The State Of Affairs In Latin America: A Conversation With Secretary General Of The Organization Of American States Luis Almagro

By Geovanny Vicente Romero, Guest Blogger

A few days ago, I had the honor of joining an event that the Brademas Center and the prestigious New York University (NYU) hosted on its campus in Washington, DC, better known as NYU-DC. The event was titled, “A conversation with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro“. This important discussion was held within the framework of the #DCDialogues, a forum that convenes academia, government, the private sector, and the general community in the political capital of the world, Washington, DC.

I posed several questions to Secretary General Luis Almagro about the diverse challenges the hemisphere faces at present in the areas of democracy, citizen liberties and human rights, especially in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti.

This analysis of current developments in these countries is pivotal to the role the OAS plays in fulfilling its mission for, “more rights for more people,” across the Americas.

Venezuela

One of Gabriel García Márquez’s most famous works is No One Writes to the Colonel. In the case of Venezuela, Almagro has become the voice of those Venezuelans who have no one to write to them, no one to listen to them and no one to protect them from their own abusive regime led by Nicolás Maduro. I pointed out that we all have a lot of concern and hope for Venezuela but it was necessary to know what outcome we could expect in the near future and what is needed to supporting the Juan Guaidó movement and help the brave and strong people of Venezuela fulfill their own destiny. The Secretary began by indicating that making a short-term forecast would not be possible, but it was clear that, “Guaidó is the last hope we have for a peaceful solution. The most violent solution that can be applied to the country is the one that is being applied now. My concern with empty slogans like #HandsOffVenezuela is that meanwhile all the violence in the world is being applied to millions of Venezuelans. Millions of people had to abandon the country because they didn’t have any medical care. Millions of people are starving.”

Cuba

I then transition to the largest island in the Caribbean, noting that after all the efforts to integrate Cuba into the region and bring it closer to the United States of America, we find ourselves back at square one. The only difference is that for the first time in 60 years, the Cuban president is not named Castro. Almagro’s answer could not be more clear, “The Cuban dictatorship is the worst kind of dictatorship you can find in the whole world. They are not tied at all to the needs and the feeling of the people. When this is tied to Venezuela, it makes the failure even more evident. They [Cuba] are the most parasitic country that has existed. He noted, “The Cuban government has been sucking blood from Venezuela. Today, Venezuela is a corpse and they are still sucking the blood from a dead body. It is a severe case of parasitism. They cannot afford to live without Venezuelan oil. It will be worse than during the Special Period. They [the Cuban government] know that any other government will not be able to keep delivering this oil to Cuba.

“The name of the President is not Castro, but the name of power is still Castro,” said Almagro.

Nicaragua

It is imperative to know more about the OAS’ involvement in Nicaragua. From the very beginning, the OAS has been working for democratization, stronger political institutions, rule of law, and the independence of the different branches of government in the country. The OAS has strived to be part of the solution to the political crisis in Nicaragua, since it has been a year since the protests began in April 2018. Almagro said the opposition, although they were not well organized, had an opportunity at the first two months of the protests, as they were strong enough to demand early elections and some institutional solutions. However, this period passed and the government prevailed by force. The government then tried to consolidate the peace they achieved by force through human rights violations.

Almagro shared with us that the OAS acted as a witness in the negotiation process that the government and the opposition carried out. The Secretary General urged the government of Daniel Ortega to release political prisoners as soon as possible, stop the repression on demonstrations, guarantee political freedoms and begin electoral reforms.

Almagro called for maturity from both sides, “We need people to stop lying to us. The needs of the people are too great. We need to deliver solutions. We don’t like when people play political games with this situation. It is not acceptable. We [the OAS] concentrate on the duties of the government, because only they can deliver solutions for the people.” I concluded this portion of the discussion adding that the Nicaraguan government is seeking to buy time so that the current situation becomes the new normal.

Haiti

Our conversation returned to the Caribbean. I started by noting how the international press rarely covers the important current events in Haiti, a country that recently appointed a new prime minister in the wake of protests. The Secretary General expressed his deep respect for the Haitian nation, his concern for the economic and political conditions of the country and his great admiration for all the struggles the country has historically overcome.

“We want the country to stabilize; people to be respected; and the electoral process to be implemented. The country needs a lot of international cooperation for the country to stabilize, and we will provide it. In early May, there will be meetings in Haiti’s Congress to confirm the interim the government. We need to keep clear. We can’t play with fire when we are all in a barrel of fuel. We should help always to stabilize Haiti. We shouldn’t exploit their structural problems. We should be concerned about their needs.”

He commended the country saying, “Haiti was the first Caribbean country to investigate the corruption in PetroCaribe. It’s a commitment against corruption and puts a lot of stress on the political system.”

Social Inclusion

I did not want to end this conversation without knowing a little more about the steps that the OAS takes to close the inequality gap, taking into account that Latin America is considered the most unequal region in the world. My idea was to address vulnerable populations such as the indigenous peoples, afro-descendents, and the LGBTQ community, among others.

Almagro pointed to the central mission of the OAS, “More rights for more people”. He detailed the social inclusion campaign carried out as an organization and when referring to the LGBTQ community, he said that, “we want each country to resolve the discrimination suffered by the people of this community.” He even indicated that he attended the Vancouver Gay Pride and will attend the Washington Pride. Coincidentally, two days after this discussion, Almagro published a photo in which he is seen receiving the Global Champions Awards 2019 from the Human Rights Campaign, for his leadership for LGBTQ rights and for the work of social inclusion that his organization carries out.

These four countries in the Americas, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, require the most focus from the OAS and the international community. There are many bright spots within the Americas, but as a region, we are only as strong as our weakest link. For more details on the dialogue with Secretary Almagro, we leave you with this video from the event.

OAS Electoral Observations Can Prevent Future Threats to Democracy

By Geovanny Vicente Romero, Guest Blogger

In 2018 Latin America faced a number of democratic crises, among them Daniel Ortega’s violent repression of peaceful Nicaraguan protestors and Venezuela’s further fall into humanitarian disaster.

In 2019 the world will grapple with exactly how to confront and combat these situations. A mix of sanctions and aid is the traditional policy recipe. In the case of Venezuela, the United States, Canada and others are now putting increased diplomatic pressure on the Maduro Regime and have formalized support of the young opposition leader, Juan Guidaó1.

But more long-term solutions are needed to combat the crises of tomorrow. Undoubtedly, this involves the overall strengthening of democratic institutions and norms, particularly in places where democracy is already being threatened, but also in places that are traditionally democratic strongholds.

One way to do this is through Electoral Observations Missions. During an interview with GFDD, Director of the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) at the Organization of American States (OAS), Gerardo de Icaza, explained the utility of such initiatives.

Electoral observation missions, like those of DECO, prevent fraud and guarantee free and fair elections by helping carry out electoral processes at the national or municipal level. Vote counting and keeping polling places safe and free of corruption are among their activities. Such independent missions are particularly important for countries that are developing and do not yet have the technical capacity to ensure free and fair elections.

In the Western Hemisphere, countries possess one of the most formidable electoral observation organizations in the OAS’ DECO. In its more than 50-year history, the regional body has carried out over 240 successful missions in more than 27 countries throughout the region. The organization is extremely transparent, offering complete and easy-to-access reports and data on each of its observations2.

But, many countries in the region do not utilize DECO’s capabilities. Chile, Canada, and Argentina have never had visits from the OAS body. In Venezuela, for instance, there has not been a DECO mission since 2006.

Reacting to disasters like those of Venezuela and Nicaragua are complicated, and as the Venezuela example demonstrates, can potentially worsen an already bad situation. A proactive and simpler way of preventing threats to democracy is to utilize independent electoral observation missions, like those of the OAS.

With more electoral observation missions, Latin America and countries around the world, might experience less democratic and humanitarian crises in years to come.

  1. Wyss, Jim & Camacho, Carlos. “Venezuela now has two presidents. How long will the uncertainty last?” Miami Herald. January 23, 2019. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article224962020.html
  2. “Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation.” OAS. 2019. http://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=S-015/16

What is the Inter-American Democratic Charter, Article 20 and Article 21?

By Geovanny Vicente Romero, Guest Blogger

In recent times there has been substantial discussion about the Inter-American Democratic Charter, particularly as it relates to the humanitarian and democratic crises now taking place in Venezuela and Nicaragua. In discussion with the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD), Peru’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Ana Rosa Valdivieso, highlighted the importance of the Charter, mentioning that it was adopted in 2001 in Lima, and also discussed Articles 20 and 21 of the agreement.

It’s clear that the document is significant and relates to democracy and human rights, but what exactly is the Inter-American Democratic Charter, Article 20 and Article 21?

According to official oas.org documentation, the Inter-American Democratic Charter is an international document concerning a set of democratic principles and norms that all signees agree to follow. The purpose of the agreement is to strengthen member countries’ commitment to democratic institutions and human rights as well as to promote development and reduce poverty throughout the region1.

The document contains 28 Articles related to OAS electoral observation missions, poverty reduction and female participation in politics, among many other topics concerning human rights and democracy. Articles 20 and 21, specifically mentioned by the Ambassador, are of particular importance. These articles relate to the strengthening and preservation of democracy in the region.

Article 20 establishes that:
“In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state… The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices to foster the restoration of democracy.”

If the diplomatic initiatives implemented under Article 20 fail to produce positive results, Article 21 may be introduced which states that the OAS can “take the decision to suspend said member state from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS”2.

Essentially, Articles 20 and 21 are used as a way to punish and then suspend violators of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

This is why so often Article 20 and 21 are brought up in conversations about Venezuela and Nicaragua. In 2017 OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro suggested that Venezuela could be suspended from the OAS, if presidential elections were not free and fair3. Very recently, on January 11, 2019 Secretary Almagro called on member states to invoke Article 20 of the Charter against Nicaragua for abuses of human rights and democratic principles4. It remains unclear if the OAS member countries will heed either of these calls and suspend Venezuela or Nicaragua from the regional body.

  1. “Tenth Anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” OAS, 2019, http://www.oas.org/en/democratic-charter/
  2. “Inter-American Democratic Charter,” OAS, 2001, http://www.oas.org/en/democratic-charter/pdf/demcharter_en.pdf#page=18
  3. Almagro, Luis. “How Venezuela Can Avoid Suspension From the O.A.S.,” March 24, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/how-venezuela-can-avoid-suspension-from-the-oas.html
  4. Associated Press. “OAS Invokes Inter-American Democratic Charter on Nicaragua,” January 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/01/11/us/politics/ap-us-oas-nicaragua.html

Analyzing the French Presidential Election: Providing a Pathway to a New Generation of Heads of State

By Arthur Le Nena, UN Programs Intern, GFDD

Wherever we live, whoever we are, we share the same responsibility, make our planet great again” stated the French President Emmanuel Macron in reaction to the decision of the President of the United States, Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on June 1st. One month after the defeat of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, France seems far away from the shade of isolationism. At 39 years old, the youngest President of France since Napoleon ruled over France in the 19th century, the election of President Macron gives as much hope as it does raise questions. Considered by many as a possible turning point for the world, the French election has brought a fresh air in international relations, strengthening the opportunity for greater cooperation for change, particularly within the European Union.

This election, which took place after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s election in the United States of America, was as uncertain and dangerous for the international community. Indeed, the opposition during the second round of this election between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, slowly turned into a choice in favor of or against globalization. On the first hand, Marine Le Pen campaigned on ideas such as isolationism, nationalism, promising to leave the European Union while Emmanuel Macron promoted liberalism, progressivism, and humanism. Defeating the two main parties of France, this election was also a demonstration of the rising criticism against the political establishment in democracies across the globe.

SG meets with President of France
UN Photo

Through the victory of Emmanuel Macron the French people decided to remain part of the global community. But it also put forward a claim for real change, that Emmanuel Macron will have to promote. Even though he was the Minister of Economy during the term of the former socialist President Francois Hollande, Emmanuel Macron had never been elected to a public office before. Moreover, he won thanks to the support of “En Marche!” (Onward!), a political movement he created one year ago. At the national level, his election could represent a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years. Illustrating this new political context, close to 40% of the actual Members of Parliament won’t run for a new term in June. Finally, by putting together a new political strategy and challenging the traditional political parties, the success of Macron new government in France  could catalyze the development of similar movements in Europe and abroad.

The election was a test for the European Union as Marine Le Pen, European MP, promised to leave this grouping of States. On the contrary, Emmanuel Macron focused his campaign on a stronger European Union. His first meeting with Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, was the occasion to open the door for renegotiations of European treaties and pave the way for change in Europe. His political agenda includes measures to revive the regional organization, including the creation of a European Defense Fund with a European Security Council or the implementation of a European Ministry of Economy and Finance with a specific budget.  blue-1283011_1920

At the global level, the French election confirmed the end of a wave of isolationism around the world, in addition to the victory of the center-right candidate over the far-right candidate in the Netherlands in March 2017. Considering this growing threat of populism around the world, world leaders have a huge responsibility to act for real change. During his first month in office, Emmanuel Macron multiplied international meetings with officials from NATO, the European Union and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. On June 1st, the decision of President Trump to leave the Paris Agreement on Climate Change constituted a big step towards isolationism for America. Signed by 195 countries in the world, the Paris Agreement is a symbol of the universal fight for sustainable development. For the first time, the entire world recognized as one, that we all share the same planet. And that we therefore must protect it together. Despite this withdrawal by the United States, this decision could foster greater actions between the remaining countries of the agreement and democratize leadership opportunities around the world. Reacting quickly after Trump’s announcement, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed clearly that the Paris Agreement “remains irreversible and will be implemented, not just by France, but by all the other nations”.

Thus, the French election was of great importance for the global community. Closely following the election, the world turned from the fear to see another country make the choice of isolationism to the new hope generated by a pro-globalization President. This new generation of young leaders, progressivists open to the world, can create an enabling environment to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and create a better future for all. But this victory is also a huge responsibility, as it is a call for real change. This is therefore time to take advantage of the collective strength the international community provides to make our planet great again.

Why developing nations are the unlikely leaders of green finance

It is completely inconceivable that public finance will play a major role in transitioning to sustainable development. The answer has to be private money”. These words pronounced by Simon Zadek, co-director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, during an event in Singapore in early 2017, express the urgent need for private investment to achieve global sustainability.

germany-2064517_1920Indeed, despite new records in 2016, there is still a lack of investment in green finance, to ensure the world has a sustainable future. Green finance consists in investments that contribute towards a sustainable, low carbon and climate-resilient economy. In other words, it is the key to reduce our carbon emissions, and achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, a closer look at the world investment trends, illustrates a very paradoxical situation. According to Simon Zadek, innovation in green finance is not driven by nations where the major capitals are located, but by developing nations such as Mongolia, Kenya, or Colombia. “When you look at the amount of innovation taking place there, especially in the financial technology space, you realize there’s a lot of opportunity for the developed world to learn from the developing world” stated Nuru Mugambi, director of communications and public affairs at the Kenya Bankers Association. In her country, the implementation of mobile phone-based funds transfer as a tool for entrepreneurs to access micro-finance, is now a daily way of life. For Erik Solheim, UNEP Executive Director, innovative initiatives in developing economies demonstrate how private finance can adapt to meet the challenges of financing sustainable options.

pudong-1798289_1920Leading global green finance investments, China paves the way to promote sustainable development of the economy. The new 35-point program, of the Chinese government “will improve the function of the capital market in allocating resources and servicing the real economy, and support the development of an ecological civilization”, the People’s Bank of China reported.

Nevertheless, only a global commitment will allow us to raise enough funds to address the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Considering that we need more than twice the current stock of global capital to achieve the 2030 Agenda, there is nothing more important than scaling up private investments, while using the international community as a catalyzer. “It is very hard for the financial system to operate in and of itself, independent of international and national agendas” has stressed Piyush Gupta, CEO of an Indian Bank. Hence the need for a global mobilization of all stakeholders, banks, government and enterprises to work efficiently towards sustainable options. Financing sustainable development is now a vital challenge, as we need to get as close as possible to the 2 Celsius degrees’ temperature rise if we want to ensure a future for the next generation.

For further information, please, visit: http://www.eco-business.com/news/why-developing-nations-are-the-unlikely-leaders-of-green-finance/