Media Center



May 27, 1998 - Washington, DC

It is an honor for me to extend a warm welcome to all of you joining us today. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address one of this city’s most prestigious and distinguished forums. The Hispanic Council on International Relations has distinguished itself by becoming an essential tool for the Hispanic American Community. Through forums such as this one, The Council has raised awareness by offering increased opportunities for interested Hispanic Americans to become involved in the foreign policy process. As a result, the Council has lent to strengthening relations between the United States and Latin America.

As I look into the future, I see a need for a stronger partnership between the Organization of American States and the Hispanic Council. I believe that in years to come this stronger partnership, will collaborate in achieving common goals. An example of these common goals is the work that both our Organizations have been doing towards achieving hemispheric integration through intensified political dialogue. As both Organizations work together to successfully raise public awareness in the United States, the issues that have formally been restricted to the concerns of the international affairs community are brought to the fore front and dealt with closer to home.

The time has come to stop thinking about immigration, drug trafficking, and environmental issues as national concerns. In today’s global community these issues affect not only this country, but also its neighbors from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska. The time has come for our Organizations to join efforts and break down the barriers that continue to stand strong in the midst of U.S and Latin American relations.

One of the issues to be discussed and analyzed today is the recent Summit of the Americas that took place in Santiago Chile. A number of mandates that must be followed through by all 34 nations emerged from this summit which have left the Organization of American states with a pivotal role.

It is fact that, since the first Summit of the Americas three and a half years ago, the inter-American agenda has been dramatically broadened. Indeed while the OAS received a dozen mandates in Miami, it received almost three times as many in Santiago. The Santiago Plan of Action demonstrates a high level of confidence in the Organization on the part of the nations of the hemisphere. Today’s OAS is prepared to take on new tasks, while continuing to fulfill the current commitments to its members.

That is why we are launching a new reform process for the OAS. By building a new inter-American structure, we can live up to guidelines of the declaration of principles and the mandates of the Plan of Action from the Santiago Summit.

The ability of the governments of the Americas, of their foreign ministries and of multilateral institutions, to derive mechanisms and rules enabling the political plans for integration that the Heads of State have set out for us will be put to test. To ensure that all the bodies of the inter-American system are working with the same priorities and with the same hemispheric agenda. That is the challenge that lies before us. A challenge that will demand of us not only clarity of purpose and creativity of action, but also a real political will.

In Santiago we asked ourselves, how integration can be turned into not just a commercial process, but 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 and the rest of the system do to support countries in coping with the enormous demands that globalization and the information technology 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 risks that confront our cultures?

Of course, I cannot provide definitive answers to all of these questions. But, through collective reflection, we can offer new insights as to how we can harness the forces of globalization to work for all our citizens.

These issues and many more are of a great concern to us all. The Summit process has taken steps to find some answers and solutions. The Heads of State and Government of the Americas resolved to expedite the ongoing process of hemispheric integration through stronger democracies, intensified political dialogue, economic stability, and progress towards social justice. Working together to define these common goals, the leaders agreed to use the OAS as an official body through which to reach many of these objectives.

At the Second Summit of the Americas, the leaders of the hemisphere entrusted the OAS with a range of responsibilities. Today I would like to highlight five of them.

To create an objective, multilateral procedure to evaluate nations’ individual and collective progress in the fight against drugs;
To promote freedom of speech and thought as a basic human right;
To Continue to provide technical support towards the creation of the Free Trade of the Americas;
To convene meetings to implement the Santiago agreements on education, beginning with a meeting of ministers of education in Brazil, in June of 1998;
And to support the summit follow-up process, as well as helping to organize the next summit.
Let me first refer to the never-ending battle against the scourge of drugs in our societies. In one way or another whether we are talking about consumption, production, trafficking, money laundering, arms sales or government corruption all of our countries are affected by the drug problem. The hemisphere’s leaders have asked the OAS, through the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, otherwise known by its acronym CICAD, to develop a multilateral mechanism to evaluate national and regional progress that each country is making on the drug front. All 32 members of CICAD will be represented in the negotiations of this process and they will consider such matters as which performance indicators will be used, how the review mechanism will be carried out in practice and how often nations will be evaluated.

This process will strengthen our hemispheric alliance in the fight against drugs, through the creation of a multilateral follow up and evaluation instrument, which in turn will help the countries to be more rigorous in the analysis; set parameters to evaluate the quality and relevance of their policies, regularly re-enforce and adjust; check their work methods for efficiency, take better advantage of their achievements and mistakes; and share information and experiences with other nations.

The Member States have already begun to define nine fundamental principles upon which the mechanism will be established. I would like to discuss three of them today. Firstly, the process will be based on the principles of shared responsibility, reciprocity, balance and consensus among the States.

Secondly, the mechanism should be implemented in a flexible manner so that each State may apply it accordingly with its needs. Under this mechanism the principle of transparency should also be observed so that governments can work individually and collectively towards achieving these common goals.

And thirdly, the proposed evaluation should be technical carried out at the government level, and should involve government officials specialized in the anti-narcotic field. This is an enormous responsibility, one that calls for political neutrality and technical expertise. We are all united in making this issue a priority.

I am certain that if we can put in motion an effective mechanism, with a sound technical basis, the process will gain tremendous legitimacy and credibility.

The OAS has also been given several mandates in the area of human rights, including the rights of migrant workers and indigenous populations. In Santiago, the presidents and Prime ministers called on the OAS to promote freedom of expression and thought as a basic human right, through the new office of the special rapporteur.

This new position was one that gained the most support from Chile, as well as from the Clinton Administration and the Inter-American Press Association. The rapporteur will work with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to monitor threats and abuses involving freedom of expression, and will issue regular reports on the hemisphere as a whole, as well as with a focus on specific cases. I’m pleased to announce that crimes against journalists will also be on the agenda at the OAS General Assembly meeting in Caracas, next week.

As a key player in the global human rights arena, our Organization has vowed to work towards strengthening human rights institutions. By putting them on a more independent financial, budgetary, and operational footing, it will make it possible for these institutions to hear more cases, undertake more advocacy, conduct more research, give greater support to and make better use of national systems. This, in turn, will broaden the scope of rights protected, and will ensure universal ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights and grant acceptance of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.

As we look forward into the new millenium it is indisputable that the field of education is of highest importance. Looking back to the Chilean summit we thank our leaders for making such an impact during discussions pertaining to this field.

It is because of this that we should join in the excitement of the projects that are in the making for education. Along with other inter-American institutions, the OAS will develop regional cooperation in this area. Our future plans include developing distance education programs using satellite-linking technology; creating internships and exchange programs; organizing a center to distribute information technology particularly for studies in this field; and updating statistics while assessing the quality of education.

Together, we should work to ensure that our education systems are forming citizens who are well-informed, responsible, tolerant and critically minded; citizens who value the exercise of democracy, and the peaceful settlement of their differences; who have the knowledge, the values, the skills to grow personally and professionally, to find their place in the labor market, to compete internationally, and to move towards greater equality. This is a challenge that we are determined to meet.

Another important mandate is the ever-growing concern for sustainable development. In the near future we must decide how we are going to put into practice the initiatives of the declaration of Santa Cruz de la Sierra which made our hemisphere the first region in the world to adopt a plan for sustainable development in accordance with the Earth Summit accords.

Above all, how are we going to remove America’s distinction as the most inequitable region of the world? What role should economic or social policies play here? Fiscal policy? What reforms will have to be made to the State itself to cope with a task of such dimensions? It is surely a paradox that a region that is so rich in resources and potential should consign millions of its children to a life of despair locked in the grip of poverty.

Last and certainly not least, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss international trade. The once-remote idea of a South American Free Trade Area now seems on the verge of becoming a reality. The Free Trade Area of the Americas would create the world’s largest free trade area, bringing together 34 countries, 750 million people and economies with a combined GDP of $9 trillion. Similar to the opposition seen before the genesis of NAFTA, the FTAA does not lack the skeptical critics, but as we have clearly witnessed today, NAFTA’s success is a vivid example of the potential of free trade. In the beginning, even presidential candidates warned of its failure as the " big sucking sound" referring to the loss of jobs it was bound to create. But indeed when we look at the statistics that the treaty has brought to date, we can clearly see the advances it has achieved. Trade among NAFTA partners grew 64% from $300 billion in 1993 to $492 billion in 1997. Last year Mexico was the 2nd largest market for U.S goods with $82 billion and leading the pack was Canada with $ 150 billion. Since NAFTA went into effect, U.S supplies have seen their share of Mexico’s import market over foreign suppliers. Mexico’s share of American imports has risen from 6.9 percent to 9.3 percent.

Of course, trade liberalization does not happen in a vacuum, the trade agenda in the Americas cannot advance unless we understand the political economics of integration, the combination of economic, social and political forces needed to make integration viable in the concrete reality of decision-making in our countries. As the process moves to the next level, it faces a number of challenges and questions; does the public understand and support the idea of free trade? How can proponents of free trade make the case for open markets? Is it possible to build consensus on this complex issue? What will happen to subregional trade alliances that already exist, such as Mercosur and the hemisphere-wide trade agreements? How will the FTAA fit in the global patterns and trends in trade? How can the FTAA enhance trade in the Americas without creating barriers in the rest of the world?

The OAS is committed to help build a foundation for the FTAA negotiation process. As one of the Summit’s mandates expresses, we will coordinate our efforts with the Tripartite Committee, which also includes the Inter-American Development Bank, and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The OAS’ Trade Unit is providing extensive technical support to eight of the twelve working groups involved in the development of the FTAA. This is a collaborative effort that has yielded valuable insight into the hemisphere’s existing trading relationships.

What I have proudly presented here today are but a few of the mandates entrusted to the Organization. Due to lack of time I am unable to give you a detailed summary of all the points touched upon at the Santiago Summit so I will conclude by saying this.

All of these activities in the fields mentioned, will require the OAS to strengthen its participatory mechanisms, and to allow greater prominence for civil society in the hemispheric dialogue, and in the measures adopted to deal with our collective problems.

During our General Assembly in Caracas, we will be launching this crucially important debate. Yet there is no doubt that in undertaking this reform, the Organization of American States can count on the tremendous strength to be drawn from its founding principles. What we need is to update and reinforce the structure of our hemispheric alliance, while leaving its basic fundamentals intact.

Dear Friends

I am very optimistic about the future of integration and collective action in the Americas. The magnitude and complexity of the tasks before us, however, calls for all of us to work together for the prosperity, and union of our peoples.

Thank you