Media Center



October 1, 2001 - Washington, DC

His Excellency Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mrs. Gonsalves; Ambassador Swinburne Lestrade, Chairman of the Permanent Council and Permanent Representative of Dominica; Mr. Assistant Secretary General; ambassadors; distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen:

It is a privilege and honor for me to welcome today, on his first visit to the Organization of American States, the distinguished Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, His Excellency Ralph Gonsalves. Mr. Prime Minister, your presence here, six months after your election in March 2001, symbolizes the strong relations that exist between the people and the Government of your country and this organization. We highly appreciate your visit and look forward to the further strengthening of your country’s engagement in the objectives and activities of this organization.

We are also pleased to have your Permanent Representative to the Organization, Ambassador Ellsworth John, well known in the OAS. He did an outstanding job at the Organization’s General Secretariat and is now Chairman of the very important Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities.

Mr. Prime Minister, we consider your presence at this very important and critical moment of history, so early in your administration, as a clear and unequivocal demonstration of the commitment of all Caribbean nations to this organization. It marks the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) firm stance regarding strengthening and defending democracy, human rights, freedom, and the rule of law in all our hemispheric communities.

This reminds me of the historical statement made by the then Chairman of CARICOM, His Excellency Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados, during the recently-held Third Summit of the Americas. Prime Minister Arthur stated that “our Caribbean has a vital contribution to make to the creation of the community of the Americas.” Mr. Prime Minister, this organization and I share this view totally, and we will need your and your colleagues’ support in bringing this vision into reality.

Mr. Prime Minister, the United States, the Hemisphere, and the whole world have been shaken up by the tragic, horrible, and criminal acts of terrorists on September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, D.C. We all have condemned these acts with the strongest expressions, as they go against all forms of respect for mankind. It is clear that there is no place for such horrifying and criminal violence in the world that we are trying to establish. The tragedies of September 11 are never to be forgotten. We have to transform our anger into sustained unity and alliances to counteract terrorism.

I wish to take this opportunity to express, once again, our heartfelt sympathy to those who have lost relatives, friends, and colleagues among the victims of the terrorist attacks. As you are aware, Mr. Prime Minister, several Caribbean nationals were among the victims. May I take this opportunity to convey to the Caribbean Community, through you, my deepest sympathy on this terrible loss. I would like to request that we all stand and observe a minute of silence in memory of these Caribbean nationals and all others who perished on September 11.

[El Consejo, de pie, observa un minuto de silencio.]

Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Chairman, we will have to deal with the effects of the impact of these terrorist attacks for a long time, and perhaps the world will never be the same again. The whole world—nations, organizations, the business community, individuals, multilateral organizations—will have to revisit current agendas and activities and determine, individually and collectively, how to contribute to preventing such horrible acts from happening again.

Just a couple of days ago, in this same Hall of the Americas, the Twenty-fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs took place to consider the terrorist attacks on the United States. The Hemisphere has declared its full solidarity with the Government and people of United States. In the coming weeks and months, several proposals will be considered, and several meetings of specialized agencies will convene to design a strong multilateral response. It is especially at these times that hemispheric unity and cooperation, in a spirit of solidarity, are needed in order to achieve the objectives that have been established in order to fight terrorism in all its manifestations. We look forward to an intensive engagement of CARICOM in the formulation of those measures.

Mr. Prime Minister, the terrorist attacks, an act of political aggression of the worst kind, will impact the social and economic life of several countries. Already we are experiencing the immediate effects on the airline and tourism industries in the United States and the Caribbean. Smaller economies, such as those in the Caribbean, have already been tackling some of the negative impacts of globalization. The Hemisphere has also recognized the financial, human, and institutional limitations of small states. Now, it is expected that these terrorist acts and their consequences will increase the pressure on your limited earning capacity, resulting in the closure of economic activities, loss of jobs, and an increase in poverty. I believe that in our examination of the total impact, we will need to address these specific problems and needs and to determine, together with other institutions of the inter-American system, a balanced approach to assist these countries.

Mr. Prime Minister, in the past years, the integration movement in the Caribbean has not only been widened, but also deepened. We recognize CARICOM’s efforts to modernize its institutional framework, to establish a Single Market and Economy supported by the Caribbean Court of Justice, as well as to develop a coordinated strategy and mechanisms for external economic negotiations, the Regional Negotiation Machinery (RNM). I believe that these are valuable lessons for our hemisphere.

The OAS remains committed to continue to work with CARICOM member states, to strengthen Caribbean economies, and to further improve living standards in the Caribbean. We also immediately acknowledge current challenges facing the Caribbean that need to be addressed with the assistance of the international community. I refer to the high rates of crime, the illegal trafficking in firearms, the high incidence of HIV/AIDS, and the effects of natural disasters.

Mr. Prime Minister, on two occasions hemispheric leaders have requested the modernization and restructuring of the inter-American system in line with the agreed agenda and Plan of Action of the Summit of the Americas process. We are in the process of implementing this mandate. The most recent Summit of the Americas in Quebec City resulted in a series of mandates and a more central role for the Organization in this process. I take this opportunity to congratulate CARICOM on its demonstrated capacity to participate in and contribute effectively to the formulation of new targets and objectives.

The hemispheric agenda is changing in focus and nature. This new dynamism will require an intensified and more meaningful relationship between this hemispheric body and the subregional entities. In this regard, we believe that the existing Agreement on Cooperation between the General Secretariat of the OAS and CARICOM should be revisited to include the scope and depth of the Summit of the Americas agenda.

Cooperation between the OAS and CARICOM has increased tremendously at the political level and has resulted in effective partnerships. The OAS was pleased to send electoral observation missions to several countries of the Caribbean. Our joint efforts in Haiti have proven to be effective. They have set in motion a sustained process of engagement between the OAS and CARICOM, on the one hand, and the Haitian Government and political parties on the other, to assist in the resolution of the political crisis in Haiti. I have had the pleasure of holding consultations with you and your colleague heads of government, most recently on Grand Bahama Island.

We regard CARICOM’s efforts in Haiti as of critical importance. We are ready to continue our assistance if all involved parties in Haiti are ready to proceed in such a way that a definitive political arrangement can be agreed upon. We look forward to CARICOM’s continued engagement in this process and to the guidance of CARICOM’s leaders, not only to the OAS but, especially in the circumstances of today, to the involved parties in Haiti.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am convinced that united and in solidarity, we can and will find the most appropriate solutions for the old and new challenges that we confront today. This is not only an obligation to the peoples of the Americas, but also to the generations to come.

Mr. Prime Minister, in your relatively short term in office, you have already demonstrated your innovative style of governance at the national level, as well as your engagement in hemispheric and international affairs. We take great pride in having you as our honored guest in this Hall of the Americas, and we look forward to your vision and guidance.

I thank you.