Media Center

Press Release


  March 24, 2009

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, recognized the progress that the continent has had in terms of democratic governance during the last two decades, but affirmed that “it is still far from fulfilling the citizens’ expectations.”

This analysis was expressed during the consultation session organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), on the European Union’s (EU) role in Democracy Building in Latin American and the Caribbean. The event is part of a series of global consultations organized on this issue, and the outcomes of the consultations will be submitted by IDEA International to the Swedish Government, as part of the preparations to assume the Presidency of the EU in July 2009.

In referring to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, Insulza pointed out that the definition of democracy of the charter does not limit itself to elections, but that it also encompasses other essential freedoms. “Democracy is not only a matter of political citizenship, it is also a matter of respect for human rights, of adequate State’s function, of separation in the powers and duties of the institutions of government and of transparency” he said. Then he recalled that the Charter, adopted in September 2001, states that “governments have not only to be elected democratically, but they also have to govern democratically.”

OAS Secretary General also commented about the perception of democracy in the hemisphere, noting that citizens’ expectations are very high. “Since the arrival of democracy to many countries in Latin America, the demands that citizens make to their governments are tremendous, people expect a lot from their governments and they look at democracy as a way to improve their quality of life” he affirmed.

Finally, the leader of the hemispheric organization asserted that there is a common tendency in the region to substitute institutions for ‘leaderships’ and that in this regard, Latin America and the Caribbean have still a lot to learn from European countries. “Europe is a continent where institutions play a major role, and where issues such as respect of law, and respect of citizens are part of their democratic culture”, Insulza said.

On the other hand, Vidar Helgesen, Secretary General of International IDEA, explained that the EU is one of the largest economic and political entities globally. The EU has an immense responsibility regarding democracy building and “its actions and policies may impact democracy building both within and beyond its member states.” The idea of generating a dialogue on this issue emerged from that perspective. Helgesen also mentioned that, at the level of regions, the OAS was not the only organization adopting a democratic charter, the African and Southeast Asia organizations have also done so. Through the global consultations, IDEA aims at strengthening the democracy building dimension in the policies and actions of the EU.

Reference: E-093/09