Tenth Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter

This year, the OAS celebrates a milestone: the Tenth Anniversary of its Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Historic Background

In the Declaration of Quebec City (April 2001), the presidents and prime ministers of the region, reunited at the III Summit of the Americas, affirmed their shared commitment to democracy and instructed their foreign ministers to prepare an Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments already in place for the defense of representative democracy, which were: the OAS Charter (1948); the Protocol of Cartagena (1985); General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 1080 (XXI-O/91) adopted in Santiago, Chile, in 1991; and the Protocol of Washington (1997).

What is the Inter-American Democratic Charter?

It is the affirmation that democracy is and should be the common form of government for all countries of the Americas, and it represents a collective commitment to maintaining and strengthening the democratic system in the region.  Article 1 clearly states: "The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it."

What is its purpose?

The main purpose of this inter-American instrument is the strengthening and upholding of democratic institutions throughout the nations of the Americas.  The Charter defines democracy and its relationship to integral development and the war on poverty, and it specifies how it should be defended when under threat.  Finally, it promotes a democratic culture and electoral observation missions.

Democratic Values of the Charter

The Charter identifies a set of essential values and rights, such as:

  • respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • periodic free and fair elections;
  • transparency, probity, and respect for social rights;
  • exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law;
  • pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, separation of powers and independence of the branches of government;
  • elimination of all forms of discrimination;
  • the right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decisions relating to their own development.

When was it adopted?

The Inter-American Democratic Charter was adopted by the member states of the OAS at a special session of the General Assembly held on September 11, 2001, in Lima, Peru.

Did you know?

  • Secretary of State Colin Powell was not in the United States during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, because he was representing his country at the Special Session of the OAS General Assembly, held in Lima, Peru, which adopted the Charter.
  • Through the 60s and 70s, almost every country in Latin America was ruled by a military dictatorship.  Today, there is a broad regional consensus on democracy.