Unasur Creates Electoral Council, Moves toward Greater Economic Cooperation
Mérida – The Union of South American nations (Unasur) has created an electoral council, as well as moving forward on initiatives for greater economic integration.
At a meeting yesterday between Unasur nations in Quito, Ecuador, the regional bloc’s newest council was formally inaugurated. The twelve Unasur member countries now cooperate through nine different councils, including defence, energy and health.
According to the Unasur electoral council’s pro-tempore president, Francisco Tavara of Peru, the council’s aim will be “to strengthen the role of Unasur observation and electoral accompaniment missions in regional electoral processes”.
He added that, “The [electoral observation] missions will be a substantial contribution to the creation of a climate of confidence and transparency for the peoples of South America”.
The electoral council was created after the experience of Unasur’s electoral mission to the Venezuelan presidential elections earlier this year. The council’s first official mission will be to the Ecuadorian presidential election in February 2013, when Rafael Correa will seek re-election.
The Unasur electoral council will have a rotating presidency and representatives from a variety of electoral organisations, and can only send an observation mission in response to a member state’s request.
Lenin Housse, the international relations director of the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council, claimed that Unasur electoral observation missions would be different from those of the Organisation of American States (OAS) or the European Union (EU), because they will be “attached to South America’s reality,” with the principle “of establishing mechanisms of accompaniment, information, and joint assessment”.
The electoral council is expected to emit a joint declaration of principles today, which will include “inclusive democracy”, “transparency of electoral processes”, and “promoting citizen democracy”.
New Court, New Bank
The Unasur is also expected to establish South America’s own forum for the settlement of investment disputes, to replace the Washington-based International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
“The issue is very advanced, practically all [Unasur] countries agree with this. It was proposed to finish the analysis and begin operating next year,” said Ecuadorian foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, after a meeting between Unasur heads of state in Lima, Peru, last weekend.
Accusing bodies such as the ICSID of having a “colonialist vision and structure”, he said it would be “good for Unasur to have its own organisation for the resolution of disputes, not to have to go to the ICSID or others so that they tell us how to develop our own systems of arbitration”.
In January this year Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the ICSID, citing the court’s bias against Venezuela in its decisions, and the need “to protect the right of the Venezuelan people to decide the strategic orientation of the social and economic life of the nation”. Fellow leftist governments Bolivia and Ecuador left the ICSID in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
Patiño also confirmed that the Bank of the South, which will fund joint projects and promote regional development, should be functioning by April 2013.
“This is one of Latin America’s most important hopes. It’s about regional growth,” he said in an interview with Venezuelan current affairs program Dossier on Friday.
He reported that the bank currently has two-thirds of the necessary capital to begin activities, and that once launched, could support a range of projects, such as regional rail and food storage networks, joint production of generic pharmaceuticals and greater energy integration.
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