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Strengthening of Democracy

On October 20, 1998, a democratic forum was held on "OAS Peace-Building Experiences: Progress Achieved, Lessons Learned, and Future Possibilities." Both the speeches given by the panelists and the exchanges of opinions during the question-and-answer sessions are being prepared for publication.

The UPD and the US Institute of Peace, in coordination with the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra of Santo Domingo, the United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and the European Union’s Caribbean University Programme, conducted a seminar on "Conflict Analysis and Management: Tools for Strengthening Democratic Systems."  This seminar took place June 23 - 30, 1999, in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. The purpose of the seminar was to increase understanding of the dynamics of sociopolitical conflict and to strengthen capabilities for prevention, management, and peaceful settlements of conflicts. The seminar examined such topics as different types of conflicts and their causes, conflict escalation and reduction, and the appropriate moments for beginning conflict negotiation, facilitation, conciliation, or mediation. The training course was attended by 30 high-level representatives from the English-speaking Caribbean, Haiti, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, and Colombia.

The UPD will continue to work national legislatures, regional parliaments, and academic institutions in promoting inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation, execution of sub-regional horizontal cooperation programs, training and updating of experts in legislative affairs, and conduct of comparative research for generating fresh expertise in these matters.

The Regional Central American Course "The Legislature in Democracy and Integration," was held from September 19-29, 1999, in Sololá, Guatemala. It was organized by the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD) of the OAS, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), and the Rafael Landivar University, with sponsorship from the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala. The course was primarily geared towards the sectors that play a role in shaping public opinion, such as civil society organizations, universities, the media, and political parties. The course stressed greater knowledge and understanding of the powers, role, and functioning of the Legislature in democracy and integration, and its complexity, deficiencies, and potential. The course modules included the following topics: Legislature and Democracy; Electoral Systems; Representation and Legitimacy; Legislature and Civil Society; Ethics and Integrity; Oversight and Building of Law; and the Legislature and Integration.

Political Database of the Americas

The UPD participates in hosting a unique and broad storehouse of information on the Internet, for use by member states and others alike. Called the Political Database of the Americas and run in conjunction with Georgetown University, this database represents an advanced and comprehensive collection of research material and collaborative expertise representing the intellectual and practical diversity of the hemisphere. The web address for this site is http://www.georgetown.edu/pdba/ and the site is available in the four languages of the OAS. While not limited to democracy topics, the database contains a vast quantity of related information. Additionally, the Unit's own comprehensive Internet site (http://www/oas.org/IJPD/) offers worldwide access to information on UPD programs and activities. This linkage is invaluable in the OAS' efforts toward hemispheric integration and mutual respect.

Parliamentary Network of the Americas

On March 29-30, 2000, the Network Parliamentary Meeting organized by the UPD took place at OAS Headquarters in Washington D.C. The meeting brought together the Chairmen of the Foreign Relations Committees of the OAS member States for the formation of the Association of Parliamentarians of the Americas. Co-chaired by William Graham, head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Canada’s House of Commons, and Oswaldo Sandoval, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Peruvian Congress, this meeting was held for the specific purpose of fulfilling the OAS resolution AG/RES(XXVIII-0/98) which called for the establishment of a parliamentary network to promote communication between legislative bodies of the democratic institutions throughout the OAS member States on hemispheric issues. The majority of the dialogue was centered on the creation of a permanent forum and what type of formal structure it should have. After extensive discussion, general consensus was given on establishing a forum similar to the Asian Pacific Parliamentary Forum Model consisting of a working group whose principle function would be to organize an annual meeting. This working group is to be comprised of representatives of the countries of North America, the Southern Cone, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Andean region and will prepare an agenda and organize the next meeting. During the closing ceremonies it was decided that the next meeting will be hosted in Canada prior to April 2001 and the Quebec City Summit.  Please see below for results from this meeting.

 A Report on the Parliamentary Network of the Americas was presented to the Permanent Council for approval at the Thirtieth General Assembly held in Windsor, Canada on June 4-6, 2000.

Seminar for Analysis and Reflection on Participatory Democracy: Experts, academics and government representatives attended the Seminar for Analysis and Reflection on Participatory Democracy, held on April 10 and 11, 2000 at OAS headquarters. Discussed at the seminar was the need to improve citizens' access and the means of participating more directly in policy-making and day-to-day public affairs. The seminar was organized by the Working Group on Representative Democracy of the OAS in conjunction with the UPD, and chaired by Venezuela’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Virginia Contreras, Chair of the Working Group.

The UPD also has developed effective programs in post-conflict and democratic transitions. Among these are:

Follow-Up to the Parliamentary Network of the Americas Initiative: Official Creation of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas (FIPA)

The Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas (FIPA) was officially constituted during its inaugural meeting, held in Ottawa, Canada, on March 7-9, 2001. More than 110 parliamentarians from 26 countries of the Hemisphere attended the meeting and adopted the FIPA rules and guidelines. FIPA was constituted as a permanent parliamentary forum, complementing and strengthening the OAS, where parliamentarians from the Americas meet periodically to exchange views and unite their efforts in finding solutions to common hemispheric challenges. In Ottawa, the delegates also discussed current issues of importance for the region, and made recommendations to be presented at the Quebec City Summit. The UPD/OAS provided substantial assistance to delegates during their deliberations, as well as technical support for the writing of reports and recommendations.

Parliamentarians oriented their discussion on the same lines as the proposed themes of the Third Summit of the Americas. Pursuing their work in three different working groups- Strengthening Democracy; Creating Prosperity; and Realizing Human Potential- the delegates issued reports containing recommendations related to the following specific themes: good governance, corruption, drugs and crime in the first working group; economic integration and free trade area of the Americas in the second working group; and reduction of poverty and protection of the environment in the third working group. The Chair of the FIPA, Bill Graham, from Canada, will include all three reports in his final Chair's summary, which will be brought to the attention of Hemisphere's leaders at the Third Summit of the Americas.

FIPA delegates agreed to hold their second meeting in Mexico, in 2002. Moreover, parliamentarians agreed to consider alternative ways -using modern information and communication technologies- to hold, for example, a "virtual forum" in order to increase the frequency of their exchange without significantly increasing the travels costs for delegations.