Published On: Wed, Sep 14th, 2016

OAS celebrates anniversary of adoption of Inter-American Democratic Charter

democratic_charterWASHINGTON - The Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday celebrated the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) during a ceremony held in the Hall of the Americas of OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro opened the event with welcoming remarks and the list of keynote speakers included Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada; Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru; Alvaro Colom, former president of Guatemala; and Thomas Shannon, US under secretary of state for political affairs.

Dr Elliston Rahming, Bahamas ambassador and permanent representative to the OAS and current chair of the OAS Permanent Council, delivered closing remarks, during which he described the Inter-American Democratic Charter as “a unique instrument which has no comparable arm in any other international organization.”

“Indeed, it is the first document of its kind that places such a high premium on the promotion, consolidation and protection of democracy in our hemisphere and, I might add, the wider international community,” Rahming said. “The OAS should therefore be proud of the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter on September 11, 2001, a day which is etched in the minds of the international community for other reasons, and the leadership role the Organization has played and continues to play in the formulation of the system of international legal conventions and norms.”

Rahming said the Inter-American Democratic Charter “came into being at a time when democracy was beginning to take root in the Americas following decades of dictatorial and authoritarian regimes.”

“It came about because democracy was considered to be, and still is, the truest expression of the will of the people,” Rahming declared. “The enactment of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, therefore, allowed for the promotion and consolidation of democracy to become firmly established among OAS member states. The Charter, with its various provisions, is an instrument that both encourages and accompanies member states in their quest for that system of government – democracy – which in the paraphrased words of a former British prime minister could be the most chaotic system but also one with the least imperfections.”

Rahming added, “For through the Chapters on (i) Democracy and the Inter-American System (ii) Democracy and Human Rights (iii) Democracy, Integral Development, and Combating Poverty (iv) Strengthening and Preservation of Democratic Institutions and (v) Promotion of Democratic Culture, we are given the road map to make an imperfect system a bit more perfect. Through these chapters, the Charter allows for the free expression of the will of the people, the protection of human rights, and development that is fair and just.

“Admittedly, the Inter-American Democratic Charter has (regrettably) had to be activated, under different provisions, in some member states facing various or special circumstances. In 2002, under Article 17 of the Charter, the Permanent Council accompanied Haiti when it established in OAS Special Mission for the Strengthening of Democracy as a means to facilitate the resolution of the political impasse in that country following ill-fated legislative elections in 2000.

Also in 2002, Rahming said, the Charter “was again activated with the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela and the solidarity of member states allowed for the return of the democratic order and for President Chavez to be restored to power. It was also employed in Bolivia between 2005 and 2006 after several political crises. These accompaniment efforts were undertaken within Articles 17 and 18 of the Charter.”

“We are all familiar with what took place in Honduras in 2009 which unfortunately required the invocation of articles 19 and 20 of the Charter,” Rahming said. “Although efforts to return the country swiftly to democratic normalcy failed and the ultimate punitive measure had to be resorted too, we were nevertheless pleased when two years later in 2011 Honduras was reinstated as a full member of the OAS democratic family.”

He added, “We would all also remember in June 2016, when the Secretary General invoked Article 20 of the Charter, and requested a convocation of the Permanent Council to present his assessments on our sister country, Venezuela.

“The accompaniment aspect of the Charter is, in my opinion, one of its most important features. For this allows the OAS, and the Permanent Council and/or the SG specifically, to support a member state which is facing challenges to democracy. It provides for, not only political support, but for the provision of technical cooperation to help strengthen the country’s democratic system.

“Through the deployment of electoral observation missions and the provision of technical support to electoral bodies (Articles 23 and 24 of the Charter), the OAS makes a significant contribution in strengthening electoral processes in the region. And in Articles 26 and 27, the OAS is mandated to support member states in the area of good governance as a way of strengthening the democratic culture in the Hemisphere.”

Suggesting that the challenge “for all of us is good governance,” Rahming added, “If democracy doesn’t deliver benefits and services to the populace, good governance is affected. Lack of good and effective governance places a strain on the democratic system, which I believe we all cherish.

“The Inter-American Democratic Charter is an instrument that is meant to help strengthen our democratic system of government. It should not be feared. On the other hand, it should be utilized to both accompany member states in this quest as well as to prevent slippages.

“Can the Charter be improved? Certainly it can, and this is a debate that is needed. However, at this time it is the most far-reaching instrument for the preservation and consolidation of democracy we have and we must utilize it more effectively.”

As he did at the start of his closing remarks, Rahming, on behalf of the Permanent Council, once again thanked “all the panelists for their participation at this event commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and welcome very much their leadership and insights on the Charter.”

Picture: (L-R) At the ceremony celebrating the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) in the OAS Hall of the Americas are: Dr Elliston Rahming, Bahamas Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the OAS and current Chair of the OAS Permanent Council; Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister of Canada; Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru; OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro; Alvaro Colom, former President of Guatemala; Thomas Shannon, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; and Steven Griner, Director of the Department of Sustainable Democracy and Special Missions

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