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Jimmy Carter Calls on Western Hemisphere to Strengthen OAS Democratic Charter


CONTACT: Kay Torrance

ATLANTA…Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called on countries in the Western Hemisphere to strengthen the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter today in a keynote speech of the inaugural Lecture Series of the Americas at the Organization of American States in Washington.

Read the full text of President Carter's keynote speech to the OAS

The charter - approved by the 34 active member states of the OAS on Sept. 11, 2001 - provides an opportunity for member countries to take collective responsibility for regional democracy, though it does not spell out specific responses to be taken when there is an interruption of democracy in the Western Hemisphere.

The charter rarely has been invoked by the OAS or a sitting president in times of crisis. The Carter Center, concerned that in recent years several governments in the Western Hemisphere have fallen, is forming a group to promote better utilization of the charter.

"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," President Carter said in his speech. "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.

"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 [anew] on each alleged violation," he said.

President Carter recommended eight conditions that would constitute an interruption of democracy, including the failure to hold periodic elections or holding elections that do not meet minimal international standards, the arbitrary removal of members of the judiciary or electoral bodies, and the systematic use of public office to silence the activities of the political opposition, press, or civil society.

Further remarks by President Carter on the conditions he recommended to help define an "interruption" of democracy are on pp. 4-5 of his speech. His speech will be webcast throughout the Americas and can be viewed at


The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 65 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. Please visit to learn more about The Carter Center.

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