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:
- Establish a permanent organization, the Forum of Democratic Leaders in the Asia-Pacific (FDL-AP), to be located in Seoul, Republic of Korea, to coordinate, oversee, and promote our common endeavors;
- Adhere to the following three principles, while vigorously pursuing [End Page 186] our democratic goals: a) we shall not interfere in other nations’ internal affairs, and shall promote our goal through dialogue, debate, and legal procedures; b) we shall reject all acts of violence and seek democratization through peaceful means only; c) we shall support all efforts of Asian peoples to achieve democracy through free expression of ideas and fair and just electoral processes;
- Mobilize collective efforts and wisdom of all peoples, through the closest possible cooperation, to promote democracy and ensure that the Asia-Pacific region fully benefits from the aforementioned global changes;
- Establish national chapters and implement such programs as education, public relations, joint seminars, and others that are deemed necessary for the realization of our goal.
Mexico’s August 21 presidential election, widely regarded as the cleanest in the country’s history, was won by ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León. In his inaugural speech, delivered on December 1 in Mexico City, President Zedillo expressed his commitment to democratic principles. Excerpts from the address appear below:
I am determined to head the creation of a nation where the Rule of Law prevails, as all Mexicans deserve, and I will do so by presiding over a government of laws within a framework of strengthened democracy which will renew the life of the Republic, ensure participation, encourage respect and acknowledge plurality.
We, the people of Mexico, seek a life of democracy that will rise to the heights of our history, to the heights of our diversity. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the fact that the progress we have made in terms of democracy is still insufficient. The time has come to join efforts without sacrificing our differences. The time has come to join in the creation of a new democracy encompassing an improved relationship between citizens and government, between states and the Federal Government, a new code of ethics for political contenders and a definitive electoral reform. The time has come for democracy to encompass all spheres of social coexistence. I ratify my invitation to all parties, to all political organizations and citizens’ groups to participate with an open and determined spirit in the integral democratization of our life, of our Nation. . . .
Mexico wants a government that encourages democracy and responds to the demands of change inspired by justice, liberty, and peace. A change toward well-being; a change with room and opportunity for all; a change effected out of consensus and ruled by democracy.
Mexico wants a government for change with stability. That is the government that, as of today, I will head.