OAS Day of Democracy

Remarks by

Ambassador Francisco O. Mora

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Chair, and colleagues, as we know, our region’s common commitment to democracy is not confined within our borders, Chair. It extends across the hemisphere, manifested through the participation of OAS member states in various initiatives — such as the Community of Democracies, the Open Government Partnership, the Summits for Democracy, the Freedom Online Coalition, and other diplomatic efforts. These efforts reflect the reality that democracies thrive when they are interconnected and supported by other democracies.

We also recently marked the twenty-second anniversary of the adoption – by acclamation – of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And as we all know, Article 1 of the Charter proclaims that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and our governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

This statement reflects our region’s vision of democracy, not just as a system of governance, but as a fundamental and practical responsibility of governments toward their citizens.
Over the past two decades, colleagues, we have witnessed both the strengthening and the testing of democracy across our hemisphere. It is undeniable that political polarization, corruption, disinformation, and transnational organized crime have eroded our democratic institutions, undermining the rule of law and the very legitimacy of democracy itself.

While democracy has made significant strides in our hemisphere, the declining support for democracy – as reflected in the latest Latinobarómetro poll – is deeply concerning. As the delegation of Panama noted, only 48% of respondents believe that democracy is preferable to other forms of government. That is a decline of 15 percentage points since 2010. Now this trend is not unique to Latin America, as global levels of democracy have also regrettably receded over the last decade.

Insecurity, both real and perceived, plays a significant role in this disillusionment, but the issues run deeper. Dissatisfaction with income distribution, inequality of opportunity, and distrust in political institutions have contributed to this decline. The battle against corruption also remains a work in progress throughout the Americas, with trust in key institutions of government, including political parties, legislatures, and judiciaries, at alarmingly low levels.

Even in the United States, Chair, confidence in government institutions has fallen steadily in recent decades, from well over 70% in the 1970s to barely 20% today, and trust in our electoral institutions has fallen sharply in just the past few years. However, despite these challenges, the majority of respondents in the Latinobarómetro poll remain committed to democratic principles, rejecting the idea of authoritarian governance.

And yet, we must remain vigilant and protect democracy. Because, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken put it, the past twenty years have taught us that democracy is indeed fragile in our region. With this in mind, the United States is firmly committed to working collaboratively through the OAS, the Summit of the Americas process, the new Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to address ongoing challenges to democracy.

Mr. Chair, we are also mindful that the Democratic Charter serves as an example for democracy activists across Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. The rights and values embodied in the Charter are cherished by people throughout our diverse hemisphere, who understand how essential they are to our region’s social, political, and economic development, and they are an inspiration to the world as well. When democratic practice is abridged anywhere in the Americas, it harms all of us.

Chair, if I may say a few words regarding our region’s most pressing cases regarding democracy and human rights:

• A stable, democratic, and prosperous Venezuela is imperative for our region. The United States remains committed to working with all OAS member states and our regional partners to facilitate meaningful dialogue and democratic reform there.
• We also urge the government of Nicaragua to reverse course in its denouncement of the OAS Charter, to re-engage with the Organization, and to create an open environment for free and fair elections that will allow the Nicaraguan people to determine the future of their country.
• And finally, we call on the authorities in Cuba to immediately release those languishing in prison simply for exercising their civil liberties, and reiterate our hope that Cuba can rejoin the family of democracies by allowing its citizens to freely and openly express their political beliefs.

Colleagues, as more recent events have demonstrated, we have seen that even democratically-elected governments can pose threats to democracy if they do not respect its safeguards and institutions. None of us is perfect, but all of us must speak out, stand firm and act with the clarity of our convictions when the circumstances merit it.

To this point, the Voluntary Group of member states to promote dialogue, cooperation, and the sharing of best practices represents a significant step forward — for strengthening our democracies and use of the Democratic Charter, and for countering democratic backsliding. The United States looks forward to actively supporting the work and activities of this new group.

Chair, in closing, as we celebrate our hemisphere’s embrace of democratic principles today, let us renew with action our commitment to deepen, promote, and defend those principles. This includes active engagement of young people in decision-making processes, and our support of education for democracy, human rights, and civic values.

Only by working together — with transparency and mutual respect — can the Democratic Charter continue to function as an indispensable, guiding tool for democracy. Thank you, Chair.


Joint Statement:
Follow-Up to the Inter-American Democratic Charter,
on the Occasion of the International Day of Democracy
As presented to the Regular Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council
September 20, 2023

1. Twenty-two years after the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter during the twenty-eighth special session of the OAS General Assembly held in Lima, Peru on September 11, 2001, the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize,Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay reaffirm the purposes and principles of the OAS Charter, and the Democratic Charter’s central role as the basis for preserving and defending democracy in all countries of the hemisphere, and as a vital mechanism for the collective consolidation and strengthening of democracy through cooperation in the Americas.

2. Recognizing that democracy and democratic institutions face increasing challenges, we are mindful that the Democratic Charter strongly upholds the crucial importance of democracy, and more widely embodies a form of shared commitment and values for good governance that respects the freedoms and rights of all people.

3. We are guided by the mandate adopted by the 53rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly and contained in AG/RES. 3004, approved on June 23, 2023 (VI. Follow-Up on the Inter-American Democratic Charter), which “encourages the creation of an open-participation group of member states to foster, with the support of the Secretariat for Strengthening
Democracy, dialogue, horizontal cooperation, and the sharing of best practices among its members, and to identify opportunities within the principles of the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter to strengthen their democracies,” as well as the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance adopted at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

4. Accordingly, as members of the OAS, we celebrate the democratic progress that many OAS
member states have achieved since the adoption of the Democratic Charter, and we encourage all
member states to reaffirm their commitment to democracy and to implement their commitments
to democracy by guaranteeing the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all peoples.

5. We underscore the need for OAS member states to deepen regional cooperation and strengthen
our institutions in an effort to respond to challenges which may impact the independence of the
executive, judiciary and legislative branches in the context of the necessary balance of powers; the
full respect for human rights including the enjoyment of freedom of expression; as well as civic
space, transparency and citizen participation.

6. We reaffirm our unwavering support for the Democratic Charter which, among its provisions,
describes mechanisms for member states to request assistance for the strengthening and preservation of democratic institutions; for the deployment of diplomatic initiatives; to carry out a
collective assessment in the event that an alteration occurs in a member state that affects the
democratic order; and also the need to carry out programs and activities designed to promote
democratic principles and practices in order to strengthen a democratic culture in the hemisphere.

7. In the framework of the Charter of the OAS, we endorse the important and constructive roles
assigned to the Organization in addressing challenges that affect the development of democratic
political institutional processes and the legitimate exercise of power by democratically elected

8. We commit to supporting efforts, consistent with the Charter of the Organization, international
law and the provisions of the Inter-American Democratic Charter that allow to address and enable
initiatives in response to disruptions of constitutional order or democratic political and institutional processes, and to address emerging challenges to civic participation in democratic debates, such as disinformation, misinformation, and violent extremism.

9. Once created, we propose that as part of its work, the Voluntary Group will be open to all
member states and will explore ways to: better apply the Charter based on mutual respect, dialogue
and cooperation, the principle of non-intervention, and the sharing of experiences and best
practices; improve the quality of our democracies; and strengthen the ongoing and creative work
to consolidate democracy as well as a continuing effort to prevent and anticipate the very causes
of the problems that affect the democratic system of government. In this regard, we propose that
programs and activities should be carried out to promote democratic principles and practices and
strengthen a democratic culture in the hemisphere, bearing in mind that democracy is a way of life
based on liberty and the enhancement of economic, social, and cultural conditions which we are
determined to make a reality for the people of the Americas.

10. Based on our diversity as a region, we are convinced that we should deepen dialogue and
cooperation regarding the matters contained in Chapter II “Democracy and Human Rights,” and
Chapter III “Democracy, Integral Development, and Combating Poverty.”

11. We recall the interdependency and mutually reinforcing nature of democracy and social and
economic development, and reiterate that poverty, illiteracy, and low levels of human development
are factors that adversely affect the consolidation of democracy. We renew our commitment, as
OAS member states, to cooperate in the adoption and implementation of all actions required to
generate productive employment, reduce poverty, and eradicate extreme poverty in our countries,
taking into account as well the development of programs and activities for the education of children and youth as a means of ensuring the continuance of democratic values, including liberty, equity and social justice.

12. We assert that deepening democracy in all our member states necessitates the full and equal
participation of women in every sphere of our societies as reaffirmed by the Democratic Charter
to promote and protect the rights of women in the region. In this connection, we will intensify our
work to ensure that the OAS promotes women’s equality as a central objective.

13. We will support efforts to better enable the OAS to assist requesting member states with
technical support, follow-up, good offices and special missions; education in civic values,
democracy, and human rights; cooperation for integral and inclusive development; initiatives for
quality education for all, including women and girls, rural inhabitants and minorities; and
processes of inclusion, negotiation and dialogue.

14. We urge all OAS member states to join this endeavor for the creation of the Voluntary Group,
in compliance with the mandate of the General Assembly contained in resolution AG/RES.3004.
15. We invite the President of the Permanent Council, through consultation with all member states, to advance the creation of the Group and to report to the next regular meeting of the Permanent
Council planned for October 2, 2023 on responses received, with a view to formalizing the creation
of the Group at that meeting.