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OAS Secretary General Highlights that Parliaments are "the Greatest Institution of Democracy"

  July 18, 2014

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in the inauguration of the First Inter-American Meeting of Presidents of Legislative Powers, held at the headquarters of the Peruvian Congress in Lima, in which he stressed that the legislative power is the key piece in democratic systems and noted that parliaments should play a central role in articulating solid answers to the problems that are common to most countries.

Secretary General Insulza welcomed the event that brought the parliaments of the region together to exchange their experiences and discuss issues of common interest, and praised Peru's initiative in this regard. "We have always thought it very important to have a body where the Parliaments of the Americas meet, and particularly their Presidents, because their common and coordinated action is a central factor in the development of the international relations of our countries."

The OAS leader said that legislatures are "the linchpin in the system of checks and balances that ensures separation, independence, balance and exercise of political power, which are the fundamental principles of any representative democracy.” "A Parliament that works and takes charge of the fundamental problems of society is the greatest institution of democracy," he said, and while emphasizing the fundamental value of the executive and judicial powers, he added that "the body that most represents representative democracy is parliament."

He argued that the legislature power is called on to make a decisive contribution to the search for effective solutions to the challenges facing every nation, and that its institutional obligation requires it to be a protagonist, to be involved and to even to lead these processes. "In a context of growing regional and global interdependence, most of the problems, challenges and threats facing societies and democracies in the Hemisphere cannot be handled or solved by a single country," he said. In this regard, he noted that issues such as the environment, drug trafficking, corruption, terrorism, but also the existence of democracy and human rights, trade, health and migration, “will bring together and engage the governments and societies of the region in a network of increasingly complex and deep interdependence.”

At another point in his speech, he said today, "the challenges are transnational and 'intermestic', -i.e. partly international and partly domestic -, because they are similar and even common to most countries in the region. Therefore a regional response that requires cooperation and coordination is increasingly important."

Insulza also recalled in his speech, the efforts of the OAS to promote the universalization of the Inter-American normative legacy, in which the parliaments play the key role in ratification. As an example, he noted that not all OAS member states have ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, nor the Conventions relating to the fight against corruption or to protect disabled people from discrimination. "We can work together," he said, adding that "we have had experiences with executive powers, with ministers at the ministerial meetings and even with the judiciary, but we need to deepen relationships with legislative powers."

For her part, Peru's Vice President, Marisol Espinoza, said the First Inter-American Meeting of Presidents of Legislative Powers "is a source of pride and satisfaction," and "an opportunity to continue to build the Latin American fraternity." She said the meeting took place "in a globalized society with fundamental issues to which we are all committed, such as the fight against corruption and the development of our countries, but mainly it is about seeking to strengthen democracy, understood as the capacity of the people to be represented and to be heard."

Vice President Espinoza also noted the importance of bringing parliaments closer to citizens, so that “legislatures have the confidence of the people and listen to the demands of the population."

Meanwhile, the President of the Congress of Peru, Fredy Otárola said that this first meeting of heads of the legislative powers of the region constitutes an endorsement of democracy as a system, and stressed the importance of "parliamentary diplomacy."

The President of the Council of Ministers of Peru, René Cornejo said that in the current "globalization process, in this information age we live in, our countries should be at the forefront of modernization and the creation of opportunities to achieve consensus and credibility of the legislative powers through dialogue." These, he said, are the main objectives sought by the event held today in Lima.

The Parliamentary Forum of the countries of the Inter-American System benefits from the technical and specialized support of the OAS, through its Section in Support of Representative Institutions (SAIR), of the Department of Political Affairs. The event was convened to discuss issues such as “getting closer to citizens, the generation of credibility and trust toward legislatures;” “transparency, probity, and accountability in parliamentary management: Do we have open parliaments?” “Parliament as a key actor in collaborative dialogue for sustainable economic development, climate change and social inclusion;” and “women’s political participation: achievements and challenges in parliamentary representation.”

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-307/14