Updated September 24, 2002
Inter-American Democratic Charter
Special Session of the General Assembly of the OAS:
In a symbolic effort to strengthen and preserve the democratic system and its application in the Americas, the hemisphere’s Foreign Ministers met in Lima, Peru, during the XVIII Special Session of the General Assembly of the OAS, and adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The Charter stems from a mandate of the Third Summit of the Americas, and the Special Session, which took place on September 10 and 11, 2001, represented a culmination of negotiations and contributions from governments, experts and civil society, that have taken place since the Summit’s conclusion at the end of April.
The Charter consists of five chapters, through which democracy’s relationship with human rights, integral development and the war on poverty is defined, and contains a clause that states that any unconstitutional alteration or disruption of the democratic order in a member state “constitutes an insurmountable obstacle” to the participation of that country’s government in OAS fora. More information on this meeting can be found on its Web site, located here.
Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter:
Monday, September 16, 2002
On Monday, September 16, 2002, the Organization of American States celebrated the first anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed by all 34 active Member States of the Organization on September 11, 2001 in Lima, Peru. In conjunction with this celebration, the Organization had the pleasure of hosting the President of Peru, Dr. Alejandro Toledo. The celebration consisted of a Special Session of the Permanent Council, followed by a seminar organized jointly by the OAS and the Center For Latin American Issues at George Washington University, entitled “Reflections on the First Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter”.
Special Session of the
Chairman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Roger Noriega
Permanent Representative of the United States to the OAS,
welcomed the Honourable Alejandro Toledo, President of Peru.
The OAS Secretary, Dr. César Gaviria opened the Special
Session of the Permanent Council by encouraging member states
to apply the Charter through the adoption of a new political
ethic that reflects the principles of a democratic state in
which the rights of all people are guaranteed. Ambassador
Noriega spoke of the importance of the Charter and its
contribution to the American community as a framework for
member states to follow in order to preserve and prevent
future ruptures in democracy.
Toledo began by highlighting the Charter as one of the most
important developments over the last few years.
He described the Charter as a hemispheric mechanism,
which helps expand the capability of the OAS to promote
democracy and establish a continental democratic standard. He recalled that the Charter was put to the test in April of
2002 during the events that took place in Venezuela. President
Toledo reminded the members of the Organisation that the fight
against poverty is fundamental in strengthening democracy in
the hemisphere. With
that in mind, he referred to the need for the creation of a
“Financial Solidarity Fund for the Defense of Democracy and
Dignitaries also offered their insights on the Anniversary of
the Democratic Charter. The Uruguayan Foreign Minister Didier
Opertti remarked that 30 years ago the Charter would have been
unimaginable and that the people of the Americas must be
convinced that representative democracy is the best method to
satisfy their needs. Elaine White, Deputy Foreign Minister of
Costa Rica, stated that to preserve, strengthen and deepen
democracy in the region is the joint responsibility of
countries and the Inter-American community. Ambassador Odeen
Ishmael, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the OAS,
representing the Caribbean countries (CARICOM), emphasised
that while the governments have the main responsibility for
democracy, they alone cannot guarantee it. Democracy, he
stated, depends on political parties and civil society.
Seminar: “Reflections on
the First Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic
The conference opened with an introduction by Elizabeth Spehar, Executive Coordinator for the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy. Susan Phillips, Dean of the Business School at George Washington University introduced the keynote speaker, the Honorable Alejandro Toledo, President of the Republic of Peru.
President Toledo spoke on the topic of “The Americas in the Promotion and Defence of Democracy.” President Toledo began by highlighting the Charter as one of the most important principles developed over the last few years. He described the Charter as a hemispheric mechanism, which has helped expand the capability of the OAS to promote democracy and establish a continental scale for the standard on democracy. He recalled that the Charter was put to the test in April of this year as a result of the events which took place in Venezuela. President Toledo emphasised that there are still challenges to fully implementing the Charter in each country. President Toledo reminded the members of the audience that the fight against poverty is fundamental in strengthening democracy in the hemisphere. He concluded that the time has come to put a human face to globalization.
The next speaker was the Secretary General of the OAS, Dr. César Gaviria, who reminded the audience that social problems and human rights must be improved upon and that at this point in time there is a healthy demand for social justice. Secretary General Gaviria also discussed the events that occurred in Venezuela earlier this year and the OAS response as an example of the Charter in action.
The second part of the conference consisted of a panel discussion on “The Inter-American Democratic Charter: Its Significance, Applicability, and Potential and a Caribbean Perspective.” The discussion was moderated by Maria Elena Salinas of the Univision network. The first panel speaker was the Minister of Government from Chile, Heraldo Muñoz, who spoke on “Significance: The Juridical ‘Value Added’ in the Defense and Promotion of Democracy.” Mr. Muñoz emphasized that to hold democracy to a high standard it must be defended by collective action. He remarked on an increasing warning sign for democracy in the hemisphere - the lack of participation in the electoral process in many countries – and the need to address this problem by possibly moving from a Charter to a Convention.
The second panel member was the President of the Foundation for the Americas, Eduardo Stein, who spoke on the topic, “Applicability: Parameters for the Application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” Mr. Stein responded to critics of the Charter by arguing that he believes that the discussion of the Charter can be further developed.
The third panel member was the President of Canadian Institute for International Affairs, the Honourable Barbara McDougall, who spoke on the topic, “Potential: Sustained Promotion of Democracy in the Hemisphere.” Ms. McDougall stressed that democracy required constant vigilance and that countries such as the United States and Canada can not use the threat of terror to undermine “the Right to Due Process.”
The last speaker on the panel was the Assistant Secretary General for Foreign and Community Relations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Colin Granderson, who gave “A Caribbean Perspective.” Ambassador Granderson remarked that small states need a new political ethic and that the Charter is a means to achieving this end.
On August 14, 2002, the OAS Permanent Council met to discuss, among other items, the national dialogue that is currently being promoted in Venezuela. To this effect, the Permanent Council approved a Resolution on Support for the Process of Dialogue in Venezuela (CP/RES. 821 (1329/02)). This resolution reiterates the OAS’ commitment to provide support and help to the Venezuelan government and welcomes the government’s efforts to conduct a process of dialogue with the participation of all sectors of Venezuelan society. The good offices of the OAS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Carter Center in Venezuela are also recognized. Finally the resolution encourages Venezuela, through all sectors of its society, to strive to “achieve the national reconciliation that both the Venezuelan people and the international community yearn for.”
Five days later, the Permanent Council called a special session in order to honor the visit of Roy Chaderton Matos, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, who spoke on the subject of Venezuela. His presentation can be found by clicking here (Spanish only).
Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Situation in
The Inter-American Democratic Charter,
created in support of democracy in the Americas, was first
invoked in response to the events of April 11 and 13, 2002, in
The OAS Permanent Council met on April
13, 2002, and approved resolution CP/RES. 811 (1315/02), in
which countries condemned the attempt coup and resolved to
“send to Venezuela a Mission headed by the Secretary General
of the OAS, with the aim of carrying out a fact-finding
mission and undertaking the necessary diplomatic initiatives,
including good offices, to promote as quickly as possible the
normalization of the democratic institutional framework”.
April 15 and 16, OAS Secretary General César Gaviria, the
Chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Margarita Escobar
and Ambassador Lisa Shoman, Permanent Representative of Belize
and spokesperson for CARICOM, visited Venezuela to assess the
met with a broad spectrum of representatives for the
country’s leading institutions, such as President Hugo Chávez
and his Foreign Minister, the leadership of the National
Assembly; the Attorney General, the comptroller general, the
ombudsman, and the president of the Supreme Court. They also
met with the Cardinal and with representatives of the
Bishops’ Conference, civil society groups, representatives
of some daily newspapers, television and radio networks, the
Confederation of Workers and members of opposition parties in
the National Assembly.
After returning from this mission, the Secretary General presented his report to the XXIX Extraordinary Session of the General Assembly of the OAS, held on Thursday, April 18, 2002. The General Assembly adopted Resolution AG/RES. 1(XXIX-E/02) entitled Support for Democracy in Venezuela. Through this resolution, the Member States supported the reestablishment of order in Venezuela and offer support and help from the OAS, which the Government of Venezuela needs to consolidate their democratic process.
Updated September 24, 2002