Media Center



February 8, 1999 - Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC

Today, we are here to celebrate an important and meaningful event in the history of the Pan American Health Organization and the inter-American system. We are here to applaud Sir George Alleyne as he begins his second term as the head of this distinguished Organization. What better time to reflect upon the progress you have made since ascending to this lofty responsibility.

Dr. Alleyne, your re-election is an unequivocal signal of support from the inter-American community in favor of your vision and your pursuit for greater equity in the Americas. I am pleased to join all of your colleagues in congratulating you on this occasion. Your success speaks loudly and clearly to the accomplishments of your organization under your leadership.

In 1995, when you set forth as the head of the Pan American Health Organization, you spoke eloquently about the need to strengthen human development throughout our hemisphere. In pursuing this proposition, you have expanded our appreciation for the fundamental role good health plays in the economic, political and social well-being of the Americas. You have demonstrated that investment in health – a good thing in and of itself as it increases equity of access - will also reduce income inequality, strengthen basic rights and contribute to a cleaner environment.

Perhaps even more importantly, you have used your pulpit to show that health is as a powerful instrument for economic growth that strengthens our collective hand in the fight to end poverty. You have helped us open our eyes and recognize that recent economic, political and social changes in our region have created a new context within which science and technology can thrive. With new technologies, and greater access to basic information, our societies will be better equipped to secure meaningful solutions for the well-being of our peoples.

During these past four years, PAHO has made a difference in the lives of the people of the Americas. You have pursued your objectives wherever they have led you. Whenever there has been an emergency or a natural disaster afflicting our region, most recently Hurricane Mitch and the earthquake in Colombia, there has always been a strong and unwavering hand ready to help lift the hopes of a tearful lonely child or a mother whose home had vanished. At each opportunity, you have used the councils of our hemisphere to raise the health agenda of the Americas and commit our efforts to promote the need to invest in health as a resource for development.

For all of us who have listened to you, it is clear that health and medicine are not items to be dealt with in isolation. They are building blocks that belong squarely at the center of our hemispheric agenda to build a better society on the eve of the new millennium.

Thanks to your persistence, we now know that we all share responsibility in this search for greater equality, stronger public policy, and a broader sharing of information. Health must be the preoccupation of all. The private sector must work with the public sector. Likewise, regional organizations must collaborate more closely with local governments and community organizations. To succeed, we must continually deepen the coordination of our activities between and at all levels of society. We all stand to gain from each other’s successes.

For these reasons, I come today to respond once again to a hope you expressed four years ago as your assumed your responsibilities, that the Organization of American States would be an ally in your efforts to respond to the needs of our Hemisphere. Today, I am pleased to reaffirm that the OAS is indeed your partner. And, an interested one at that!

After all, our purpose is the same. We are concerned about the future of the same peoples and the same countries in the same Hemisphere of the Americas. The only thing that sets us apart might be that our respective agencies act, however, through different facets of the same prism that is our regional policy making system. While our daily concerns may be different, they are, nevertheless, inextricably focused on the same objective. You are concerned with the health of the individual in the Americas. We are concerned with the economic and political health of the society in which each exists. To succeed, you require a healthy society while we need healthy people. In short, we both depend on the success of the other.

As we look forward to the challenges of the years to come, we must work together to build an hemispheric infrastructure that will empower our societies to make the right decisions on behalf of each and everyone. That is why the Santiago Summit launched a reform process to build a new inter-American structure. Our purpose ought be to provide the governments of the Americas, their ministries and institutions, the means to establish mechanisms and rules favoring the political plans for integration. To this end, we must ensure that all the bodies of the inter-American system are pursuing the same priorities and the same agenda.

Success will require clarity of purpose, creativity of action, political will and of course the commitment to work together. As in Santiago, we must ask ourselves how integration can be more than just a commercial process, one of broad social and political consequence? How are we to preserve the political will of governments, congresses and public opinion, throughout the hemisphere? How are we to ensure benefits for small economies and countries in an equitable manner? What can the OAS, PAHO and the rest of the system do to support countries in coping with the enormous demands that globalization and the information revolution are placing on their economies and societies? How are we to respond to the enormous pressures that are already weighing upon our social security systems? Or the various threats that confront our cultures?

The Americas want to accelerate the process of hemispheric integration through stronger democracies, intensified political dialogue, economic stability, and progress towards social justice. To this end, the OAS is ready to work with you, Dr. Alleyne, to broaden the reach of our efforts to encompass, with each passing day, an ever growing number of our fellow citizens. We are ready to lend our support to your efforts to free our children of the grips of tobacco; alleviate the grinding burden of poverty; help the victims of AIDS and other stubborn diseases and epidemics; as well as teach the practice of good health.

We are ready to take advantage of the synergies that exist between health and all other aspect of human society; to build on the close connections that bind health and economic activity; to develop public policies that encourage good health; and, to expand the base of knowledge and access to information our peoples must enjoy to improve the quality of their lives. In short, we are ready to lend our support to your organization’s efforts to encourage a new culture of health, based in a healthy environment, that promotes new life styles, investment and alternative strategies to secure better options for all in the Americas.

Allow me to conclude, on this auspicious day, where I began my remarks. Dr. Alleyne, the Inter American Community is proud of your success and your accomplishments. Our countries are steadfastly committed to pursue the same road they have followed for nearly one hundred years. We look forward to your leadership as we enter the next millennium. On behalf of everyone here, and beyond these four walls, thank you for your dedication, your determination and your vision.