International IDEA and Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) organized the second Global Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean in New York from 25-27 September 2019, in collaboration with various organizations such as Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Club de Madrid, Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA) and Colombia University´s Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS).
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The second forum brought together experts, think tanks, representatives of international organizations, former heads of state, and political leaders from across the region, who reflected on the current state of Latin America and the Caribbean and its relationship with the main geopolitical and geo-economic trends in the global context.
International IDEA played a leading role in the debates, panels and in the exchange of ideas with the participation of the Secretary-General, Kevin Casas-Zamora, the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Daniel Zovatto, and the Permanent Observer to the UN, Massimo Tommasoli. The Secretary-General inaugurated the event expressing that the forum “has become part of the intellectual landscape of the region” and that it is very important to reflect and talk about the quality of democracies with some regularity.”
Is democracy in crisis at the global and regional level? Are we approaching an economic recession? How do we respond to the complex challenges facing Latin America in matters of governance, security and development? These were some of the questions that guided the discussions and debated of this second Forum.
With the participation, among others, of the former presidents of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández (who inaugurated the event via video conference), Mexico, Felipe Calderon, Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla and Slovenia, Danilo Turk; of former Foreign Ministers such as Jorge Castañeda (Mexico) and Jorge Taina (Argentina), of the former Chief Negotiator of the Colombian Peace Accords, Humberto de la Calle, and of numerous highly qualified experts and analysts of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB), ECLAC, The Economist, Georgetown University, among others, the event represented a space for plural and multisectoral reflection on the Latin American and Caribbean reality, its complex current situation and the main challenges, all accompanied by a set of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of democracy and sustainable and inclusive development in the region.
In the fourth panel, Daniel Zovatto presented an analysis of the main political-electoral trends in Latin America a few months before the end of the electoral super cycle, where 15 of the 18 countries in the region will have held presidential elections in a period of only 36 months (2017-2019). Among the key trends in this process, the Regional Director of International IDEA highlighted the democratic fatigue that the region is experiencing just after the 40th anniversary since the beginning of the Third Wave of Democracy, the fall in support of democracy, and increased dissatisfaction with the same, the weakness of institutions, high levels of corruption and homicides, growing challenges related to governance, decline in gender parity at the presidential level (there are currently no female presidents in Latin America), high levels of polarization, populist tendencies, the phenomenon of false news and misinformation, discontent with politics and the “vote of anger” with traditional elites and the status-quo.
The sixth panel, moderated by Daniel Zovatto and Executive Director for FUNGLODE, Natasha Despotovic, concluded the event with a cautious and moderate optimism for the region during the next decade. Kevin Casas-Zamora highlighted that although we must recognize the difficult moment that Latin America is going through, it is important not to forget “how much the region has advanced” since “democracy in Latin America and the Caribbean has results to show”. The Secretary-General of International IDEA warned that “the last generation’s achievements of having created imperfect, but real democratic systems in Latin America are being weakened” and that “it is time that we ask ourselves how we want the following decade to look like.”
The former President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla added that “there is a very important group of citizens who feel disconnected” which compels us to “think very seriously about the three pillars of democracy: leadership, institutionality and citizenship.” In order to articulate these three dimensions and achieve concrete progress, the dialogue and exchange that emerge from events such as this Global Forum are indispensable. As Paolo Giordano, Principal Economist of the IDB’s trade and integration sector stated, “for Latin America the period of complacency is over. We have to think about how the next decade is going to be, so that it is not another lost decade.”
Relevant information related to the forum, including the program, panelists, news and documents, can be found in its website.