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  • Documents on Democracy

The Americas

Former Colombian president César Gaviria-Trujillo was installed on September 15 as secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS). In the speech he delivered upon assuming office, he outlined the role that the OAS should play in defending and strengthening democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Following are excerpts from his speech:

During my years as President of my country, I witnessed the ability of peoples to withstand adversity, and their devotion to change and transformation through democratic means. Now you, my fellow citizens of the American Hemisphere, have honored me with one of the highest responsibilities in the Americas. I was not elected then to conduct business as usual. And I well know that neither have I been called to conduct business as usual today. . . .

Fortunately, we are making possible what I perceive as a true convergence between what have been the guiding principles of the OAS since its inception—I refer to the juridical equality of states, the peaceful settlement of conflicts, and nonintervention in internal affairs, among others—and the realities that arise from the new world order which, not without some difficulties, we are beginning to map out. I speak, for example, of interdependence as an unquestionable reality; of building and strengthening democracy and its individual and collective liberties, including, of course, the defense and promotion of human rights; of the need for a partnership among nations; and of efforts toward egalitarianism through mechanisms such as free trade. . . .

There should be no doubt that the major topic on the inter-American agenda at the close of the century is the strengthening of the democratic state in the Hemisphere. Hence the Organization should play an increasingly comprehensive and ambitious role, in three directions, in connection with its responsibility to defend democracy: First, the OAS should play a direct role in handling crises that threaten democracy in the [End Page 185] Hemisphere. . . . Second, the OAS is expected to have the permanent means with which to foresee and dissolve tensions that can unleash processes leading to the breakdown of democratic life. These means are advisement, mediation, conciliation, or good offices. . . . And finally, the OAS has been assigned the task of strengthening democracy through support to institutional development and good governance, electoral transparency, and the strengthening of democratic culture.

The Asia-Pacific Region

On December 1–2, the Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia-Pacific Region (FDL-AP), co-chaired by Corazon Aquino and Kim Dae-Jung and consisting of prominent politicians, scholars, and democracy advocates, met for the first time in Seoul, South Korea. In a concluding plenary session, the organization unanimously passed a “Resolution on Democracy in the Asia-Pacific Region” and a “Resolution on Democratization of Burma/Myanmar.” Excerpts from the former resolution appear below:

Whereas democracy is universally accepted as the undeniable necessity of our age, unifying the political system for the first time in human history;

Whereas it is our common understanding that the Asia-Pacific region is richly endowed with traditions, profound philosophies and practices that are consistent with the fundamental concepts of democracy, such as the ideals of human dignity, human rights, the concept of popular sovereignty, and the right of rebellion against tyranny; and that, in fact, democracy is spreading ever more widely in the region; and that democracy is essential not only for safeguarding and promoting human rights but for sound economic development itself for our peoples;

Whereas in the reappraisal of our collective past, we find ample cultural, philosophical, and existential foundations for achieving democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, and refute the false judgment that the Asia-Pacific region is devoid of historical legacy and cultural heritage suitable for democracy;

Whereas we believe it necessary to develop democracy, on the basis of Asia’s rich heritage in democratic thinking, beyond the level achieved by the Western democracies by extending democratic principles beyond the state borders and selfish human concerns to guarantee the rights of all nations and all creatures and things; . . .

BE IT RESOLVED that we, the participants of the Forum, shall:

  1. 1. Establish a permanent organization, the Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia-Pacific (FDL-AP), to be located...

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pp. 185-187
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