News Article

Third International Forum of Santo Domingo “Time for reforms”: What should Latin America do to become a more democratic, prosperous, equitable and safe region? 


Latin America’s frame of mind is changing. In only three years the region has passed from a state of euphoria about its economic future to a much more moderate optimism and even caution. This new scenario presents a series of questions for Latin America concerning how it can reactivate its growth despite the structural drop in prices of commodities. Given lower economic expansion, can the region deepen, or even sustain, the social progress achieved in the last years? How can Governments confront the considerable expectations of the new middle classes – such as access to a better infrastructure in health, education and other public services – without frustrating citizens’ expectations and triggering social protest? Ultimately, which are the urgent structural reforms that Latin America has to implement to not waste, once again in its history, a golden cycle? 

These were the questions that stimulated the analysis and search for proposals during the Third International Forum of Santo Domingo, called La hora de las reformas: ¿Qué debe hacer América Latina para convertirse en una región más democrática, próspera, equitativa y segura (Time for reforms: What should Latin America do to transform itself into a more democratic, prosperous, equitable and safe region?), carried out between 28 - 30 January in the capital of the Dominican Republic. The event, which brought together five former presidents of the region, as well as a group of 70 experts throughout the continent and Europe, was organized by International IDEA and two Dominican institutions – the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (Fundación Global para la Democracia y el Desarrollo – FUNGLODE) and the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra.

During the Forum, participants identified a series of areas in which the region urgently needs to implement reforms to maintain its growth rate and political and social progress, including:

  • Increased productivity, diversification of production (such as the export of foods and generation and provision of clean energy), and reforms in the States’ fiscal capacities.
  • Institutionalization of the region’s democratic progress through measures that strengthen political parties, as well as regulation of their financing and strengthening of the Rule of Law.
  • Implementation of educational reforms which not only increase coverage, but also improve the quality of education.
  • Strengthening the capacities of States to achieve justice through reforms to the judicial systems.

Daniel Zovatto, PhD, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of International IDEA, chaired the inaugural conference in which five former presidents (Leonel Fernández, from the Dominican Republic; Carlos Mesa from Bolivia; Laura Chinchilla from Costa Rica; Luis Alberto Lacalle from Uruguay; and Vinicio Cerezo from Guatemala) carried out a preliminary analysis of the region. In general terms, both former presidents and experts participating in the conference – among them former ministers, legislators, representatives from academia and international organizations, and reporters – agreed upon a diagnosis embodied in the final declaration of the Forum: “Latin America is experiencing a moment of transition which, as in any process of change, comes with risks and challenges, but also with opportunities. The time is favorable for the region to embrace the reforms necessary to maintain sustainable and inclusive growth through time.”