South American Heads pledge ‘unwavering respect for human rights’

South American leaders meeting here yesterday pledged to defend democracy with the approval of a democratic charter which will serve as a guide in the event of any disruptions and coupled it with a declaration of “unwavering respect for human rights”.

“We will not allow any would-be coup leader to take control and rule undemocratically”, President Bharrat Jagdeo told reporters following a closing press conference for the Union of South American Nations yesterday at the Liliendaal Convention Centre. He emphasized that the charter makes provisions for zero democratic violations.

With the additional protocol (democratic charter) to the constitutive treaty of UNASUR, leaders are now empowered to take action against any offensive actions, and these range from dialogue to political and diplomatic sanctions.  In the face of a threat, regional officials are to be consulted through the pro tempore presidency or the secretariat [in Ecuador] and notify them of the situation, in addition to requesting concerted co-operation.

President Jagdeo praised the charter as a “uniform guide” saying also that it offers the union a clear picture on a course of action. But the regional conflicts aside, he said, UNASUR leaders are seeking to expand the international reach of the organization, which is now a key objective of his government.

He said too that UNASUR went from just a concept to an active reality, and is taking real shape in the world; the president stressed that Guyana needs to continue the work already initiated. He added that the focus is also on economic growth across the region using an indigenous model of development.

The President made reference to the Declaration of Georgetown, which flowed from the summit deliberations, and outlines a range of goals for the UNASUR community.

Some of the priority areas include reducing asymmetries and overcoming inequality; addressing climate change and unwavering respect for human rights among others.

In the declaration, the leaders reiterated their commitment expressed in the “Declaration of Bariloche” of August 28, 2009, to strengthen South America as a zone of peace, upholding the decision to refrain from resorting to the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of another UNASUR State. The commitment is significant given the territorial issues across the region; controversy continues to surround Guyana’s borders with Suriname and Venezuela.

UNASUR members also praised the establishment of the UNASUR-Haiti Techni-cal Secretariat in Port au Prince and called on the secretariat to implement the Action Plan for the reconstruction of Haiti. The Decision on UNASUR Solidarity with Haiti, dated February 9, 2010 created the “UNASUR Fund for the Reconstruction of Haiti” in the amount of US$100 million dollars though there are plans to increase the fund to US$200m. UNASUR member states that are yet to make the payments pledged under the fund were invited to do so.

The Ecuadorean initiative pertaining to the concept of net avoided emissions as a non-commercial mechanism was introduced at the sessions, and leaders agreed to continue examining voluntary mitigation and financing mechanisms within the framework of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.

Member states declared their commitment to promote the sustainable development of their natural resources, including forests, through national and regional initiatives. In this vein, they instructed the Council of Delegates, under the Chair-manship of Guyana, to invite a representative of the Amazon Co-operation Treaty Organisation to examine possible areas of co-operation between both organisations.

UNASUR states also recognised and endorse the climate change mitigation initiatives developed voluntarily in the region. They applauded the Yasuní-ITT Initiative of the Republic of Ecuador, which seeks to prevent CO2 emissions through the non-drilling of oil in the Yasuní National Park, so as to protect biodiversity and the indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation and promote a sustainable development model.

The declaration said that member states acknowledged and congratulated the Presidents and Representa-tives of the Legislative and Judicial Authorities on the significant advancements achieved during their meetings held in Quito on June 14, 2010 and in Cuenca on June 23-25, 2010, respectively.

Leaders also urged the Legislative Authorities to reach consensus on the final draft of the Additional Protocol that will establish the South American Parlia-ment, with a view to moving toward convergence on this matter.

Similarly, they welcome the recommendation outlined in the Declaration of the 5th Summit of Judicial Authorities, to consider the creation of the Consultative Council on Justice.

Further, the declaration said that member states acknowledged that the chewing of coca leaves is an ancestral cultural expression of the people of Bolivia that should be respected by the international community; this is taking into account the claim of the values of peoples.

They also supported the initiative of the Plurinational State of Bolivia for the United Nations General Assembly to declare 2013 as the “Inter-national Year of Quinoa”, recognising its high nutritional content and the significant contribution that it will make to the nutrition of the global population as the grain of the future.

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