Dialogue on Democracy - Summation of Best Practices and Key Ideas

Community of Democracies Brings Africans and Latin Americans Together in Coral Gables, Florida to Share Ideas on Strengthening Democracy in their Regions

At the June 5-6, 2003 Dialogue on Democracy meeting, representatives of the 14 participating countries from government, parliament, and civil society, discussed the following ideas and best practices related to regional action to protect and promote democracy and other steps to consolidate democratic institutions. There was broad consensus that regional, national, and individual efforts to bolster democracies must broaden the scope of action, the types of partners, and the tools used.

Regional Action

  • Develop more advanced and coherent regional preventive action strategies, including monitoring and early warning systems, and bolster political will for strong action.
  • Use regional incentives and punitive measures to encourage backsliding and fragile democracies, to create conditions favorable to democratic development and/or to achieve political consensus between political groups; regional action should be done in a timely way to ensure regional engagement provides maximum influence on a worsening situation.
  • Strengthen implementation of democracy clauses in regional agreements to promote preventive and reactive action, which can address deteriorating democracy and to encourage governmental and non-governmental cooperation.
  • Bolster the will of regional bodies to condemn publicly and unequivocally human rights abuses and authoritarian acts, rather than avoiding such action because of perceived infringement of sovereignty; while respecting sovereignty of a country is essential, this cannot be used to justify inaction toward blatant abuses of basic international standards.
  • Use sub-regional organizations (SADC, ECOWAS, CARICOM, MERCOSUR, and others) to promote democratic development, prevent backsliding, and address challenges to democracy.
  • Use sub-regional organizations as a vehicle to address transnational problems that also threaten democracy, i.e. public health concerns, narco-trafficking, terrorism, etc.
  • Establish stronger ties between sub-regional and regional organizations to ensure that action or peer review is done at one level if impossible at the other.
  • Develop mechanisms for systematic consultation with civil society regarding design and implementation of regional strategies to strengthen democracy.
  • Advocate that citizenries be educated about the regional and national commitments to democracy and the rights and responsibilities of participating in a democratic society.
  • Create a “culture of democracy” which ensures more active citizen engagement in their society and promotes tolerance, pluralism, and other basic elements of democratic systems.
  • Use highest – not lowest – common denominators when developing strong peer review mechanisms for democratic action, including establishing election standards; select countries for participating in peer review based on similarly high standards.

Other Actions

  • Use judicial and legislative instruments to ensure greater public access to government and to strengthen the right of citizens to participate in governing process.
  • Reinforce transparency in the financing of political parties/politics.
  • Initiate and bolster formal public education programs among youth in primary schools and among communities on democracy in order to deepen the citizenry’s understanding of democracy and to foster the concept of democracy as a part of the national/regional culture.
  • Recognize and strengthen the role of parliaments, political parties and non-governmental organizations in promoting democracy, raising awareness among citizens, and advocating the importance of regional organizations; this can also be done through various means including the internet, NGO forums, participation in meetings; Strengthen the coordination among these entities and between these and the executive branch.
  • Eradicate impunity under existing laws, including anti-corruption laws; where needed create or strengthen anti-corruption and ethics laws.
  • Encourage institutions, including electoral systems, that are inclusive of all citizens in order to reduce political, ethnic, and tribal division and violence; create conditions that will allow for free, fair, and inclusive elections.
  • Decentralize power and resources to local decision-making bodies and develop an agenda for social, economic and political development.
  • Ensure full integration of marginalized populations, i.e. the poor, women, into the political process, economic sphere, etc.
  • Strengthen implementation of Democratic charters, like the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and encourage fuller contact between the OAS and the AU.

Additional Ideas

  • Poverty eradication is important and must be included in a democracy’s agenda. However, democratization can take place in a country with poor economic development, and can be an essential element to lifting a country out of poverty. Political and economic reform, coupled with support for human development, including education and health, are all essential parallel elements of a country’s development.
  • Free and fair democratic elections are a fundamental element of democratic development, as it is the vehicle most likely to put accountable government and institutions in place. In addition to elections and the strengthening of democratic institutions, there are many other elements that impact democratization, including combating poverty, peace building, and fighting transnational concerns, such as terrorism, organized crime, public health issues; these must be addressed in tandem.

 

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