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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 7, Issue 2, February 2005

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor

Latin America

The Promise and Peril of Democracy (Full Text of Speech)
Jimmy Carter

The Promise and Peril of Democracy (Summary)
Joseph Proietti

Threat Resurges for Venezuelan NGOs [Spanish Translation]
Antonio L. Itriago and Miguel Ángel Itriago

Transparency Versus Government Supervision in Peru [Spanish Translation]
Beatriz Parodi Luna

Federal Law for the Promotion of Civil Society Organizations in Mexico
Consuelo Castro

Active Without Recognition: Obstacles to Development of the Colombian Third Sector
Adriana Ruiz-Restrepo

The Role of the Media in the Consolidation of Democracy in Latin America
The Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars


Philanthropy and Law in South Asia: Key Themes and Key Choices
Mark Sidel and Iftekhar Zaman

The Role of a National Donor Association: A U.S. Perspective
Robert Buchanan

California’s Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004
Thomas Silk and Rosemary Fei

Progress on Civil Society Legislation in Turkey
Filiz Bikmen

Taxation of Grants in Russia
Yulia Checkmaryova


Civil Society
By Michael Edwards
Reviewed by Stephan Klingelhofer

The Law of Charities
By Peter Luxton
Reviewed by Richard Fries

Does Civil Society Matter?: Governance in Contemporary India
Edited by Rajesh Tandon & Ranjita Mohanty
Reviewed by Bindu Sharma

Governing Nonprofit Organizations: Federal and State Law and Regulation
By Marion R. Fremont-Smith
Reviewed by Michael Bisesi

Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory
Edited by Maria Todorova
Reviewed by Gerald M. Easter

Something to Believe In: Politics, Professionalism and Cause Lawyering
By Stuart A. Scheingold and Austin Sarat
Reviewed by Patricia Lyons

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Download this issue (PDF) | Editorial Board

The Promise and Peril of Democracy (Full Text of Speech)

By Jimmy Carter

The following keynote speech was delivered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Jan. 25, 2005, as part of the inaugural Lecture Series of the Americas at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.  

I am honored to address the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, and Ambassador Borea for the kind invitation to inaugurate this Lecture Series of the Americas.  

I have long been interested in this organization. Thirty years ago, as governor of Georgia, I invited the OAS General Assembly to meet in Atlanta--the first meeting in the U.S. outside of Washington. Later, as President, I attended and addressed every General Assembly in Washington. 

Back then, I realized that most of this hemisphere was ruled by military regimes or personal dictatorships. Senate hearings had just confirmed U.S. involvement in destabilizing the government of Salvador Allende in Chile, and a dirty war was being conducted in Argentina. I decided to stop embracing dictators and to make the protection of human rights a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, not only in this hemisphere but with all nations.  

When we signed the Panama Canal treaties in this same august hall in 1977, many non-elected or military leaders were on the dais. Key Caribbean states were absent, not yet part of the inter-American system. Then in 1979, Ecuador started a pattern of returning governments to civilian rule. The inter-American convention on human rights soon came into force, and our hemisphere developed one of the strongest human rights standards in the world. 

These commitments have brought tremendous progress to Latin America and the Caribbean. Citizens have become involved in every aspect of governance: more women are running for political office and being appointed to high positions; indigenous groups are forming social movements and political parties; civic organizations are demanding transparency and accountability from their governments; freedom of expression is flourishing in an independent and vibrant press; ombudsmen and human rights defenders are active; and many countries are approving and implementing legislation to guarantee that citizens have access to information.  

The English-speaking Caribbean has sustained vibrant democracies. A democratic Chile is removing military prerogatives from the Pinochet-era constitution and the military has acknowledged its institutional responsibility for the torture and disappearances of the 1970s. Central America has ended its civil wars and democracy has survived. The Guatemalan government offered public apology for the murder of Myrna Mack, and a Salvadoran responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Romero was tried and convicted last year, although in absentia. 

Venezuelans have avoided civil violence while enduring a deep political rift in the last three years. Mexico developed an electoral institution that has become the envy of the world. Argentine democracy weathered the deepest financial crisis since the 1920s depression and its economy is on the rebound. 

Four years ago, Canada and Peru took the lead in developing a new, more explicit commitment to democracy for the hemisphere. On the tragic day of September 11, 2001, the Inter-American Democratic Charter was signed.  

I am proud to have witnessed these demonstrations of the courage, persistence, and creativity of the people of this hemisphere.  

But I am also worried. I am concerned that the lofty ideas espoused in the Democratic Charter are not all being honored. I am concerned that poverty and inequality continue unabated. And I am concerned that we in this room, representing governments and, in some cases, privileged societies, are not demonstrating the political will to shore up our fragile democracies, protect and defend our human rights system, and tackle the problems of desperation and destitution. 

Since our years in the White House, my wife Rosalynn and I have striven to promote peace, freedom, health, and human rights, especially in this hemisphere and in Africa. Our dedicated staff at The Carter Center have worked in 54 elections to ensure they are honest and competitive. Civil strife has become rare, and every country but Cuba has had at least one truly competitive national election.  

Yet, tiny Guyana, where we have been involved for more than a decade, remains wracked with racial tension and political stalemate. Haiti, where we monitored the first free election in its history and where the world contributed many tens of millions of dollars in aid, has been unable to escape the tragedy of violence and extreme poverty. In Nicaragua, I was privileged to witness the statesmanship of Daniel Ortega transferring power to Violeta Chamorro, yet today that country continues enmeshed in political deadlock and poverty that is second only to Haiti. 

Across the hemisphere, UNDP and Latin Barometer polls reveal that many citizens are dissatisfied with the performance of their elected governments. They still believe in the promise and the principles of democracy, but they do not believe their governments have delivered the promised improvements in living standards, freedom from corruption, and equal access to justice. We run the very real risk that dissatisfaction with the performance of elected governments will transform into disillusionment with democracy itself. 

How can we protect the advances made and avoid the dangerous conclusion that democracy may not be worthwhile after all? The greatest challenge of our time is the growing gap between the rich and poor, both within countries and between the rich north and the poor south. About 45 percent (225 million) people of Latin America and the Caribbean live under the poverty line. The mathematical coefficient that measures income inequality reveals that Latin America has the most unequal income distribution in the world, and the income gap has continued to increase in the past fifteen years. 

When people live in grinding poverty, see no hope for improvement for their children, and are not receiving the rights and benefits of citizenship, they will eventually make their grievances known, and it may be in radical and destructive ways.  

Governments and the privileged in each country must make the decision and demonstrate the will to include all citizens in the benefits of society.  

Democratic elections have improved, but we have also witnessed a dangerous pattern of ruling parties naming election authorities that are partisan and biased, governments misusing state resources for campaigns, and election results that are not trusted by the populace. I include my own country in saying that we all need to create fair election procedures, to regulate campaign finance, and to ensure that every eligible citizen is properly registered and has the opportunity to cast votes that will be counted honestly. 

But democracy is much more than elections. It is accountable governments; it is the end of impunity for the powerful. It is giving judiciaries independence from political pressures so they can dispense justice with impartiality. It is protecting the rights of minorities, including those who do not vote for the majority party. It is protecting the vulnerable--such as those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, street children, those with mental illnesses, women abused with domestic violence, migrants, and indigenous peoples. 

Governments of this hemisphere have carried out enormous economic reform efforts in the last two decades, but these efforts have not yet brought the needed reduction in poverty and inequality. Too many governments still rely on regressive sales taxes because the privileged classes can manipulate governments and avoid paying taxes on their incomes or wealth. 

Military spending has been significantly reduced, but additional reductions are advisable now that the region is democratic and most border issues have been resolved. Health and education are more important than expensive weapons systems.  

Access to land, small loans, and easier permits for small businesses can harness the potential dynamism of each nation's economy. Brazil has initiated a zero hunger program to address poverty, and Venezuela is using oil wealth to bring adult education, literacy, health and dental services directly to the poor. These and other creative social programs should be studied to see which might be appropriate in other areas. 

When political leaders do make the right choices to address the needs of all citizens, those citizens have a responsibility as well--to comply with the established rules of the political process. Political honeymoons are short, and sometimes a frustrated people are tempted to unseat an unsatisfactory government by violence or unconstitutional means. Elected leaders deserve a chance to make the tough decisions, or to be removed at ballot boxes.  

News media play an especially important role in a free society. Press freedom is vibrant in the hemisphere, and must be kept that way. "Insult" (desacato) laws and harassment of journalists should be eliminated. The media also have a responsibility to investigate carefully and to corroborate their stories before publication. 

Those of us in the richer nations have additional obligations. We must recognize that we live in an ever-closer hemisphere, with mutual responsibilities. Trade and tourism of the U.S. and Canada are increasingly connected with all of Latin America and the Caribbean, as the sub-regions of the hemisphere are forging closer economic ties.  

We are also connected by the scourge of crime, which is a two-way street. Drug demand in the U.S. fuels drug production among our neighbors, undermining the ability of democratic institutions to enforce the rule of law, and the easy availability of small arms from the U.S. has made crime a serious problem for governments in the Caribbean and Central America. 

Globally, Americans give just 15 cents per $100 of national income in official development assistance. As a share of our economy, we rank dead last among industrialized countries. The recently announced Millennium Challenge Account is designed to provide additional help for governments pursuing transparency and accountability, but in this hemisphere only Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua are being considered for this aid. 

The United States has another role to play as well: of setting an example of protecting civil liberties and improving democratic practices at home, and by its unwavering support of democracy and human rights abroad.  

The international lending agencies also have important roles to play: by being more flexible and responsive to political pressures and social constraints when deciding conditionality; by involving local citizens and governments in developing consensus for poverty-reduction strategies; and by helping the hemisphere carry out the mandates adopted by presidents at the periodic summits of the Americas. 

Finally, I call on all governments of the hemisphere to make the Democratic Charter more than empty pieces of paper, to make it a living document. The charter commits us to help one another when our democratic institutions are threatened. The charter can be a punitive instrument, providing for sanctions when a serious challenge to the democratic order occurs, but it is also an instrument for providing technical assistance and moral encouragement to prevent democratic erosion early in the game. 

Let us strengthen the charter and not be afraid to use it. Right now the charter is weak because it is vague in defining conditions that would constitute a violation of the charter--the "unconstitutional alteration or interruption" of the democratic order noted in Article 19. The charter also requires the consent of the affected government even to evaluate a threat to democracy. If the government itself is threatening the minimum conditions of democracy, the hemisphere is not prepared to act, since there would certainly not be an invitation.  

Two simple actions would help to remedy this problem and allow the governments of this hemisphere to act when needed. First, a clear definition of "unconstitutional alteration or interruption" would help guide us. These conditions should include: 

  1. Violation of the integrity of central institutions, including constitutional checks and balances providing for the separation of powers. 
  2. Holding of elections that do not meet minimal international standards.  
  3. Failure to hold periodic elections or to respect electoral outcomes. 
  4. Systematic violation of basic freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, or respect for minority rights. 
  5. Unconstitutional termination of the tenure in office of any legally elected official. 
  6. Arbitrary or illegal removal or interference in the appointment or deliberations of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies. 
  7. Interference by non-elected officials, such as military officers, in the jurisdiction of elected officials. 
  8. Systematic use of public office to silence, harass, or disrupt the normal and legal activities of members of the political opposition, the press, or civil society. 

We also need a set of graduated, automatic responses to help us overcome the inertia and paralysis of political will that result from uncertain standards and the need to reach a consensus de novo on each alleged violation. When a democratic threat is identified, the alleged offenders would be requested to explain their actions before the permanent council. A full evaluation would follow, and possible responses could be chosen from a prescribed menu of appropriate options, involving not only the OAS but incentives and disincentives from multilateral institutions and the private sector.  

There is also a role for nongovernmental leaders. We at The Carter Center have convened a group of former hemispheric leaders to aid in raising the visibility of the charter, to engage the OAS, and to help it provide appropriate responses when democracy is challenged. 

Let me close by congratulating the OAS, which has come a long way from my first association with it thirty years ago. As a promoter of freedom, democracy, and human rights, the OAS is one of the foremost regional organizations in the world. This hemisphere adopted the world's first anti-corruption convention and has developed a multilateral evaluation mechanism on drugs. The OAS has worked on de-mining, peacemaking, and providing scholarships to students. It exemplifies the notion that our best hope for the world is for sovereign states to work together. 

The OAS is going through a difficult transition at the moment, but it will emerge even stronger. A new Secretary-General will be chosen this year, and important discussions will be forthcoming at the General Assembly in Florida and the Fourth Summit of the Americas in Argentina. 

We need each other. Let us work together to make our hemisphere the beacon of hope, human dignity, and cooperation for the 21st century.


Copyright © 2012 The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL)
ISSN: 1556-5157