Chairs of the MOAS PC, Melissa Reif and Alexander Honjiyo
Mr. Secretary General, Ernesto Alvarado
Esteemed OAS Interns
Director of Human Resources, Tony Gaxiola
Director of International Affairs, Jorge Sanin
I am very pleased to address you this morning at the opening of the Thirteenth Model of the Permanent Council for Interns.
For the OAS, the interns and youth play a vital role in achieving our common goals throughout the hemisphere. We are supported by your ideas and commitment to our efforts in upholding democracy and democratic institutions, advancing human rights, promoting integral development and promoting the prosperity of our citizens during times of far-reaching, and new and ever-evolving threats to security.
This is not a simple exercise. The Permanent Council represents the convergence of States and governments with sometimes different ideologies, recognizing that through collaboration and collective action, we can more effectively confront the greatest challenges affecting the Americas.
As the next generation of leaders, this is an invaluable opportunity for you to develop your analytical, negotiations and decision-making skills and put them into practice in this real-world simulation.
Youth constitute two thirds of the population of Latin American and the Caribbean and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), youth is the largest population group in this hemisphere. However, a joint study by the ECLAC and the UNICEF shows that about 45% of people under the age of 18 in the region live in poverty and do not have access to basic needs, such as education, healthcare, a safe environment and other crucial services to be productive participants of the democratic societies in which they live.
Young people are assuming an increasing role in the democratic decision-making process. Over the past few years, we have seen that youth have become the motors for transformation in all of our societies, pushing for social inclusion, greater opportunities and transparency in the decision-making process.
It makes sense to promote democratic and civic values among the youth, so that young people can learn to respect diversity and to build consensus and collaboration for the development of public policies. The MOAS Program was created more than 30 years ago, and during the last decade, we have put special emphasis on the MOAS as a tool to promote democratic values and the respect for human rights, inspired by the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
The OAS is conscious of the fact that you are the next generation of democratic leaders of the Americas and for that reason we adopted the Strategy on Youth last year with the ultimate goal to create partnerships to advance youth development through a cross-cutting and participatory approach based on three main pillars: 1) institutionalizing dialogue with youth by creating permanent spaces within the OAS to hear your voice and proposals for the development of the region; 2) capacity building to allow the youth to express their opinions and participate in the OAS policymaking process; and 3) strengthening institutional development, both in Member States and within the OAS General Secretariat, to deal with issues affecting youth.
We are very proud of creating these positive spaces and programs that benefit many young people in the Hemisphere. Over the next two days, you will be discussing two issues of great importance for the Hemisphere:
• Mechanisms to strengthen and coordinate an Integral Plan of Action for preventing and combating transnational organized crime in the Americas; and
• Elements to be considered for a Hemispheric Strategy to combat drug abuse.
The relationship between development and security is undeniable. Stable and secure countries attract investment, generate economic growth and employment, and increase government revenue, which allow for the allocation of greater resources to social programs. On the other hand, inequality and the lack of economic opportunities negatively affect political stability, and can lead to the escalation of crime and violence.
Governments must review how they can better create the conditions for stability, economic prosperity and security through a more comprehensive arrangement that prioritizes the social and economic needs of societies. Our efforts must incorporate peace-building to address the sources of conflict in a more structured way to find real solutions. A hemisphere with conflict and tension within and between countries will not become a prosperous region.
Social exclusion and difficulty in accessing employment, education, and healthcare can make certain groups more vulnerable. We must understand the underlying causes of crime and violence; establish comprehensive, coordinated intervention at all levels; design and promote violence prevention methods working with governments, private sector, civil society, families, schools and communities to address the growing threats to our citizens’ security.
It is clear that when security and development policies are not coordinated, illegal activities flourish and threaten our societies. In some countries of the region, youth view organized crime as an attractive alternative for making a living. Oftentimes we associate youth and their connections to gangs with drug trafficking and street-level dealings, human trafficking, theft, extortion, kidnapping, and other crimes, which suggests that these issues need to be addressed in a multidisciplinary fashion.
The strategies and priorities you will be discussing today and tomorrow should be realistic, concrete, achievable and measurable in order to deliver on the set objectives, reach and improve the lives of those in need, and so that we can measure the impact the development assistance and security initiatives have on our communities, a countries or sub-regions.
During this Model of the Permanent Council, you will debate and adopt proposals to strengthen cooperation to combat organized crime, promote the rule of law, and investigate the different causes of violence and insecurity. This type of debate requires a thoughtful analysis, understanding for diversity and respect for different ideas and values. Whether you represent the country with the largest or the smallest economy in the region, you all play an equally important role and share responsibility to advance in the agreements that will improve security in the Americas.
I would like to recognize the Departments of Human Resources and of International Affairs for this initiative to continuously engage young people in this MOAS for interns, contributing to the OAS Strategy on Youth and to building the capacity of the future leaders of the Americas to participate in the decision-making process.
The developments we see in the OAS have been achieved through the concerted efforts of our Member States in the OAS political organs and, of course, in response to non-state actors that hold the Organization accountable to all citizens of the Hemisphere, something that without question benefits our work.
I am very encouraged to see your commitment during your preparation for this two-day exercise and I would like to thank you all for your hard work and determination in contributing to a better life for all of the peoples of the Americas. I look forward to reading your resolutions tomorrow.
Finally, I am pleased to pass this gavel to the Chair of the Permanent Council to conduct your business. I wish luck in this exercise and thank you.