Organization of American States



February 13, 2002



Speaking for the first time at the Organization of American States in Washington Wednesday morning, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham commended the Organization's swift move on urgent measures to fight terrorism.   

He lauded the OAS for offering "the first categoric condemnation" of the September 11 attacks on the United States and negotiating an Inter-American Convention against Terrorism.  "For Canada, this illustrates that the OAS not only talks—it acts," Graham told member state representatives at a special session of the OAS Permanent Council.   

He spoke as well of the growing importance his country attaches to the premier hemispheric body of nations, explaining that Canada joined in 1990 as part of "a deliberate plan to intensify relations with the countries of the Hemisphere and to take part in the dialogue that was defining both the Organization and the collective will of its member states."  He added that: "In the past dozen years, the OAS has reached out to member states in their hour of need—from the smallest to the largest….  We have seen countries turn toward the institutions of the OAS for assistance on highly sensitive issues—border conflicts, human rights and crises of democracy." 

Identifying specific accomplishments that make the OAS "a relevant, integral and important institution in this Hemisphere," Graham noted that "Canadians are very pleased with the return on our collective investment in the OAS."  He cited the Inter-American Democratic Charter, asserting that "no other region can boast a similar document."  He observed that the document's bold declaration could not be ignored as it stipulates that "the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it." 

            On the hemispheric Summit mandates, the Canadian Foreign Minister urged a sustained commitment from all member states.  He said last year's Quebec Summit had established a balanced and coherent agenda for the hemisphere, grounded in the values of democracy, economic prosperity, social stability and hemispheric security. 

            Permanent Council Chairman, Ecuador's Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador Blasco Peñaherrera, presided at the session, which was attended by Secretary General César Gaviria and Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi, among other dignitaries.