Democracy Network Created For The Americas

Published: Sat 1 Dec 2007 08:52 AM
By Eric Green
Democracy Network Created for the Americas
A new network of about 100 former government officials, academics and members of nongovernmental organizations has been created to help Latin American and Caribbean nations deal with issues related to promoting and defending democracy in the region.
The Democracy Practitioners Network will advise governments in the Americas on such subjects as electoral and constitutional reform, access to justice, good governance, citizen participation, transparency and efforts to combat corruption.
The network will back efforts of the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) to implement the Inter-American Democratic Charter and help nations in the region govern democratically. The group of practitioners has practical experience in democracy promotion and is familiar with the OAS's role in preventing and resolving conflicts in the Americas.
The Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted by the 34 countries of the OAS on September 11, 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States, helps governments in the region deal with threats to democracy.
OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza told USINFO November 28, after launching the program at his organization's headquarters, that the practitioners would be "distinguished OAS member-country nationals of outstanding professional experience."
Insulza said the U.S.-backed group will consist of "known democrats" with a reputation for impartiality. They are people, he said, "who are not only believers in democracy but have been active in political affairs."
The secretary-general, in announcing the program, said in Spanish that the network will help the OAS in "three crucial moments" in a democratic process: observing elections, promoting democratic governance, and "providing solutions in moments of crisis."
On that last point, the practitioners will offer their practical experience in forestalling a looming crisis in a country, such as to help a government and its political opposition reconcile outstanding differences.
An April 2005 meeting in Santiago, Chile, of the Community of Democracies also spoke of the need for a "democracy practitioner database" to carry out the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The Community of Democracies was created in 2000 to promote and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide.
John Maisto, former U.S. permanent representative to the OAS and a member of the pool of democracy practitioners, told USINFO that the network will examine political difficulties in the region's various countries and "provide information" and "recommend ways" to the OAS secretary-general "on how to deal with such problems."
Other members are Manfredo Marroquín, executive director of the Guatemala-based Acción Ciudadana (Citizen Action), which works to increase citizen participation and promote transparency in government; Enrique Ochoa, a former member of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, an autonomous organization responsible for organizing federal elections in that country; and Ana María Sanjuan, director of the Center for Peace and Human Rights at the Central University of Venezuela.
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