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Financing Democracy in the Americas

The Carter Center's Americas Program and its Council of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas, in collaboration with the Organization of American States, hosted Financing Democracy in the Americas: Political Parties, Campaigns, and Elections March 17-19, 2003.

The conference addressed the growing disillusionment with political parties, perceptions of quid pro quos for campaign donations, and ways to finance parties and elections more honestly and legitimately. The Council selected the conference topic to express its concern about recent campaign finance scandals that have deeply damaged governments in the Western Hemisphere, such as the Samper government in Colombia and the Mahuad government in Ecuador. In North America, escalating campaign costs and concerns have led Canada and the United States to reform their campaign finance legislation, and in the Caribbean, traditionally stable party systems have suffered from corruption and increasing concerns of drug money going into party coffers.

"Money conscious voters across the hemisphere have begun to ask whether elections really allow them to hold governments accountable for enacting promised reforms, or whether politicians respond only to the special interest groups who, in large part, fund their campaigns," said Dr. Jennifer McCoy, director of the Center's Americas Program. "The problem is compounded where cash-strapped governments can ill afford to finance election campaigns and political parties out of public budgets."

The conference culminated in a statement in English (PDF)Spanish (PDF), and Portuguese, with concrete recommendations.

Financing Democracy in the Americas was sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company. Additional support was provided by Americas Gateway Strategy, the Consulate General of Germany, Delta Air Lines, King & Spalding, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Conference Overview

Quick List of Participants (Names, titles, and organizations)

Participants' Biographies

Remarks by OAS Secretary-General César Gaviria

Keynote Speech by Bolivia Vice President Carlos Mesa

Intervencion de Elena Martinez del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para Desarrollo

Stengthening Political Parties by Elizabeth Spehar of the OAS

Calling in Favors? Post-election Demands on Government by Campaign Donors by Lawrence Nobleof the Center for Responsive Politics

Conference Statement (PDF)

Declaración del conferencia (PDF)

Declaração a conferência

Final Report: Financing Democracy in the Americas (PDF)

El Financiamiento de la Democracia en las Americas (PDF)

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Carter Center Photos: Annemarie Poyo
OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria gives the opening keynote speech. 

Bolivia Vice President Carlos Mesa talked about recent challenges his government has faced.

Former Chile President Eduardo Frei reads conference briefing materials as he listens to opening remarks.

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (l.) talks with Chile Minister of the Interior Jose Insulza (r.) at a reception.

Daniel Zovatto of International IDEA (l.) and former Ecuador President Osvaldo Hurtado (r.) discuss enforcement of campaign finance laws. 

Americas Program Director Dr. Jennifer McCoy reads a statement at the closing press conference.

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