Experts from Latin America put region's democracy in focus

08 Oct 2010

Mexico City – The multitude of challenges facing contemporary democracy in the countries of Latin America are the subject of debate by politicians, academics, public officials and experts from the region at a forum this month in Mexico City.

Political engagement, the separation of powers, and State modernization will be among the themes that eminent speakers will explore between 11 and 14 October at the Latin American Democracy Forum, sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) of Mexico.

The event will be opened on Monday 11 October in the presence of the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, accompanied by OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza; UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan; Rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), José Narro Robles; and the President of the Federal Electoral Institute of Mexico, Leonardo Valdés.

The Forum will include the launch of a joint report on democracy in Latin America, entitled “Nuestra Democracia”, “Our Democracy”, co-authored by the OAS and UNDP, under the leadership of former Argentine Chancellor Dante Caputo, for the OAS, and former UN Under Secretary General of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, for UNDP.

The report is the result of an exercise involving research, consultation and discussion among actors from 18 countries in the region who reflected on the theme of power and the effects of extreme inequality on democracy. It includes an analysis of the shortcomings and weaknesses of Latin American democracies and proposes prioritizing action in three public-policy areas: taxation, social inclusion and public security.

“The problems at the heart of democracies have largely changed in recent years, but those related to the weakness of institutions are still underlying and we cannot ignore them,” said OAS Secretary General Insulza.  “In order to address the threats which undermine democracy, we must endeavour to unite on the basis of the principles which we hold in common: respect for dialogue, consensus, the rule of law and all the standards which underpin this system.”

Heraldo Muñoz, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Latin America and Caribbean, said: “Countries of Latin America have experienced their longest period of democratic governance and appointment of public authorities through the ballot box. However, there is an issue of quality in our democracies. People are clearly angry about inequalities of wealth and power, low levels of citizen engagement in public affairs, public and private corruption, lack of citizen security and State weakness, among other issues. Latin America is still searching for its democratic identity”.

The Latin America Democracy Forum, which will take place at the Palacio de Minería, will provide a platform for discussion and debate leading to contributions to identifying problems, needs and challenges in the transition, construction and consolidation of democracy in the region.

The forum will also facilitate exploring and sharing of different priorities, perspectives and approaches on the democracy agenda. Among those participating in the event are: Ricardo Lagos, Enrique Iglesias, Julio Mara Sanguinetti, Alicia Bárcena, Ricardo Alfonsín, Teodoro Petkoff, Jesús Silva Herzog Flores and Carlos Slim, all of whom will be present among the eight round tables beginning on Monday.

Items on the agenda include: the role of media and freedom of expression in democracies; circumstances and challenges in electoral competence in the 21st century; the relationship between democracy, poverty and inequality; dynamics between security, state and democracies; and the presentation of a study on governance and democratic coexistence by the Latin American School of Social Sciences.

For further  information about the forum:  http://www.nuestrademocracia.org/

Contact Information

UNDP Press Officer:
Pablo A. Basz,
 (507) 305-4864
pablo.basz@undp.org

OAS Press Officer:
Gina Ochoa,
(202) 458-3093,
gochoa@oas.org