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Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas Recommend Actions to Strengthen Democracy

ATLANTA, GA.... Countries should meet minimum standards for free elections as a criterion for participating in the Organization of American States' Summit of the Americas, high-level leaders at the "Challenges to Democracy in the Americas" conference at The Carter Center recommended today.

The group also proposed that the international community establish a "scorecard" to measure the quality of a country's democratic practices and serve as an early warning of democracy's decline.

The gathering of some 100 hemispheric leaders in Atlanta Oct. 16-18 called for a broader interpretation of OAS Resolution 1080, which convokes an emergency meeting of the Permanent Council when a country's democratic process is interrupted. They proposed the OAS convoke Resolution 1080 when basic electoral conditions are not met, a higher standard than presently exists.

In addition, an accountability scorecard would provide a way for "governments and societies to prioritize their reform agendas and for international donors and lenders to determine their assistance packages," the group said in a statement issued at the close of the conference. Such a scorecard could help to prevent a serious erosion of democratic quality, giving time to put in place reforms to counteract that erosion. Conditions to be assessed both by a country's citizens and by the international community could include the status of human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and fairness of the judicial and penal systems. The Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas will work with other organizations to produce these reports.

The conference, chaired by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and members of the Center's Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas, included leaders of the government and private sectors, prominent scholars, journalists, and civil society leaders. Participating members of the Council included: former Guatemala President Vinicio Cerezo, former Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez, former Ecuador President Osvaldo Hurtado, former Uruguay President Luis Alberto Lacalle, former Bolivia President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, and former Prime Minister of Barbados Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, as well as Genaro Arriagada, representing former Chile President Patricio Aylwin.

Also joining the group were: Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, U.S. Special Envoy for the Americas Kenneth "Buddy" MacKay, Porfirio Munoz Ledo, chair of the Commission to Reform the Mexican State and representative of President-elect Vicente Fox, Andean Development Foundation President Enrique Garcia, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Peter Romero.

The Council is a group of former and present heads of governments from throughout the Western Hemisphere who promote democracy and the peaceful resolution to the region's conflicts. Well-known for mediating and observing elections, the Council has observed elections in numerous countries, including Jamaica, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela.

The Council also promotes solutions to the region's debt crisis and encourages freer trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and a wider Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The conference Challenges to Democracy in the Americas was sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. Additional support was provided by Delta Air Lines, Mr. Gustavo A. Cisneros, the McCormick-Tribune Foundation, United Parcel Service, and Invesco.

The Council's final conference statement is available under "Press Releases" on the Carter Center website: A full report of the conference proceedings will be available in coming weeks.

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