Remarks by Enrique de Obarrio, new Chairman of the Civil Society Pillar, Community of Democracies
New York, NYC; Tuesday, September 20th., 2022
Hello everyone… …here and via the screen.
This really feels like a meeting of friends; friends fully committed to advance the cause of Democracy in the world; Democracy with a “D”; a Full Democracy, as sentenced in the Warsaw Declaration.
On behalf of Gina and my board (two of them present), I begin by thanking so much Multitudes, Paulina for your leadership; and of course Tom and the Secretariat, the Community, to maintain this Pillar. And special thanks to all of you, here and abroad, who are an integral part of this Pillar.
We extend an invitation to Jazec and the rest of the players, and the executive committee, to work closely with a shared vision, in the best interests of the Community.
- Founded in Panama, my country, many years ago, Redlad’s commitment with democracy, rule of law, civic space and human rights is as solid as ever, and we’re very much respected in the region as the most relevant network of organized civil society in the region.
- For those who do not know about RedLad enough, the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy is an umbrella organization, a network, gathering more than 400 civil society organizations, activists, social actors and social movements from 19 countries in LAC.
- We work with a geographic based approach; we have national focal points in 15 countries, in LAC coinciding with all CoD focal points (with the exception of Uruguay). With them, we collectively develop dialogue actions, build civil society agendas for advocacy, and we do a follow up of commitments acquired by governments in international venues such as the Organization of American States, the hemispheric intergubernamental body. By the way, RedLad has an MOU with the OAS, and we work closely with them. I just met with OAS SG last week…
In my case, in addition to being the president of the board of RedLad, where Gina is our Executive Director and Gustavo and Sarah are my colleagues in the board; and in addition of being one of the founders of the network many years ago, I am a lawyer by profession, a civil society advocate, I am a former many things, including ambassador of Panama to the OAS years ago; and I have been fighting for Democracy, Freedom, Human Rights and corruption since I can remember; fighting for Democracy with an emphasis in the rule of law, transparency and a firm stance against corruption.
In our role as Chair of the Civil Society Pillar, we propose to focus our efforts in:
- Strengthening the engagement with the focal points, and expand them.
- Creating a process to empower focal points so that they can more effectively accomplish the desired goals alligned with the results of the work of the leadership assigned to the Secretariat and the Chair, who are always to serve as support (political and logistical). The heart of the CoD’s Pillar secretariat really remains in the focal points.
- Enhancing legitimacy of the Pillar and its work not only by expanding as mentioned before; also by strengthening the relation with the CoD Secretariat, and Presidency. The building of trust with all the different stakeholders involved will be at the center of our actions. You can count on our support with our input, for instance, during the process of discussing the five year strategic plan.
- We believe that with more engaged focal points, a well placed descentralization process, better internal relations and communications, and concrete results from the Pillar, we could advance in the CoD’s objectives and make more visible its actions and relevance.
And in terms of the approach to carry out and accomplish a decent percentage of our commitment in the fight for Democracy, it is clear that worldwide democracy has had a huge setback, which forces us to be creative, and perhaps sharpen our focus on the more important and real causes or the different threats and obstacles.
We believe, for instance, that to save democracy we have to talk more about democracy.
That, contrary to that perception in that people are loosing faith in democracy because it is not solving people’s problems, the problem IS NOT democracy in itself, the problem is that we’re not really living in a full democracy, as defined in the Warsaw Declaration.
We believe that in order to more effectively achieve our goals, we must assign the highest importance to constructive dialogue as one of the best tools to reach consensus on solutions to the most pressing issues, with a shared vision.
We believe that the dialogue process should be as inclusive as possible; also seating on the table representatives from the private sector, workers, political parties.
We believe that it is key to promote new leadership, mostly for benefit of the youth; value based and principled oriented leadership. The people have to change, and also be inspired.
We believe that work should be done in the political parties, perhaps via the electoral authority, to promote Public ethics, civic service; mainly, remarking the difference between understanding politics as a privileged opportunity to serve the best interests and common good, or the opportunity to serve one’s pockets.
We believe it is important to work on the civic deficit (deficit the ciudadanía) and a weak culture of democracy. People need to be less indifferent, more involved; there’s many ways to be involved, engaged, including civil society and, more importantly, supporting civil society. And one of the obstacles civil society is having, in addition to those seen yesterday, is probably lack of enough support by our stakeholders.
Citizens need to understand better the crucial importance and responsibility to really vote their conscious in general elections, which means voting in favor of the best fit for the job, in terms of capacity and ethics.
And last, but not least; not least at all, as I think it is the worst pandemic of all, is that of corruption; which is corroding our entire societies, eroding our institutions.
And the first thing we must understand is that corruption is not exclusive of the governmental/political sector; corruption is everywhere, and it must be fought in an integral fashion, and by all sectors working together; understanding how corruption has a direct relationship with poverty, inequality, human rights violations, lack of institutionality, etc..
You know the famous saying, it takes two to tango… …Actually it takes three to tango… [well, I hope you remember what I said about this]