By Odeen Ishmael
CaribWorldNews, CARACAS, Venezuela, Mon. Nov. 29, 2010: As was widely expected, South American leaders approved a new Democratic Protocol to the UNASUR constitutive treaty at their fourth summit held in Georgetown, Guyana, on November 26. However, the Protocol has to be ratified by nine of the twelve member states before it takes effect.
How soon this will be activated will also depend also on when the UNASUR treaty finally comes into force. This is not yet possible since only eight countries have ratified it so far; nine ratifications are necessary for it to become effective.
In attendance at the summit were Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva of Brazil, Fernando Lugo Mendez of Paraguay, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Desi Bouterse of Suriname and Juan Manuel Santos of Columbia. Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay were represented by their Foreign Ministers.
In a significant move, Guyana`s President, Bharrat Jagdeo, the chairman of the continental body for the next year, promised to institute UNASUR`s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attempted coup in Ecuador on September 30 last. The request for an investigation was made by Ecuador`s President, Rafael Correa, and Jagdeo intimated that the new Democratic Protocol would allow the organisation to undertake this task.
The Democratic Protocol will be enforced in the event of a breach or threat against the democratic order, a violation of the constitutional order, or any situation that jeopardises the legitimate exercising of power and the application of the values and principles of democracy.
Among the measures to be applied will be: (a) Suspension of the right to participate in the various bodies and branches of UNASUR, as well as the suspension of the rights and benefits enjoyed under the constitutive treaty of UNASUR; (b) partial or complete closure of land borders, including the suspension and/or limitation of trade, air and maritime traffic, communications and provision of energy, services and supplies; (c) advocating the suspension of the affected State in the ambit of other regional and international organisations; (d) promoting, with third countries and/or regional blocs, the suspension of the rights and/or benefits enjoyed by the affected State under the cooperation agreements to which it is party; and (e) adoption of additional political and diplomatic sanctions.
To bring the affected State back into the fold of democracy, other UNASUR members will then be required to take diplomatic steps to promote the restoration of democracy.
But the summit dealt with much more than just the democracy issue. The leaders again examined regional matters and gave special consideration to the plight of Haiti. In light of the devastating earthquake in January, UNASUR demonstrated its firm solidarity and had already agreed in February to establish a $100 million fund to support the devastated country. A Haiti/UNASUR secretariat was set up in the Haitian capital and a plan of action outlined to properly assist the Haitian government in the rebuilding process. The leaders will now identify mechanisms that would make viable a line of credit amounting to an additional $200 million, which would complement the UNASUR contribution.
Ecuador`s President Rafael Correa, the outgoing chairman, had taken the initiative of launching UNASUR`s financial assistance to Haiti, and this was noted by President Jagdeo who expressed appreciation and gratitude to him for Ecuador`s effective leadership of the organisation.
Dealing with institutional matters, the summit also emphasised the importance of implementing the UNASUR Health Scholarship Programme in 2011, while South American Ministers of Health have been urged to examine the possibilities of convergence among the various regional health organisations.
On economic and financial issues, the leaders announced the creation of the Council on Economy and Finance and appealed for the prompt adoption of its statute by all member states.
With regards to illegal narcotics, they recognised the advancements made by the South American Council on the World Drug Problem, by approving its statutes and action plan. They also underscored the importance of making strides in effective regional cooperation in the framework of common and shared responsibility, and in combating the world drug problem and its related crimes. As a result, they urged the Council to establish, in 2011, a mechanism for regular consultation by judicial, police, financial and customs authorities, as well as bodies involved in the fight against drugs in South American countries.
The summit also placed importance on the new challenges posed by climate change on the South American environment. In this respect, they appealed to the international community, developed countries in particular, to reach an agreement at the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to be convened in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29 through December 10, 2010, so as to achieve effective reductions in greenhouse gases for the second period of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, which would allow for firm political commitments, as well as actions and proposals.
President Jagdeo had earlier suggested that UNASUR nations should take a united position, as far as possible, at the upcoming Cancun conference.
Overall, the summit saw effective participation by all the member states and there were many successful bilateral meetings on the side. Venezuela and Suriname signed a number of agreements including one in which the former will render assistance in agricultural undertakings. And of great significance, the Presidents of Colombia and Ecuador agreed for the immediate restoration of diplomatic relations between their two countries.
While the leaders paid tribute to its late Secretary General, Nestor Kirchner, who died recently, they did not pursue any discussions on choosing his successor.
One of the highlights of this summit was a major address at the opening session by President Lula Da Silva, who will vacate office at the end of the year. Emphasising the need for collective South American actions, he declared that `none of our countries have the ability to be prosperous without all of us being prosperous, and so our future is within UNASUR.`
He praised the political and economic maturing of the South American nations, noting that they have managed their economies relatively well despite the world economic crisis. He pointed to the irony of the economic dilemma affecting the developed world and remarked: `They knew how to solve the Argentinean crisis, they knew how to solve the crisis in Peru, they knew how to solve the crisis in Mexico, they knew how to solve the crisis in Brazil, but when the crises are in their countries they don`t know how to solve their own.`
(The writer is Guyana`s Ambassador to Venezuela, and currently Vice-Chairman of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System(SELA), and the views expressed are solely his.)