Political Reform and Economic Development: The Role of Political and Civil Society Organizations

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Second Assembly
Political Reform and Economic Development: The Role of Political and Civil Society Organizations

International IDEA (Sweden)
State and Civil Society Division, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Ivo Hernandez (Germany)
University of Heidelberg

Fernando Carrillo-Florez (Colombia)
State and Civil Society Division, IDB

Rolando Franco (Chile)
Economic Commission for Latin America
Horacio Serpa Uribe (Colombia)
Partido Liberal Colombiano

Mercedes de Freitas (Venezuela)
Fundación Momento de la Gente
Daniel Zovatto (Costa Rica)
International IDEA


What kind of specific actions can be exerted by public entities and civil societies in active support of democracy?


  • The state is necessary. Emphasizing the political factor within the state implies clear objectives that help it function, so that it acknowledges the most important common problems and effectively acts upon them. Several speakers and participants who made this point focused on the need for an arbiter between the power of the market and civil society.
  • Politics is a comparative exercise between ideas and policy programs. Political parties should be promoted so that they represent not only themselves and patterns of isolated ideological interests, but also diverse sectors of the civil society.
  • Multiparty administration helps ensure good governance and the fight against corruption. Some participants agreed that an electoral system that guarantees pluralist participation would also most likely help "porosity" between society and the governmental machine.
  • The regular occurrence of elections does not per se imply the good health of a democratic system. Attention must be paid to periodic examinations of institutional and political systems.
  • Without democracy and real democratic participation promoted by representative parties there is no guarantee of stability, rule of law, and civic participation.
  • Civil society and political parties should be complementary concepts that lead towards effective and tangible social results.
  • Development should always be sustainable development, not only on environmental or economic grounds, but also on social and political grounds. The mistake of the economic reforms of the 1980s and the institutional improvements of the 1990s may have been to forget this point.
  • Without clear accountability, social balance, and a fair distribution of wealth, people may tend to undervalue the usefulness of democracy.
  • Politicians and political parties should look forward to diminishing the gap between electoral promises and reality.
  • Development depends on the quality of institutions, the quality of services, and thus on the quality of politics.
  • Anti-political and anti-party discourse leads to authoritarianism in society.
  • The pattern of relations between civil society and political parties should be redefined so the latter may be better able to articulate the demands and aspirations of civil society organizations.
  • Maintain the important boundaries between public and private (or corporate) interests.
  • Provide opportunities for political participation to those who will be affected by public policies.
  • In the relationship between state and civil society, the dominant perspective has inclined to consider the state as the only actor promoting development. It is thus necessary to sharpen the political picture of organized civil society.
  • Emerging or formerly excluded social sectors should be helped to organize themselves either as civil society working groups or as political parties.
  • Techniques should be developed to strengthen