains eight excellent principles for settling disputes between states, while "Practical Guide on Democratic Dialogue " is based on the unique experiences of the OAS in the region.
Francesc Vendrell, the former Personal Representative of the UN Secretary General, recounted his experiences in the mediation of conflicts in several countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Afghanistan, among others. Vendrell particularly stressed that both the UN document as the OAS "have similar characteristics," especially their conciseness and specificity, consistent with their intention to serve as practical guides.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The B-roll of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.