UNDP, OAS launch second report on democracy in Latin America

Oct 12, 2010

Mexico City – Latin America is undergoing its longest period of democratic governance at the same time as experiencing an unprecedented situation in terms of finance, inflation rates and debt, according to a new report.

While the ballot box is now central to the appointment of public authorities in countries of the region, the report says, signs of public resentment are appearing due to wide equality gaps; low levels of public engagement; persistent corruption; growing public insecurity; and undermining of the rule of law.

These themes, along with a series of recommendations, are the focus of “Nuestra Democracia”, “Our Democracy”, the second report of its kind, launched today at a forum of politicians, academics, public officials and experts from Latin America being held this week in Mexico City.

“We have moved on from an understanding of citizenship as having the same legal rights to elect, be elected and stand for election to one that encompasses civil rights and has lately come to include what we call ‘social citizenship’,” said José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States  (OAS).

“The report shapes the question of democracy, not from the perspective of those who control it, or those who run it, but rather of those who are entitled to the benefits which democracy should confer,” said Insulza, on the panel launching the report.

The report was compiled by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the OAS, under the leadership of former Argentine Chancellor, Dante Caputo, for the OAS, and former UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, for UNDP.

“Latin America is still searching for its democratic identity,” said Heraldo Muñoz, UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Democracy is not only characterized by the indispensible electoral process but also by the way in which power is exercised and basic expectations of citizenship are fulfilled.”

During the Forum inauguration the previous day, UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan said: “We still have many tasks ahead of us. The region is the most violent in the world, if we exclude countries at war, and this presents serious challenges to democracy. Despite the advances, levels of poverty and inequality in the region remain too high in relation to the level of economic development.”

The report calls for the building of sustainable democracies in the region, democracies in which power is more effectively and evenly spread among citizens, and where citizenship rights are guaranteed for all.

It also recommends attention to issues such as reducing equality gaps in income, gender and ethnicity; re-evaluating curbs on privilege and the abuse of power; the “informalization” of employment; and democratic inclusion in the economic and social debate.

In addition to representatives from the OAS and UNDP, the panel launching the report at the Latin American Democracy Forum also included Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report is available in electronic form at: http://www.nuestrademocracia.org/

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