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Statement by Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: Introducing the Joint Carter Center – Transparency International Project to Measure Disclosure (Crinis)

Note: The Crinis Project represents a joint effort by Transparency International and The Carter Center to promote transparency and accountability in political financing in Latin America. Crinis, which means ray of light in Latin, aims to increase public trust in democracy and political parties so citizens are better equipped to cast their vote and to monitor the activities of their representatives, once elected.

In 2006, the Crinis project was implemented in eight Latin American countries: Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru. Click here to read the Crinis Report (Spanish PDF).

Read on his behalf by Dr. Shelley McConnell, Senior Associate Director of the Americas Program at The Carter Center, Panama - June 3, 2007

As the foreign ministers of the Western Hemisphere gather for their annual General Assembly to review progress in achieving collective goals for the improvement of security, democracy, and development, The Carter Center and Transparency International announce the creation of a new instrument for transparency in the Americas.

One of the central challenges for democratic governance is to assure sufficient money for political parties and candidates to engage in vigorous election campaigns to present citizens with meaningful choices at the polls. At the same time, to achieve equitable participation we must prevent wealthy candidates and parties from deriving undue advantage from their superior resources and assure that donors do not exercise influence over the decision-making of elected officials whose campaigns they helped fund. Regulation of campaign finance and ordinary party finance is essential to a healthy democracy.

Each country will need to identify the combination of regulations that works best for its particular political system, but the key to all regulation is disclosure. Absent disclosure we cannot know how much money is circulating in the political system, where it comes from or to whom it is given. Without disclosure, the ceilings on donations and spending cannot be enforced, nor can we prevent illicit money from finding its way into campaign coffers. Moreover, the lack of disclosure gives rise to public suspicion that donors are buying favors from politicians, and undermines public confidence in clean and legitimate elections and representation.

In the last 18 months, Transparency International and The Carter Center have developed methods for measuring the amount of disclosure of political finance and have measured disclosure in eight Latin American countries. Our measurement techniques are comprehensive yet simple enough to be carried out by citizen watchdog groups. They measure not just what the law says but what actually happens in practice. We call this measurement tool Crinis, which means "ray of light" in Latin, because we hope to illuminate the flow of political money in our hemisphere's democracies.

Our goal is not to criticize but to help democratic governments do better; therefore the design of our measurement system is one that indicates clearly to governments and citizens what could be done to improve transparency and accountability in political finance. In each country, the measurement index is accompanied by a narrative report that helps explain the results. Periodic measurement will enable governments to mark their progress in improving disclosure of political finance. It can also help them demonstrate their compliance with international covenants such as the Organization of American States Inter-American Democratic Charter (Art.5) which calls for "the establishment of a balanced and transparent system" for campaign financing and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (Art. 7 §3) which calls on states "to enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and, where applicable, the funding of political parties."

These methods are brand new. No group has ever before tried to measure disclosure. No doubt the process will improve with time, but we have taken an important first step in assisting the countries of the hemisphere in understanding what regulations provide citizens and governments with accurate, in-depth information about the flow of political money. I hope that all those gathered here for the 37th OAS General Assembly will give close attention to this new tool for transparency and the guidance it offers for reform.

Read more about Crinis in the project's brochure in Spanish or in English.

Read the press release announcing Crinis project results.

Read the recommendations: Centro Carter, IDEA Internacional, Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana Recomendaciones a la 37ª Asamblea General de la OEA Panamá, del 3 al 5 de junio de 2007 >>
The Carter Center, International IDEA,  Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter Recommendations to the 37th OAS General Assembly Panama June 3-5, 2007 >>

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