Media Center

Press Release


  November 23, 2003

CARTAGENA, Colombia – Colombian President Álvaro Uribe opened the third annual meeting of the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties here, stressing the need for political parties and movements that are truly participatory and open to debating ideas.

“Under certain circumstances, the people can live without political parties. Under no circumstance can parties live without the people, without daily contact with citizens, taking the pulse of their hopes and desires, without hearing their criticisms and demands,” Uribe said at the opening ceremony Sunday night.

In his speech, OAS Secretary General César Gaviria discussed the urgent need to reform and modernize the hemisphere´s political parties and party systems, which public opinion polls show suffer a serious credibility problem.

Political parties need to invest in preparing to govern, instead of putting all their economic, human and institutional resources into the process of winning elections, Gaviria said. He underscored the need to promote transparency in political campaign financing and to establish systems “to prevent corruption, ensure equality and avert an excessive increase in the costs of campaigns.”

“Citizens have the right to know the origin of the monies that politicians use to campaign;” Gaviria said. He called for “an in-depth commitment to transparency” regarding both the sources and the uses of public and private funds.

For his part, Canada´s Ambassador to the OAS, Paul Durand, said that a representative democratic system depends on a tolerant “loyal opposition” to ensure that government can function effectively. “The point is that the task of governing does not belong exclusively to the winning party – it is the responsibility of all elected members to ensure that the government functions, and functions well, for the good of the country and all citizens,” he said.

The meeting here, which continues today and tomorrow, will examine a series of issues related to political party reform, campaign financing and the disillusionment that citizens feel toward political parties and politicians. Panels will also look at case studies of political reforms that have been undertaken in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru and Central America.

Participants include two former Peruvian Presidents, Alan García and Valentín Paniagua, as well as more than 30 political party chairs of different political leanings. Electoral authorities, academics and representatives of international and non-government organizations are also scheduled to participate.

Reference: E-228/03