April 26, 1999
Volume 51, No. 29
Carter Center Update:
Latin American, Caribbean leaders gather for Carter Center summit on government corruption
Current and former heads of state from the Americas will join President Jimmy Carter May 3-5 at The Carter Center to advance efforts to reduce government corruption in the region.
Costa Rican President Miguel Rodriguez, Ecuadorian President Jamil Mahuad Witt and Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson are among the leaders who will evaluate current efforts and make recommendations for specific anti-corruption practices to improve investor confidence, spur economic growth, provide better public services and strengthen confidence in democratic institutions. The conference, "Transparency for Growth in the Americas," is hosted by the center's Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government (CFEHG).
"Corruption is an obstacle to foreign investment and a threat to democratic stability worldwide, not just in the Americas," said Carter. "The leaders coming to this conference have agreed to work together to find models on how to combat this very real ill."
Leaders from at least 10 countries in the region will engage in two days of discussions, culminating with a statement and recommendations. Participants will include Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Inter-American Development Bank President Enrique Iglesias, Transparency International President Peter Eigen, representatives of the political, business, civic and media communities, and former presidents who comprise the CFEHG, including those from Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay and Venezuela. President Bill Chace and several faculty from Emory College and the Goizuetta Business School will represent Emory during the discussions.
The conference is part of a multi-year project begun in September 1998 at the Center to work with governments, civil society and other international organizations to generate political momentum to address the issue of corruption and to develop new ways to monitor government transactions and ensure their transparency. The meeting will continue a dialogue begun at the April 1997 Carter Center summit, "Agenda for the Americas in the 21st Century," at which current and former heads of state recommended steps to advance free trade and arms restraint, thwart drug trafficking and resolve border disputes.
"Our goal this year is to gain commitments from political leaders to processes that will make public transactions fair and accountable," said Jennifer McCoy, director of the center's Latin American and Caribbean Program. Conference participants will look not only at long-term strategies, such as the opening up of market economies and deregulation, but also at more immediate solutions including systematic diagnoses of the problems, open access to information by journalists and the public, and creating ways for governments and citizens to better monitor and enforce rules for transparent government transactions.
"Corruption is not a cultural problem but rather an issue that arises when capable people are placed in specific situations," McCoy said. "Rational individuals, in certain situations where the benefits outweigh the costs, sometimes will choose to practice a form of corruption such as offering or accepting a bribe.
"One way to thwart this is to make sure the costs of corruption--through detection, deterrence and punishment--outweigh the benefits. Countries in Latin America are working to put in place practices that do that and can be used as models for countries around the world."
Portions of the conference will be held in conjunction with the CNN World Report Contributors Conference, bringing to Atlanta several hundred television reporters and executives from around the world. Final recommendations and portions of the plenary sessions for "Transparency for Growth in the Americas" will be aired on CNN Espan~ol.
The CFEHG is an informal group of current and former heads of government from throughout the Western Hemisphere who promote democracy and the peaceful resolution of the region's conflicts. Well known for mediating and observing elections, the council has monitored voting in the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela. The council also has played an important role in promoting solutions to the region's debt crisis and in encouraging free trade, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and a wider Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The "Transparency" conference is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, with additional support from Delta Air Lines, Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation and United Parcel Service.
Deanna Congileo is senior associate director of public information
at The Carter Center.