6 Oct

More effort needed in improving democracy human rights in Central America Annan

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Central America has made significant progress in economic development, but the region needs to improve its efforts in the areas of human rights, ensuring democracy, public security and judicial reform, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report.Summarizing the progress that Central American countries have made towards building peaceful, democratic and equitable societies, Mr. Annan says that economic activity was positive, with growth averaging 3.35 per cent in 2003-04, driven in part by economic recovery in the United States, strengthened debt sustainability, growth in exports, especially of garments, and a significant rise in remittances from foreign workers.Incomes from family remittances reached $6,862 million in 2004, 16.2 per cent more than in 2003, an amount almost equivalent to 35 per cent of regional exports of goods, and significantly larger than the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI), he says. The recent implementation of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) should continue to help the area remain competitive.But economic growth could be affected by rising global competition, especially from China, price increases of important commodities such as oil, and unforeseen natural disasters, he warns.Noting that El Salvador and Guatemala made improvements in their electoral systems, Mr. Annan is nevertheless critical of the region’s record in democratic reform, and notes that “throughout the region, the political systems are weak. Most political parties serve mainly as electoral platforms; they lack ideological foundation or a meaningful base of support within the population… and do not articulate the needs of the citizens at large.”On corruption, human rights, public security, and judicial reform in the region, the Secretary-General says that “while the region has advanced considerably in its efforts to establish a firm and lasting peace through the eradication of violence, discrimination, impunity and inequities, deficits in each of these areas continue today.”He calls on each country to continue in its efforts towards reform and the European Union to continue in its assistance in the area of economic integration. The UN’s work in strengthening the democratic infrastructure and the rule of law, eradicating poverty, integrating water-resource management and bolstering competitiveness, should also help, he says.

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