OAS Marks International Day of Democracy

Ambassador Carmen Lomellin addresses the Permanent Council at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2013. (OAS Photo)
Ambassador Carmen Lomellin addresses the Permanent Council at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2013. (OAS Photo)

Commemoration of the International Day of Democracy 2013

In an address to the Permanent Council marking the occasion, Ambassador Carmen Lomellin called for renewed engagment by the member states to advance initiatives to strengthen implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Statement by Ambassador Carmen Lomellin

September 20, 2013

(As prepared for delivery)

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to take the floor, along with the governments of Canada, El Salvador, and Jamaica, in recognition of the International Day of Democracy which occurred earlier this week on September 15th.  This Day was first recognized in 2007 by the UN General Assembly, as a way to encourage governments to strengthen national programs devoted to the promotion and consolidation of democracy.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Strengthening Voices for Democracy,” which speaks to the importance of encouraging and supporting the participation of our region’s citizens in decisions impacting how they are governed.   This theme also reflects the importance of empowering our citizens to transform common interests into actions that serve the common good—from government accountability to social justice to entrepreneurship and innovation.

At the same time, it is also important to recognize that democracies flourish when they are connected to and supported by other democracies. We are seeing this in our region through the work of the OAS and also through the Community of Democracies, currently led by El Salvador’s presidency.  And on Monday, President Obama will underscore the commitment of the United States to deepen governmental and civil society collaboration as he launches a major new effort in an event on the margins of the UN General Assembly co-hosted by the Community of Democracies and the Open Government Partnership, represented by the Partnership’s incoming co-chair Mexico.

In light of these various efforts, we are pleased to commemorate the International Day of Democracy here at the OAS, as we also mark the twelfth anniversary of the adoption, by consensus, of the Inter-American Democratic Charter by our Organization.

Mr. Chairman, on the same day when terrorists launched an attack on New York and Washington, D.C, 34 foreign ministers worked with common cause to stand firm in their commitment to hope and freedom.

Article 1 of the Democratic Charter states that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and our governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”  This language remains an affirmation of our region’s vision of democracy:  not just as a system of government, but as a fundamental and practical responsibility of governments toward their citizens.  During the past decade, Mr. Chairman, democracy has continued to deepen in most of our hemisphere.  This is a significant achievement and a source of pride to our citizens, and we are collectively committed to working on the challenges that remain.

The promotion of democratic rights and values, as embodied in the Democratic Charter, remains a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.  These rights and values are cherished by people throughout the diverse Americas, who understand how essential they are to the social, political, and economic development of the region.  We also understand, together, that when democratic practice is abridged anywhere in the Americas, it harms all of us.

And so, the United States remains a committed partner and supporter of OAS efforts to better promote and support democracy throughout the Americas.  The Democratic Charter provides a standard by which to gauge challenges to democracy in the Hemisphere, and to help member states where democratic practices or institutions are under threat.  At the same time, we recognize that our Democratic Charter serves as an example for democracy activists across Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.

We also know, Mr. Chairman, that there remains much to be done to fully translate the Democratic Charter’s vision into common action.  Therefore, as we celebrate and mark the International Day of Democracy, I want to recall our commitment to ensuring that the Democratic Charter remains an indispensable tool for the collective defense of democracy. We strongly agree with the Secretary General, who noted this week that, “with this day’s celebration, we all renew our commitment to keep strengthening our governments’ democratic management and the full respect for the rights of our peoples.”

To this end, it is important to underscore that we have pending mandates for this Council on the Democratic Charter.  Mr. Chairman, the 2013 General Assembly – in AG/RES. 2766 – instructed the Permanent Council “to continue the Dialogue on the Effectiveness of the Implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, taking into account all the topics addressed and discussions contained in the Final Report (CP/doc.4669/11 rev. 3), approved on December 14, 2011.”

Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to follow-up on this mandate, or on the related request which asked the Secretary General “to present a report to the Permanent Council on all cases in which action on his part is called for in the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”  A renewed discussion on these issues here in the Council would allow us to consider our recent successes and upcoming efforts, especially as 2014 shapes up to be busy electoral cycle for our region and for the OAS’ Political Affairs Secretariat.

My delegation continues to believe that the recommendations contained in our 2011 report on the Democratic Charter are worthy of further discussion.  And so, the United States would welcome efforts to advance our Council’s mandate to review these recommendations and propose next steps.  By working together to integrate our steadfast commitment to democracy with real and sustained effort, we can continue to make tangible progress.

Mr. Chairman, we thank you for including this item on the agenda of today’s Council meeting, and we welcome further discussion of our proposal. Before concluding – I would also like to thank you for all of your hard work as you finish your term at the helm of this Council.