Press Releases

                                                                                                                            22 April 2004

    Secretary-General Urges Latin Americans to Organize Themselves, Expand Their Rights to Strengthen Democracy

    NEW YORK, 21 April (UN Headquarters) -- The following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s video message to the official presentation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report on Democratic Development in Latin America in Lima, Peru, today, 21 April 2004:

    Only 25 years ago, most Latin Americans were living under authoritarian regimes, and longing for democracy.

    Today, almost all Latin Americans live in democracies.

    That is a great achievement, of which you should all be proud.

    At the same time, you have made great progress in combating inflation, increasing and diversifying exports, and attracting foreign investment.  You have also achieved vital social objectives, such as reduced mortality rates among children and mothers, gender balance in the school system, and primary education for all.

    And yet, far too many Latin Americans are still living in poverty and hunger.  Many feel defenceless against violence and crime.

    Yo0ur societies suffer from low economic growth and persistent inequality.  Many groups -- especially those of African descent and the indigenous peoples -- feel excluded and oppressed.

    Opinion polls tell us that today only about 50 per cent of Latin Americans prefer democracy to authoritarian rule.  That is very sad.

    More important, it is wrong. The solution to Latin America’s ills does not lie in a return to authoritarianism.  It lies in a stronger and deeper-rooted democracy.

    Regular and free elections are vital, but they are not enough.  Only when all citizens enjoy their full rights -- political, civil and social -- will they feel that democracy matters to them.

    The Report you are launching today examines the state of democracy in Latin America, and suggests ways to strengthen it in this sense -- through citizens organizing themselves and expanding their rights.  It outlines obstacles and opportunities, and frames an ambitious agenda for the years ahead.

    It is the work of a team of independent experts, including many prominent Latin Americans.  I am proud that it is sponsored by the UN Development Programme.

    I hope Latin American societies will find it useful.  And I assure you that, if they do, they will find the United Nations a willing partner.

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