The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today headed the delegation of the hemispheric institution that participated in a day of dialogue with a group of European Union diplomats assigned to Latin America, led by Christian Leffler, Director for the Americas of the European External Action Service of the European Union, which analyzed the common work of the two institutions and the challenges and advances in democracy in the region.
Upon completion of the meeting, held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, Secretary General Insulza said that "we had a very fruitful meeting with the EU delegation and we are reviewing some of the most important themes of the work we do together." The head of the hemispheric institution highlighted among the topics of the conversation "democracy, development, poverty and inequality, and the human rights issue, which is the subject of our Extraordinary General Assembly that will be held tomorrow."
In his presentation at the meeting, the head of the hemispheric organization outlined how the OAS has evolved in its priorities since its foundation, noting that "the problems of today are mainly focused on the strengthening of democracy, faced with threats that emerge from the problems of poverty and inequality and organized crime." Politically, he said, the region faces challenges in terms of "the separation of powers, still very weak judiciaries, problems of corruption, and a set of institutional problems" that have historical roots.
"I believe that democracy is a process," said Secretary General Insulza, "not a photograph, a process that moves forward and sometimes backwards." Referring to the region, he said "we have limitations, but have also made great progress," and listed as examples the fact that all governments of the Member States of the OAS have been democratically elected and that the stability of governments in the region has increased significantly in recent years.
For his part, Ambassador Leffler thanked the Secretary General "for taking the time in a particularly busy and important week to meet with our political officers from delegations from across the Americas," and stressed the "good cooperation between the OAS and the European Union for many years." The European supranational institution has held Permanent Observer status to the OAS since 1989, and cooperation between the two agencies was formalized in 2009 with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the foundation for collaboration.
The European diplomat said that "our efforts in the continent follow two broad parallel tracks" in their objectives: translating economic progress into social progress, and consolidating governance and democracy. Based on these two related tracks, said Ambassador Leffler, the EU decides on its actions in the Americas.
Following the words of the Secretary General and Ambassador Leffler, the political officers of the European Union spoke with the leader of the OAS on various current issues in the region. The exchange included topics such as the strengthening of the Inter-American System of Human Rights which ends tomorrow in an Extraordinary General Assembly of the OAS in Washington, DC; Electoral Observation Missions, the peace process in Colombia, and trade and investment in the region.
Accompanying the Secretary General Insulza at the meeting were the Secretary for External Relations of the OAS, Alfonso Quiñonez, and the Director of the Department of International Affairs, Jorge Sanin.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The B-roll of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org