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The greatest deficit for a true citizen’s democracy lies in the social aspects of citizenship, said UNDP’s Elena Martinez

Electoral democracy has made enormous strides in Latin America during the last two decades, but achieving a true citizen’s democracy remains a challenge for most countries in the region, particularly in satisfying social aspirations and fighting poverty and inequality, said Elena Martinez, assistant administrator and regional director of the United Nations Development Program.

In a presentation at the Inter-American Development Bank’s Forum on the Americas, Martinez pointed to polls that show increasing popular dissatisfaction with the democratic form of government. According to Martinez, repeated crises, slow economic growth and persisting inequalities are undermining confidence in electoral democracy in the region.

Information and analysis provided by UNDP’s report Democracy in Latin America aims at catalyzing a debate on the existing problems, which would lead to new policy approaches to tackle the political, social and economic challenges of the region and promote true citizenship for all.

 IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias, who introduced Elena Martinez, welcomed progress made by Latin America during recent years toward achieving a full democratic process and stated that a strengthened democracy is at the center of solutions to the many problems that the region faces today. “This report is unique in objectivity and courage,” Iglesias said, praising the renewed interest in the issue.

Martinez signaled the need to strengthen democracy in the region based on the results of public opinion polls that showed that only half of Latin Americans today clearly prefer democracy over alternative regimes. Researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 231 democratic leaders in Latin America, including most presidents and former presidents; 59 percent said political parties were not fulfilling their role.

The speaker explained that the objectives of UNDP’s initiative were to open a process of consultation to define the debate on challenges to democracy in Latin America, and to help governments and citizens to move forward in deepening the democratic process.

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