Media Center



February 25, 1998 - San Salvador, El Salvador

First of all, I want to thank the people of El Salvador, President Calderon and Foreign Minister Gonzalez Giner for the warm welcome and generous hospitality they have offered us today as hosts of our Second Regional Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.

The Organization of American States is proud to hold this event in El Salvador, a country which provides a daily demonstration that union and collective efforts, dreams of hope and peace, and the political will of a Government to work for the welfare of its people are factors which, when combined, are far more powerful than war and disunity.

El Salvador gives the Americas--as well as the whole world--a vivid example of the potent force for change implicit in a full-fledged peace process such as the one now in progress in this country, staunchly supported and encouraged by its Government. Smoothly operating democratic institutions and the nation's current economic indicators attest to the success achieved, and all of us are confident that current policies will continue to yield such favorable results for the Salvadoran people and the Central American region.

I also wish to extend special thanks to two ambassadors whose work and dedication have made it possible to hold this meeting. First, to El Salvador's Permanent Representative to the OAS, Mauricio Granillo, who led the working group that discussed and agreed on the terms of the document to be discussed at this meeting. Second, to Ambassador Lionel Hurst of Antigua and Barbuda, who as Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security has efficiently and dynamically promoted all of the topics on the security agenda for the Americas.

To those gentlemen, and to everyone whose work and effort have helped to organize this event, go my sincere thanks.

Various events of singular importance have taken place in our Hemisphere since our meeting in Santiago, Chile in November of 1995.

Some of those developments warrant particular emphasis. One of them is the impressive progress being made by Ecuador and Peru pursuant to the Rio Protocol and with the active participation of the guarantor countries in resolving their differences. Others are the signing of the Framework Treaty for the Democratic Security of Central America; the military cooperation agreement signed by Argentina and Brazil and the holding of joint military maneuvers; the announcement of the Governments of Argentina and Chile that they will carry out military manoeuvre in the first half of 1998; the signing of the Declaration of Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Belize on the refusal of those nations to take part in the procurement of strategic, high-technology, or mass destruction weapons; and the agreements on border issues recently signed by El Salvador and Honduras.

And in the multilateral area, we must note the adoption of the Declaration of Lima to Prevent, Combat and Eliminate Terrorism and that of the Hemispheric Anti-Drug Strategy; signing of the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacture of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials; the announcement made by the Central American nations at the Ottawa International Conference against antipersonnel land mines and their stated intention to complete the mine-clearing activities in their territories by the end of the century pursuant to programs sponsored by the OAS; the Second Meeting of Ministers of Defense, held in Bariloche; and the prospective creation of an anti-drug center in Panama.

Why are all these events so important? Because they illustrate the present trend in our Hemisphere: a marked tendency toward progress in the mechanisms for dialogue and peaceful solution of conflict; the search for new and more effective confidence-building measures; and the consolidation of important modes of cooperation on security issues. It is a trend that calls for the use of diplomacy rather than intimidation; cooperation instead of confrontation.

No longer is the message at the international level limited to orders from a given nation, either to join its forces or to attack them, as in bygone years when threats and fear reigned supreme. With the end of the cold war, foreign policy has been revitalized and the obstacles that prevented the use of diplomatic action or dialogue to resolve conflicts and differences have been overcome.

In the sphere of strategic thinking, the most important change in this post-cold-war era is that the major threats to the security of nations or the Hemisphere are of a nonmilitary nature: drug trafficking, terrorism, and the sale of arms or--at another level, and varying from one country to another--natural disasters, or the lack of civic security. This does not mean that such problems did not exist in the past. In fact they have become even worse in many countries, mainly due to their transnational nature and their impact on the entire community of societies, but also because globalization and increased interdependence are now evident in every part of today's world.

In order to rebuild our model of hemispheric security, we must recognize the importance of political, social, economic, and environmental variables as well as the military aspect. Depending on the country or subregion examined, we will find that one or another of these factors exerts a more preponderant influence. The inescapable fact, however, is that the military consideration is no longer the only one.

Reconstruction of the concept of hemispheric security must therefore be based on a combination of three factors: the imperious need for nations to face common enemies that know no borders; the need to administer, renew or reduce the paraphernalia accumulated during the period of greatest tension--understandably so, in an effort to resolve those tensions; and finally, the duty incumbent on every state: to define its territorial integrity and constitutional system.

How is this to be achieved? How can our Hemisphere reach a consensus on basic issues that will allow us to realign strategic thinking that accommodates and is accepted by each and every one of the nations? First and foremost, I believe, by respecting the principles of the OAS Charter, and--following the procedure now adopted in many cases--by selecting and applying the mechanisms it provides for the peaceful settlement of disputes: direct negotiations, good offices, mediation, investigation and conciliation, legal procedures, arbitration, and the specific mechanisms agreed upon by the parties.

Today this must become the general practice, an ironclad rule of conduct for the countries. As long-standing border disputes or mere points of disagreement are gradually resolved by the means cited above, our Hemisphere will be able to consolidate peace and security.

I believe that the nations of the Hemisphere must place greater confidence in multilateralism, in the gamut of actions implied by the search for new instruments of cooperation that will enable them to cope with some of the serious security problems facing many of our countries.

Our own experience in the struggle against the drug phenomenon attests to the merits of multilateralism. CICAD, for example, is now a major scene of policy coordination, exchanges of experiences and information, and discussions and analyses of problems--a much more powerful and useful tool for the countries than anyone had ever imagined, because it facilitates consensus and recognizes with absolute clarity the responsibility borne by all parties in the struggle to overcome that phenomenon.

Secondly, to achieve a consensus that enables us to rebuild this concept of hemispheric security, I believe we must be practical. In other words, we must start at the bilateral level, moving on to the subregional, and then to Hemisphere-wide agreements. This is now happening. The subregional agreements can of course harmonized within basic concepts of regional consensus.

As we are witnessing today, some hemispheric confidence-building measures already exist, and they mark the starting point in the search for a regional consensus on security issues.

Let us now consider another factor. The last two decades of the cold war enabled us to identify first, second, and third generation confidence-building measures. The first dealt with concepts of "transparency" and "predictability." The second had to do with "access", "mediation", and "inspection"; and finally, the third generation addresses concepts of "prohibition" and "limitation". In our region, that last category includes the signing of the Treaty of Tlatelolco on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Convention signed by the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to prohibit the production, storage, and use of chemical weapons.

The subject of confidence-building measures as such arose in the OAS at the start of the 1990s, and the November 1995 Declaration of Santiago on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures defined those in force today in the Hemisphere, which are the subject of this meeting's study.

It must be said at the outset that all of these measures are of a voluntary nature. The OAS member states freely supply any information they consider pertinent. The data thus received by the Committee on Hemispheric Security are distributed intact to all of the permanent missions.

This is a coherent and significant compendium of information that attests to the political will of the nations in the Hemisphere to make steady and decisive progress in this area. Some of it--such as reports on the management of natural disasters or the promotion of education programs for peace--transcends purely military considerations. Other data, such as the holding of meetings on borders, play a seminal role in cooperation.

It is clear that the implementation of confidence-building measures both in Europe and in the Americas leads to a decrease in the incidence of armed conflict between countries and creates propitious conditions for the start of joint arms control efforts between countries, thereby contributing to world peace and security.

Hence the implementation of those measures is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve a more ambitious objective: the consolidation of peace and security. Progress in arms control is also an important factor in that quest.

But the placing of limits on the procurement of conventional weapons in our Hemisphere is an aspiration as old as the OAS Charter itself. Article 2 in fact speaks of achieving "an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states." More recently, successive General Assemblies of our Organization have since 1991 adopted resolutions urging governments to consider a process of consultation with a view to advancing in the limitation and control of conventional weapons. And as you will all recall, last year's Assembly adopted a resolution calling for transparency in the procurement of conventional weapons.

Possible progress might be achieved in this area by accepting some of the elements defined by the United Nations Commission on Disarmament. In our Hemisphere, of course, Central America is already a vivid example of subregional disarmament, carried out actively since the beginning of the 1990s. And Latin America, with 2% of its gross domestic product allocated to military expenditures, posts a lower average defense budget than any other region of the world.

But it should also be perfectly clear that a process such as this cannot be carried out without detriment to the armed forces of the countries or affecting the needs of these institutions to maintain an adequate level of preparedness and discipline conforming to modern standards, and the possibility of modernizing and renewing part of their equipment.

Given the dynamism of the process of confidence-building measures in our Hemisphere, I believe that new initiatives tending to achieve their full implementation can be promoted. According to the last report of the Inter-American Defense Board submitted to the Committee on Hemispheric Security of our Organization in January 1998, from 1995 to 1997, an 87% increase in the number of confidence-building measures reported by the countries was recorded. Almost 50% of them relate to visits and exchanges of observers, and two thirds were made between neighboring countries.

The relevance of the provisions agreed to by the OAS member states in Santiago, Chile is amply seen in these reports. It is for this reason that I believe the way to strengthen this process is not only to promote further measures, but to assign added functions to the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security so that, for example, it can consolidate and distribute at the end of the year all the information that the countries have undertaken to send.

Today we all recognize that in matters of Hemispheric security, we are experiencing a transition period. The concepts of the past--a legacy of the cold war--no longer serve to explain or enable us to cope with the realities of the present. At the same time, however, many of the problems faced in the past are still present, adding their burden to the new challenges to democratic stability and security confronting the nations of the Americas.

The fact that today's security problems are intertwined with other factors on the Hemisphere's agenda undoubtedly offers opportunities--but at the same time involves dangers as well.

Opportunities, because they give us a chance to evolve a new concept of security that is more balanced and more universal in its objectives: a new paradigm, born of the consensus, free of impositions or omissions, in which all of the concerns of countries and subregions are reflected.

But there are dangers as well. As I said this morning at the start of the meeting on the security of the Caribbean's small island states, succumbing to the temptation to formulate an overly broad definition of Hemispheric security would instill confusion in such transcendental areas as cooperation or identification of the role to be played by military institutions to which responsibilities of the civil power cannot be transferred.

Clearly, the process of applying confidence-building measures as a first step, followed by eventual arms control as the second, would be immensely helpful in consolidating the peace-and-development binomial as opposed to its predecessor, the one that prevailed in the cold-war years: war-and-poverty, supported by the armament race and distrust.

And as to the role our Organization should play, I am certain that what the nations of the Americas want is for the OAS to guide these processes; that it foster integration in all areas and help to bring the cold war period to a final close.

Insofar as security is concerned, what we are all seeking is that the new strategic thinking of the Americas be geared to cooperation, in which agreement is the basis of multilateral action and efforts are combined to combat common enemies, maximum use is made of diplomatic channels and peaceful settlement of disputes; in which, finally, national interests and democratic values converge effectively. And that is our commitment.