Organization of American States



January 14, 2002  





            César Gaviria, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, has described corruption as "a terrible cancer that undermines the legitimacy of institutions and the rule of law."   He says the Hemisphere still has a long way to go in its war on this scourge. 

Citing the Inter-American Democratic Charter approved by member states last September 11, the Secretary General told Experts on the Follow-up Mechanism for the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption at the opening of their first Committee meeting today that corruption must be fought because, first and foremost, that is how democracy will be preserved and strengthened.  He also pointed to the high social cost of corruption.  "Rising poverty has made Latin America the region with the sharpest disparities between rich and poor, and the OAS thus views the war on corruption as a social justice cause." 

            Corruption's impact on trade and economic growth and development was also cited, with Gaviria noting that the more widespread corruption is in a country, the less investment and economic growth will be realized.  "We evidently have to tackle this evil if we really want to economic development."  

            He pointed to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, saying that "in taking this step we are paving the way for the kind of progress subsequently made by other international organizations with which we have begun discussing a possible United Nations convention. 

            Adoption and implementation of such a mechanism "is a crucial step we in the Americas have to take," declared Mr. Gaviria, noting the major challenges in boosting the mechanism's credibility while demonstrating its usefulness. "Your work must yield concrete results to help us see accomplishments; it must pinpoint existing challenges;  and propose specific programs to successfully deal with them." 

            Nicaragua's Ambassador to the OAS, Lombardo Martínez, opened the weeklong meeting, as chairman of the OAS Working Group on Probity and Public Ethics.  The meeting has brought together government experts from 22 OAS countries that have ratified the Convention.