June 3, 2001
OAS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLS FOR STRENGTHENING
San José, Costa Rica.- Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), César Gaviria, today opened the annual gathering of the hemispheres foreign ministers with a call to advance democracy and strengthen the inter-American system for the protection of human rights.
In addressing the 31st regular session of the OAS General Assembly, President Rodríguez recalled that the Costa Rican capital was also the place where the American Convention of Human Rights known as the Pact of San Jose was adopted more than 30 years ago. He affirmed that "we have the historic opportunity to bring to life a new process, one that will lead to the full enjoyment of human rights and the defense of democracy."
The Costa Rican leader talked about his governments proposals to reform the hemispheres human rights system, including an allocation of more funds for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Among other measures, Costa Rica also proposes giving victims whose cases are before the Court direct participation in the process; guaranteeing greater compliance with Court decisions; and bringing about universal adherence to the inter-American human rights system through ratification of the American Convention by all OAS member countries.
President Rodríguez also said it was "essential" that the proposed Inter-American Democratic Charter, initially proposed by Peru, be adopted at this General Assembly. The Costa Rican president called for complementing this initiative with a democratic clause that would exclude non-democratic countries from economic integration and trade mechanisms.
The OAS Secretary General also underscored the importance of developing a Democratic Charter, as mandated by the hemispheres leaders at the Third Summit of the Americas, and noted that such a Charter would build on the "democratic clause" adopted at the Summit.
"These measures serve notice to all those who would disrupt the constitutional order that they will encounter a community of nations united in collective action to enforce the observance of democratic institutions," Gaviria said. Referring to Resolution 1080, which establishes measures to take when a democratically elected government is overthrown, Gaviria said the proposed Democratic Charter represents a significant advance because it expands the potential situations that can be considered a collapse of democracy as well as the breadth of actions available to defend democracy when it is under threat.
Gaviria said the Organizations commitment to democracy explains the concern of the hemispheric community over the situation in Haiti, where he said a favorable climate does not exist for negotiations between the parties.
"The Haitian people are the primary victims of this polarization affecting all sectors of national society," he said. "This burden prevents the country from embarking on the economic growth and social development all its citizens so urgently need and hope for."
On the issue of human rights, Gaviria echoed the Costa Rican leaders call for the universal adoption of the system, saying this "should continue to be a priority objective and a commitment for all of us." He noted that the human rights system has evolved in recent years to include the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, migrant workers, women and children, as well as the link between the environment and human rights and the appointment of rapporteurs to step up protection in areas of particular importance, such as freedom of expression.
Gaviria also talked about other challenges the OAS is confronting, such as fighting corruption and illegal drugs, and helping to reduce tensions and resolve disputes, such as those that have arisen between Honduras and Nicaragua and between Belize and Guatemala. He offered his assurance that the OAS will "mobilize the best of its resources" to meet the more than 30 mandates it was given recently by the Third Summit of the Americas. "The OAS assumes, with pride and confidence, the challenge of rising to meet our governments demands," he said.
During its two days of deliberations, delegates from the 34 OAS member countries will consider a wide range of issues related to democracy, human rights, trade and integration, hemispheric security, protection of the environment, action against landmines and the mitigation of natural disasters. Also to be considered are such issues as combating corruption and illegal drugs, and addressing the problem of poverty.
The General Assembly will also include elections for new members of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Justice Studies Center of the Americas.