Media Center

Press Release


  April 29, 2003

Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez Echeverría has identified unwavering commitment, creative new mechanisms, and capacity to effectively tackle new challenges as elements vital to ensuring the Organization of American States remains relevant. He also praised the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter as an OAS milestone.

President Rodríguez addressed today’s special session of the Permanent Council on the promotion and consolidation of representative democracy, telling the member state delegates that with stronger democracy, “our countries and the OAS together can focus on raising the levels of well-being and combat poverty through cooperation by creating opportunity.” He said the poverty that afflicts millions of families around the Americas “is the cause of disenchantment with democracy.”

Permanent Council Chairman, Guyana’s Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, highlighted “a clear and meaningful relationship between education and democracy.” He said failure to educate citizens about freedoms and provide them with skills to shape their lives “can be very damaging to our democracies.”

Ambassador Ishmael called for the development of “a culture of democracy, which will inspire a new generation of our citizens to want to defend democracy.”

In his remarks, OAS Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi surveyed the development of the Democratic Charter, noting the OAS was at the center of its evolution. He cited presidential elections in Argentina and Paraguay, both held this past Sunday, as another step in the consolidation of representative democracy in the Americas, and noted the Organization’s contribution.

After an update by Elizabeth Spehar, Executive Coordinator of the OAS Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, on an inventory of activities surrounding promotion and consolidation of representative democracy, various member state delegates addressed the meeting.

Chile’s Ambassador Esteban Tomic, coordinator of the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) countries, stressed that “the type of democracy we want in our region—one that is inclusive, participatory and based on solidarity and tolerance—will depend on the political will of OAS member states to bring about conditions for government decisions to be legitimized through broad-based citizen participation, on the basis of unconditional respect for differences and for dissent.”

Meanwhile, the Ambassador of Panama, Juan Manuel Castulovich, coordinator of the Central American Group (GRUCA), stressed the need for more focus on promoting what he termed “an authentic culture of democracy” that involves government, political parties and civil society groups playing a vital role.

Jamaica’s Ambassador Seymour Mullings spoke on behalf of his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) colleagues and reiterated the view that “failure to address a development agenda in a Hemisphere in which more than 170 million inhabitants live in poverty is an open invitation to instability, strife, and even more ominous, the danger of a rejection of democracy and the rule of law.”

Gwyneth Kutz, Alternate Representative of Canada, surveyed the contribution of the hemispheric Summits process, noting how “we have consistently and persistently moved toward the vision and the implementation of a democratic Hemisphere.” She observed that the process “has culminated in the clearest articulation yet of democracy as the defining value of the Hemisphere.”

Delivering Ambassador Roger Noriega’s remarks, United States Alternate Representative Ambassador Peter DeShazo, highlighted a series of proposals aimed at actively promote democracy. Among other things, he proposed that the Hemisphere’s education ministers incorporate civic education, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter, into the curriculum of each country. He also called for a special Permanent Council session next September on “Promoting a Democratic Culture through Civic Education.”

Reference: E-094/03