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Latin American Experts to Meet in Mexico to Discuss the State of Democracy in the Region

  October 8, 2010

The great and difficult challenges democracies must face for their consolidation will be the central subject of debate next week in Mexico City, where politicians, academics, public officials and experts on elections in Latin America will participate in the Latin American Democracy Forum, sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).

Political participation, the independence of branches of power and state modernization are the subjects the important guests to the event in Mexico City will address. The event will be inaugurated on Monday, October 11, with the participation of Mexican President Felipe Calderón; OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza; UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan; the Rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), José Narro Robles; and President of the Federal Electoral Institute of Mexico, Leonardo Valdés.

In the context of the Forum, the Second Report on Democracy in Latin America will be launched. This is a publication produced jointly by the OAS and UNDP, under the direction of former Argentine Foreign Minister Dante Caputo on behalf of the OAS, and former UN Deputy Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, on behalf of UNDP. The report, titled, “Our Democracy,” will be officially presented by José Miguel Insulza and the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UNDP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Heraldo Muñoz.

The report is the result of a process of research, consultation and debate with stakeholders in 18 countries of the region who conducted a reflection on power and the effects of extreme inequalities in the practice of democracy. It includes an analysis of the deficiencies and weaknesses that affect Latin American democracies and proposes to prioritize action in three areas of public policy to seek its strengthening: accountability, social inclusion and public security.

To Secretary General Insulza, “the deeper problems of democracies have changed for the most part in recent years, but those related to the weakness of institutions still persist and we cannot neglect them.” From that point of view, he added that “beyond the differences and ideological multiplicity that exists in the hemisphere, and with the objective of facing the threats that weaken democracy, we must make an effort to become united around the principles that are common to us all: respect for dialogue, consensus, the rule of law and all norms that govern this system.”

In the words of Heraldo Muñoz, “democracy in Latin America has experienced the longest period of democratic regimes and the appointment of authorities through elections. But there is a problem of quality in our democracies. Citizen frustration may be witnessed in the face of inequality of wealth and power, weak popular participation in public affairs, public and private corruption, citizen insecurity and state weakness, among others. Latin American continues to search for its democratic identity.”

The Latin American Democracy Forum, to be held in the Palace of Mining, will provide a space for reflection and debate that will contribute to the identification of problems, needs and challenges implied in the transition, construction and consolidation of democracy in Latin America, as well as an exploration and sharing of different approaches, perspectives and roads in dealing with the pending issues of the democratic agenda. Participants include, among others, Ricardo Lagos, Enrique Iglesias, Julio María Sanguinetti, Alicia Bárcena, Ricardo Alfonsín, Teodoro Petkoff, Jesús Silva Herzog Flores and Carlos Slim, who will be distributed at eight round tables beginning this Monday.

Other concerns on the Forum’s agenda include: the role of media and freedom of expression in democracies; the conditions and challenges of electoral competency in the 21st century; the relation between democracy, poverty and inequality; the dynamics between security, state and democracies; and the presentation of a survey on governance and democratic living conducted by FLACSO.

More information on the Forum and the report are available here.

WHAT: Latin American Democracy Forum

WHEN: October 11 to 14, 2010

WHERE: Palace of Mining, Mexico City

UNDP Press Contact:

Pablo A. Basz

(507) 305-4864

OAS Press Contact:

Gina Ochoa

(202) 458-3093

Reference: E-368/10