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Press Release


  October 4, 2006

“The collapse of a closed system (or a totalitarian regime) does not automatically lead to an open society,” George Soros, the internationally renowned investor, philanthropist, Soros Fund Management chairman and Open Society Institute founder told an international audience at the Organization of American States (OAS). According to Soros, that situation can simply lead to deep crisis in society, as happened in the former Soviet Union.

“What we discovered was that totalitarian regimes and totalitarian ideologies represent a threat to open society,” declared Soros, speaking on the topic, “Challenges to Open Society,” as he headlined the 16th monthly conference in the OAS Lecture Series of the Americas.

The Hungarian-American entrepreneur explained that weak states or failing states can be an equal danger to open society. He said open society allows for critical thinking and a tolerance for dissenting opinion, freedom of speech and of association, constraints on government powers, separation of powers and independent media.

Secretary General José Miguel Insulza welcomed Soros, describing him as “one of the most relevant personalities of our troubled times—a thinker and a protagonist, a statesmen without a state,” whose main dedication is public policy while not being a politician nor a public official himself. Insulza endorsed Soros’ view that major issues like poverty and inequality in most countries cannot be resolved by market economy alone, but as well through public policies.

The OAS Permanent Council Chair, Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador Marina Valere, meanwhile, introduced Soros to the audience for the Lecture, which was webcast live from OAS headquarters in Washington. The program will be rebroadcast by radio and television at a date to be announced.

Stressing the importance of strong state institutions, Soros went on to explain that “if it comes down to a sequencing of introducing democracy or open society, it is actually more important to have the institutions in place.” More than simply the holding of free elections, democracy requires as well good governance, transparency and solid institutions, he added. During his presentation, Soros also invited the OAS to support the work of his foundation by encouraging its member countries to be involved in its programs.

Born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930, Soros moved to England in 1947, later graduating from the London School of Economics. He then settled in the United States, and has been an active philanthropist. His network of philanthropic organizations is active in more than 50 countries around the world, promoting the values of democracy and an open society. Mr. Soros is the author of nine books, including most recently The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror. He writes regularly on politics, society, and economics.

Created by the OAS Permanent Council to promote democratic principles and values in the countries of the hemisphere, the Lecture Series of the Americas invites internationally renowned speakers to address key hemispheric agenda issues, such as the strengthening of democracy, human rights, social development, hemispheric security and the fight against poverty. The conferences are being held thanks to a financial contribution from Peru’s San Martín de Porres University as well as support from the governments of Greece and the state of Qatar.

Reference: E-209/06