Opening Remarks by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael of Guyana, Chairman of the Permanent Council of the OAS, at the Ceremony to Launch the Book,
Inter-American Democratic Charter - Documents and Interpretations, at OAS Headquarters,
Washington DC, 22 April 2003

Posted April 26th. 2003

Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, Ambassadors, Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General, Members of Delegations, Members of Observer Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . .

We meet today to launch the book entitled Inter-American Democratic Charter - Documents and Interpretations. This work was mandated only a few months ago, but despite the short time that has elapsed, I am, like all of you, very pleased to see the qualitative output from that exercise. I must offer my congratulations and appreciation to Ambassador Humberto de la Calle who took on the task of putting together the large collection of statements made during the various meetings to discuss the drafting, formulation, significance and application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Looking at the final product emanating from Ambassador Humberto de la Calle's editorial expertise, we can without doubt say that he has indeed done a marvelous job.

This book dealing with the documents and interpretations on the Inter-American Democratic Charter forms an encyclopedia of ideas on the concept of democracy, with special significance to its development and application in this Hemisphere. I am sure that it will be an invaluable reference text to students and researchers in the areas of political philosophy, the political history of the Americas, and the evolution of political thought in international organizations, notably, the Organization of American States.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter is an international agreement to which the active member states of the OAS subscribe. It is not only a guide to all our countries on the tenets of democracy, but what is more significant is that it unambiguously states that any removal of a democratically elected Government by non-constitutional means, including coup d'etats, will not be tolerated by member states of the OAS. This is a firm and strong warning to persons and groups who do not want to give recognition to the process of democracy.

As we are well aware, the definition of democracy is not absolute. In our Hemisphere, there exist varying levels of democracy, and the process and progress of the development of democracy in some countries may not be as rapid as in others. It is therefore clear that the new or fledgling democracies, while still facing internal problems, have to be nurtured; and they certainly need the solidarity and support of the older established democracies of this Hemisphere. Certainly, the Inter-American Democratic Charter is a most important guide, even if it is not a perfect one, to all our countries - and especially for the relatively new and fledgling democracies - on processes they have to undertake in generating programs to ensure that democracy remains firmly established.

As we launch this book on democracy in the Americas, let us make sure that it reaches the masses of our people, so that they can read, digest and discuss the ideas contained in it. Eventually we will expect them to add fresh thoughts which will help to further develop the on-going definition, development and practice of democracy in our Hemisphere.

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