The linkage between democracy and governance was the central theme of a dialogue that Ministers of Foreign Relations held during the plenary sessions of the 33rd OAS General Assembly, held in Santiago, Chile, between June 8 and 10, 2003.
The agreements reached in this matter were reflected in the "Declaration of Santiago on Democracy and Public Trust: a New Commitment to Good Governance for the Americas", AG/DEC. 31 (XXXIIII-O/03), and in the resolution “Program for Democratic Governance in the Americas", AG/RES. 1960 (XXXIII-O/03).
In operative paragraph 2 of that resolution 1960, the General Assembly instructed the General Secretariat “to hold, through the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), a meeting of experts to prepare an analysis on the strengthening of democratic governance in the region and to present the analysis, along with its recommendations, to the Permanent Council for its consideration and transmission to the forthcoming Special Summit of the Americas, to be held in Mexico.”
II. Meeting of Experts on Democratic Governance
The Meeting of Experts on Strengthening Democratic Governance was held at OAS headquarters on November 12 and 13, 2003. The program for the meeting and a list of participants were prepared by the General Secretariat, in consultation with the Permanent Council. A reference document, which was provided to the experts to serve as background to their discussion, was drawn up by the General Secretariat.1/ The Meeting of Experts was structured in two plenary sessions and six working groups, which focused their analysis, conclusions and recommendations on the following topics:
Governance, cooperation and integration;
Governance and economic development;
Governance and social development;
Governance and modernization of the State;
Governance and representative democracy, and;
Governance, human rights and citizens’ security.
The Final Report of the Meeting of Experts, which includes a summary of the sessions and the reports of the corresponding rapporteurs, was distributed to the delegations of Member States on November 25, 2003, for consideration by the Permanent Council.2/
III. The Permanent Council The Permanent Council, at its meeting of December 3, 2003, began consideration of this report and, for the purposes of paragraph 2 of resolution AG/RES. 1960 (XXXIII-O/03), agreed to transmit it for study and consideration by the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities, asking that committee to submit to the Council any recommendations it considered appropriate for subsequent transmittal to the Special Summit of the Americas in Mexico, through the preparatory meeting of plenipotentiaries.
IV. Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC)
The CISC met on December 15, 2003 and, as requested by the Permanent Council, considered the Rapporteur's Report on the Meeting of Experts on Strengthening Democratic Governance (CP/doc. 3801.03).
During that meeting, delegations expressed the following views on this document and decided to submit them to the Permanent Council:
A. The Meeting of Experts fulfilled its general objectives, in the sense of providing an analysis of a priority topic, generating an exchange of ideas, and formulating a series of recommendations on issues relating to governance. It is clear, however, that the rapporteur's report does not present the positions of member countries on the issues addressed at the meeting, since the document in fact reflects the independent opinions of the experts who participated in the meeting. It was also agreed that the document constitutes an initial and positive, but not conclusive, contribution that could serve as input for preparing the proposed program of democratic governance in the Americas.
B. Delegations noted a lack of balance and some gaps in the rapporteur's report, as follows:
1. Resolution 1960 constitutes a first fleshing out of the contents of the “Declaration of Santiago on Democracy and Public Trust: a New Commitment to Good Governance for the Americas". That Declaration calls for applying the Inter-American Democratic Charter and in that context states the need to define an agenda for good governance for the Americas that will address political, economic and social challenges. The Declaration of Santiago contains comprehensive conclusions and commitments, and it sets forth clear strategies and policies for strengthening democratic governance, a detailed description of the causes and consequences of governance problems, and a balanced treatment of the political, economic and social variables underlying those problems. Exercising their undoubted independence, the experts focused their discussion solely on certain aspects covered in the Declaration of Santiago, in the process doing only partial justice to the wealth of concepts in the Declaration.
2. The Rapporteur's Report is somewhat vague in establishing the linkages between two concepts: a) that the origin of the causes of governance problems lies in the interaction between politics and economics, and b) that there is a reciprocal relationship between governance and development, the latter being defined as the result of policies for reducing poverty, narrowing inequalities, and attempting to abolish all forms of exclusion. There are gaps in the analysis, particularly when it comes to the relationship between economics and development. The report lacks balance, and the sphere that the experts call "State and citizen" occupies the greater part of the work, giving little consideration to the "State-market" sphere. For example:
Economic aspects are mentioned only in section 2.1.3, "Socioeconomic Aspects", and this section makes no mention of the impact of different economic models on social development.
Nor is there any conceptual link drawn between social development and the State-market relationship (2.1.5. "Social Development").
The section on globalization and integration (2.1.6. "Globalization and Integration") does not offer any thoughts about asymmetries in the globalization process.
Among the transnational issues that now pose new security threats there is no mention of terrorism. Countries of the hemisphere have maintained a steadfast position against terrorism, a position that finds expression both in the Convention and in the Special Conference on Security.
Under "Strategic considerations to guide OAS actions" (2.2.1.), there is no reference to equitable market access and no attention is paid to subsidies, tariffs and other protectionist measures.
Section 2.2.3 lists areas that deserve particular attention in relation to political reform, but ignores economic reform in such fields as tax policy and income redistribution systems.
3. The Chapter on "Recommendations and Specific Actions" (2.3) betrays a similar lack of balance. Most of the actions cited have to do with reform of the State, without venturing into the relationship between economics, development and governance. In this respect, the Declaration of Santiago is again more explicit and comprehensive in reflecting the consensus among member countries of the OAS. That Declaration holds that "strengthening democratic governance calls for the elimination of poverty and social exclusion and the promotion of equitable economic growth, by means of sound public policies and practices that promote equal opportunity, education, health, and full employment”, and insists that “economic growth with equity is essential to eradicating poverty, enhancing social justice, and creating equal opportunities for each and every citizen in our region.”
4. Section 2.1.4, "Political Aspects", in speaking of the crisis of legitimacy of political parties, offers a diagnosis that is applicable to traditional parties that have lost their historic popular base. The leadership of those parties failed to defend the interests of their followers during the economic and social transformation that began in the 1980s and gathered speed in the 1990s, contributing thereby to a distinct stratification of society, characterized by exclusion.
5. The notion of a consensus agenda in section 2.3.6, "A Consensus Agenda", is supremely important, and again the statements on cooperation and multilateralism adopted in the Declaration of Santiago are fully applicable.
6. The weaknesses detected in the document may have more to do with problems of synthesis by the rapporteur than with the proposals originally put forward on these topics during the meeting of experts. For example:
Section 2.2.3 lists four aspects of political reform, but apparently neglects to mention the relationship between governments and social development. Yet there was an agenda chapter, and a summary, entitled "Governance and Social Development", devoted to poverty issues, and other segments of the meeting also considered those issues.
7. Section 2.2.5 is of particular concern, because it suggests that the OAS should confine its work on the topic exclusively to the field of Governance and Reform of the State, as if this were the only aspect of governance that had been dealt with, thereby losing sight of the diversity of political systems in the hemisphere. Nor does this section refer to developing a democratic culture and sense of citizenship, where the OAS could make a real contribution independent of the political systems selected by individual countries.
8. It is important to recall the guidance offered in this respect by the Declaration of Santiago, which indicates topics that should have been addressed by the meeting of experts:
The principal benchmark for this topic is the Democratic Charter.
The agenda for good governance for the hemisphere, which is to develop this topic further, should consider challenges of three kinds: political, economic and social.
The call for strengthening cooperation and partnership.
Recognition of the role of political parties and support for civil society participation.
The importance for democratic governance of reinforcing state modernization processes, with an emphasis on new technologies.
The importance of judicial reform and modernization.
The struggle against corruption.
Responsible management of public affairs.
Economic and social development and the elimination of poverty.
A world economic order that will promote growth, trade liberalization, and investment flows.
Respect for and appreciation of culture, with special attention to indigenous peoples, gender equality and equity, and ending discrimination.
Human rights, the promotion of shared national values, and integral development.
9. The report is somewhat too theoretical in some respects, for example in its unsubstantiated suggestion for changing presidential systems to parliamentary systems. Anyone familiar with the history of Latin America knows that this is not an issue to be taken lightly. Other, similarly important topics are also dealt with in a very cursory fashion.
10. The final impression is that the recommendations fail to take account of economic and social issues and their importance for democratic governance. The report is heavily focused on the political reforms that could or should occur in some countries, and on strengthening institutions. It devotes most of its attention to what the OAS might do in the coming months or years within the domestic political context of each country, leading to the conclusion that the OAS should focus on analyzing and helping interested countries to implement certain political reforms. This approach is inadequate, because it fails to take account of economic and social issues within countries, and their linkages with the regional and international setting.
11. This report deserves further consideration as an input and a point of departure for preparing a democratic governance agenda, which must cover at least three areas:
Domestic political considerations, institutional strengthening or institutional reforms.
The economic and social situation of member countries.
The international economic environment.
12. It is worrying that mention is made of democratic governance only in connection with Latin America, because this is a subject that needs to be considered in relation to other countries and that affects all regions.
13. The Declaration might include an operative paragraph supporting the process of preparing a democratic governance agenda for the Americas.
14. Due account must be paid to the differences in the political and judicial systems of countries in the region.
In accordance with the task that the Permanent Council has past entrusted to me, as chair of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities, I have the honor of submitting for the Council's consideration the Committee's observations contained in this report.
Rodolfo Hugo Gil
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Argentina,
Chair, Committee on Inter-American Summits Management
and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities
December 17, 2003
CP/doc.3801/03 corr. 1
15 December 2003
“MEETING OF EXPERTS ON STRENGTHENING DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE”
Organization of American States 17th and Constitution Ave., N.W. • Washington, D.C. 20006
November 25, 2003
I have the honor to address Your Excellency in order to transmit the Rapporteur's Report on the Meeting of Experts on Strengthening Democratic Governance, held on November 12 and 13, 2003, and to request that you use your good offices to have this Report circulated to the Permanent Council members.
I avail myself of the opportunity to renew to Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.