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On Democratic Charter’s Tenth Anniversary, OAS Calls for its Effectiveness to be Consolidated

  September 3, 2011

An event to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IDC) opened today at the National Congress in Valparaiso, Chile, with Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Albert Ramdin, hailing the Charter as “a common program for our nations to build our democracies.”

Participating alongside President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, the Assistant Secretary General was representing OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza at the opening of the event that brought together foreign ministers, ambassadors, and special guests from around the hemisphere.

Ten years after the Democratic Charter’s adoption in Lima, Peru, on September 11, 2011, noted Ambassador Ramdin, “it seems appropriate to take stock and to assess its legacy from two perspectives: as a political-institutional program and as a mechanism for the collective defense of democracy.”

During the two-day event, which seeks to renew the member states’ commitment to democracy, the Assistant Secretary General of the hemispheric organization said the Democratic Charter “transcends the idea of electoral democracy” and “alludes not only to the democratic origin of power but also to the exercise thereof.” In that context, he remarked, democracy today “does not merely entail democratic elections but also entails a democratic form of governance that respects the rights of all people.”

Ambassador Ramdin further recalled that today, “all of the region’s governments have come to power as a result of free and fair elections.” He said OAS electoral observation missions provide a “seal of guarantee” of free and fair elections and lend credibility to electoral processes and outcomes. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “there’s still a long way to go in this ongoing process of consolidating democracy,” as he cited tendencies that weaken democratic institutions, such as: the lack of independence in the judiciary; threats to freedom of expression; concentration of media ownership; and pressure put on journalists by organized crime syndicates. “This all threatens the democratic power structure and strikes at the foundations on which democracy is based and operates,” he said.

Chapter IV of the Charter describes collective mechanisms for the defense of democracy in the region, to prevent instability and political crisis, through “diplomatic initiatives and mechanisms for joint action to defend the democratic order and the legitimate exercise of power.” In this sense, the OAS Assistant Secretary General noted that over the last ten years, these tools “played a vital role in preventing destabilizing situations from emerging and escalating,” and the OAS demonstrated its “ability to take preventive action in at least seven situations that threatened or affected the development of the democratic political and institutional process or the legitimate exercise of power”.

Conveying the message from Secretary Insulza, Ambassador Ramdin alluded to some of the proposals considered by the OAS General Secretariat in a bid to strengthen the Charter, based on the idea that it should be unchangeable. Instead, he suggested the adoption of additional norms or mechanisms covering the specific internal characteristics of countries to facilitate expansion of the range of action under the Charter. On this note, he pointed to the need to clarify precisely what situations are covered under Chapter III of the Charter, which mentions different forms of collective action in response to potential threats or disruption of the "constitutional order" or of the "democratic political and institutional processes.”

He remarked as well that “the Organization’s preventive capabilities must be increased” and consideration given to the possibility of granting the Secretary General more leeway for political action and for flexibility, and to make it better able to act preventively to assist states through follow-up, technical support, missions, and negotiation and dialogue processes. The Charter “is not merely a democratic clause which, if violated, entails the imposition of punitive measures,” he explained, calling for the definition of the document to be consolidated over the next ten years “as a program of the Democratic Republic to enhance the quality and effectiveness of democracy and consolidate democratic citizenship in its threefold dimension—political, civil, and social.”

He suggested the creation of a peer review mechanism whereby the member states could evaluate one another in terms of the degree fulfillment of the Democratic Charter provisions and to thus be able to identify weaknesses and areas for improvement, “with special emphasis on horizontal and technical cooperation to address them.”

Finally, Ambassador Ramdin stressed the need “to equip the OAS to be better able to assist the governments of the region in turning the right to democracy into an everyday reality for the people of the Americas.”

President Sebastián Piñera of Chile, meanwhile, recalled the reason and the meaning behind the hemispheric commemoration. "Not only are we gathered here to commemorate events of the past, but we also are gathered to renew our commitment to democracy in the present and future, and to tackle together the dangers and threats that it constantly faces."

President Piñera urged the representatives in attendance to promote transparency and citizen participation. He stated that "Now more than ever we must take bold steps towards transparency as well as active and passive information systems to ensure that all our citizens can know, in detail and precisely, what happens inside public institutions that citizens finance with their taxes, and how officials elected by citizens conduct themselves."

The Chilean President also called for measures to "broaden and facilitate political participation – which, in many of our countries, is beginning to show symptoms of exhaustion – in order to make our democracies more than merely a formal expression to but to give them that strength, that vitality, and that legitimacy that come from the commitment and participation of all citizens."

During the inaugural ceremony for the tenth anniversary of the Democratic Charter, a minute of silence was observed for the victims and families of the Chilean Air Force airplane that crashed yesterday on Juan Fernández Island with 21 passengers.

The full text of the Inter-American Democratic Charter is available here.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-814/11