Media Center



June 3, 1996 - Panama

On behalf of all those who are with us today, Mr. President, I would like to express our most profound gratitude for your warm welcome, as well as that of the Panamanian people. Panama is the heart of the Americas, it is the point of encounter between two oceans, the geographic connection between the north and the south, the channel of communication for the peoples of the Americas.

Mr. President, under your leadership, Panama is assuming important responsibilities of historic proportions. It has progressed in setting the political, institutional and technical conditions to guarantee the successful return of the Canal to its full sovereignty as well as the effective, professional and productive utilization of your principal natural and geographic resource. This will be fully guaranteed, with the assistance of everyone, during the Universal Congress of 1997.

At the dawn of the next millennium, the locks of the Canal will remain open as it has been the custom, not only to allow through the sweet waters that carry the ships of every nation, but also to let flow the uncheckable pride of a people who have regained forever the symbol of their dignity.

President Perez Balladares, you have consolidated the democracy of your country with constitutional reforms, with a coherent economic strategy, with your commitment to social well-being, with the demilitarization of the national territory, and with the fight against organized crime. All these actions of your government announce the birth of a new Panama fully engaged in the Hemispheric community and in the international system.

Today, when the storm of others times is but a distant memory, Panama rises on the map of the Americas as a land of hope and immense possibilities. This nation enters the 21st century transformed into the axis of commerce, finances and the integration of the Americas.

Simon Bolivar was not mistaken when he stated many years ago that...

" the states of the Isthmus from Panama all the way to Guatemala will form perhaps an association. This magnificent position between the two great seas could become with time the marketplace of the universe; its canals will shorten the distances of the world and will tighten the commercial bonds of Europe, America and Asia, and will bring together in a happy reunion the tribes from the four corners of the globe".

Mr. President,

Ministers of Foreign Relations,

Distinguished Heads of Delegations,

We are here today to mark a pause on the road in order to take an inventory of our accomplishments, and for the purpose of seek new mechanisms and instruments to reinforce the common will of our peoples. When we look back and appreciate the ground that has been covered during the months since the Miami summit and the last General Assembly in Haiti, we have plenty of reasons to renew our faith in collective action in the Americas. Today, the effectiveness of the OAS and the combined strength of the Inter-American System are greater, as the results and accomplishments of this year demonstrates.

There is no doubt that there have been challenges and setbacks. But, the responses thereto illustrate the firmness of our commitments. The Hemisphere has answered with solidarity and cooperation in those circumstances where threats and signs of crisis had arisen.

The days when the Americas was merely a geographic reference have fallen by the way. Allow me to mention some of the circumstances that have tested the collective will and, at the same time, confirmed that there is no room in our Hemisphere for lack of solidarity and for those who dream of a return to the past.

You all know that only a few days ago, the remnants of militarism wanted to reverse the gears of history and to return Paraguay to the remote times described in the pages of Augusto Roa Bastos. The nostalgia of "caudillismo" attempted without success to coopt the popular will and disrupt the respect for democratic institutions

. The speed and the unanimity with which the international community reacted, and in particular the OAS and its Permanent Council, and the firmness shown by the countries of MERCOSUR under the leadership of its Ministers of Foreign Affairs, united in support of the position of President Juan Carlos Wasmozy, as well as the vigorous reaction of the people who went down into the streets to defend their liberties frustrated the reemergence of authoritarianism in the Americas.

In other latitudes and across different fronts, the policies and the strength of the economic foundations of the countries of the region were tested by fire. However, time has revealed the intrinsic vigor of integration and the strength of economic reform in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For example, it is inspiring to see how Mexico has cleared the stormy clouds that threatened the stability of its economy and is today launched on a path of recuperation and of deep political modernization. The future is promising thanks to the patience and discipline of the Mexican people and to the personal leadership and the consistency of the policies put in place by President Ernesto Zedillo.

It is equally noteworthy that prior to the crisis, the international financial community and the industrialized countries -- in particular the United States -- quickly mobilized within a framework of cooperation and solidarity. The recognition of the deep interdependence that exists between our countries in a world characterized by globalism, has made of collective action an invaluable resource to overcome crises and defend the progress of integration.

I should also mention the case of Argentina where, despite of external financial pressures, the economic discipline and the political courage of President Carlos Menem enabled the transformation of the crisis into a chance to demonstrate the strength of the economic model. During these past months, the development strategy chosen by the Argentinean people proved its maturity.

In a truly complex scenario, President Rafael Caldera has also had to face economic instability with exemplary political courage. The measures recently adopted by the government of Venezuela, while painful and difficult, put its economy back on track of greater stability, creating an upsurge in confidence that will permit the country, sooner than later, to advance along the road growth.

It is enough to study the indicators to confirm that the economies of Latin America are today much stronger. This has as much to with the fact that we now understand our weaknesses better, as it does with the fact that these economies have greater structural capacity to withstand the fluctuations of the international financial markets. Moreover, despite the financial hurricanes that ravaged some of our countries, none have turned back: They kept the trade channels open, they deepened the reforms, and they found new avenues for political reforms and democratic consolidation.

The clouds that obscured some of our borders have also dissipated. Just one year ago, we lived in fear that the peace between Ecuador and Peru was ephemeral. Today, we are celebrating the significant progress that has been achieved in normalizing relations between the two countries, consolidating the mechanisms designed to avoid future confrontations, and in searching for permanent solutions. All of this is being done within the spirit of the Peace Declaration of Itamarati.

When one considers the stakes and challenges that the Americas must face, when we see that mindless coup-leaders survive, or that open wounds between sister nations persist, or that misery has not yielded, some come to the conclusion that the revolution for freedom and democracy was a illusory hope.

However, unrestrained euphoria like easy pessimism are not the best guides to inspire our peoples in the search for their ideals. Already on other occasions, I have noted that what has happened in the Americas is not so different from what took place in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We lived for many years under the illusion that the end of the cold war and the emergence of new order would be sufficient to guarantee prosperity, peace and democracy.

Today, we must acknowledge that there is no such thing as utopias free of obstacles, economic miracles, magic solutions or even unique and simple formulas. Indeed the emergence of a new democratic horizon has revealed a new universe once devoid of possibilities. However, these will only be realized with thoughtful and difficult decisions, hard work, perseverance and an unshakable political will to achieve them.

It is from this point of view of how to ensure that the hopes of are peoples are translated into everyday reality, that I would like to share with you a thought about the future of the Americas and the Organization of American States.

Starting from the decisions that were taken at the highest regional political levels, starting from the collective and solidarity action that we advanced in Haiti and in Paraguay, starting from the progress in the negotiations for a Free Trade Area, starting from the unavoidable chain of increasingly deeper accords on regional integration, starting from the hemispheric meetings of ministers of finance, justice, labor, defense, culture, and of science and technology, starting therefore from all of these decisions, a strong and transparent convergence is being built based on what we want the future of the continent to be.

Behind all this explosion of activity and initiatives there lies an ideal that must be managed, molded and directed in order to advance toward a grand project, toward a vast design that will lead us closer to an America united in a common undertaking. And, this is a vision that is being erected from the ground up, that is not the fruit of rhetoric, but rather of the pragmatic fusion of shared interests and a recognition of fundamental values.

It is not difficult to identify the backbone of this American project: democracy, economic integration, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, collective action to confront shared challenges, Inter-American solidarity, cooperation to eradicate poverty, full respect of the sovereignty and legal equality of nations. All of these principles are in our charter. However for the better part of the half century of existence of the OAS, these principles have been used more to keep us apart than to unite us, more to reflect our fears and frustrations than to build a common ideal. Now we must all convert them into reality and truly apply them.

During the past year and a half, in Miami, in Montrouis, in Santiago, in Caracas, in Lima, in Denver, in Cartagena and in many other places in the Americas, the member-states have continued the process of giving direction to collective action in the principal topics on the Hemispheric agenda.

Here in Panama as well, we must be ambitious and go beyond by refining our objectives, clarifying our proposals, making various instruments more effective, and in particular the OAS and the inter-American system. There are many questions that we must address, and many are the answers that we hope to obtain from the deliberations that begin today in these pleasant surroundings and the generous hospitality that Panama offers us.

What is shape of the inter-American system that we will require to realize this vision, this collective design? What must we do to manage the growing interdependence that will be created as a result of the overwhelming process of hemispheric convergence? What specific steps must be taken so that multilateral action can acquire greater weight, be more relevant and be better able to respond to the problems? What role can the OAS play in all of this?

To begin with, the cornerstone, the irreplaceable foundation is democracy. Resolution 1080 and the Declaration of Santiago have been effective checks against the return of authoritarianism. Furthermore, the OAS has acquired a significant experience in the stages that follow conflicts. In Nicaragua, Suriname, Haiti, the Organization invested significant political and economic resources to promote and stimulate national reconciliation.

There is no doubt that the presence of the OAS in the electoral processes of many of the countries of the continent has contributed to guarantee that our leaders emerge from fair and transparent elections, the fruit of the popular will.

These collective actions are of single importance. Without them, the reemergence of democracy on the continent would have been a more difficult and vulnerable process. But, it is not good enough to put out fires. It is necessary to go much further if we truly want democracy to remain as the fundamental axis of this project of the Americas we are building.

During this new phase, we must seek to defend and improve democracy, make it stronger and deeper, broaden the scope of exercise of individual rights, and improve the protection of fundamental freedoms. We also want to promote the changes that will deactivate, once and for all, the elements of disorder and instability by uprooting their structural causes.

It is clear that each people and each country, as sovereign nations and within the context of their own historic circumstances, must define their own destinies. But it is equally evident that today there is a fundamental convergence of goals and challenges proposed by our peoples and their leaders. We must progress toward the ideal of democracy that inspires us collectively.

To fulfill the ambitious goals of this challenge, it will be indispensable to have greater resources, new instruments of cooperation, more instances for the exchange of experiences and a stronger intellectual, academic and research support.

First, like the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, we cannot be shy about using our comparative advantages in order to provide substantial stimulation to state reform, and to launch a second generation of reforms that will increase the regulatory capacity of public institutions, give labor legislation more flexibility, and consolidate our political and social public institutions. Our motivation should not be to improve the business and investment climate or to promote the efficiency of public administration. Rather, it should be for the explicit purpose of making our democracies more legitimate, more participative, more stable and more effective.

Second, the OAS must move, with the support of the IADB, to establish the Center for the Study of Democracy. The mission of the Center should be to contribute to the development and consolidation of democratic institutions in the Americas. For this, the Center would promote research programs, would stimulate and facilitate the hemispheric dialog foreseen in our charter, as well as the exchange of experiences among the countries and their institutions. Furthermore, it would also be responsible for the training of leaders in the Americas. We hope to work with the Permanent Council, following this General Assembly, to outline the Center's framework of action.

Third, we hope to undertake, in harmony with the Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a review that would allow us to define the manner in which we could strengthen and, if necessary, reform the Inter-American system of Human Rights. In the new democratic context of the hemisphere, the demands for the services of the system are growing. Furthermore, there is also a greater need for the legal proceedings to be even stricter so that the recommendations of the Commission and the decisions of the Court are heeded, the national systems are strengthened, and finally so that the multilateral system be truly complementary, compatible and coordinated to the national systems.

At the same time, greater administrative and budgetary resources are needed so that, during this phase, the countries devote all their energies to a review that must be undertaken without any fears and with creativity to consolidate a system that allows us to build an America respectful of basic rights, pluralistic, free of all forms of discrimination, defender of the rights of women, indigenous people, children and the physically challenged.

In this area, the fourth objective has to do with the need to create a special program on demining, in order to strengthen our experiences in the area of post conflict resolution, and to begin to take on, at the regional level, a larger number of responsibilities implicit in processes of internal reconciliation which today fall to other extra-regional agencies.

I would like to expand further on this point. Integration will not be possible, nor will the consolidation of democracy, nor for that matter the realization of the dream of this community of nations if we are not able to keep the specter of war far away from the Americas. That is our first obligation as a multilateral agency that embodies the collective will.

Hemispheric security can only rest on mutual confidence, the irrefutable commitment to resolve conflicts peacefully, and on the renunciation of offensive military action in the region.

The conference of Chile holds great significance since it cleared the way for us to transition toward a new concept of hemispheric security. That is, toward a cooperative security that will -- thanks to the systematic and ordered implementation of initiatives to stimulate confidence, detente and cooperation, transparency of military procedures -- give new life to the tradition of peaceful coexistence that has characterized the history of the Americas.

The OAS will launch a program of action to help the Member-States implement the commitments of Santiago. There, one can find a real catalog of the numerous measures we can undertake so that all the member states --and in particular those who may still have differences yet to resolve-- can live in peace and good will.

Central America is the region that has most suffered, in the Hemisphere, from the devastating consequences of one of the cruelest means used in those wars. Anti-personnel mines are a weapon that not only causes cruel and inhuman mutilations, physical trauma and psychological wounds to all combatants but also poses a dark and latent threat to the civilian population. Every year, these tools of death not only kill and incapacitate thousands of innocent victims, among them hundreds of children, but also disable vast agricultural and cattle-raising areas.

I am convinced that, within the OAS, it will be possible to reach a political consensus that will allow the hemisphere to free itself forever of these mines fields. We must take advantage of the current international climate against the production, commercialization and use of anti-personnel mines to push for the adoption of legal instruments for this purpose, within the context of the OAS.

Meanwhile, we must redouble our efforts to remove the constant threat these mine fields in Central America represent. Despite the successes achieved by the OAS, with the help of the Inter-American Defense Board and thanks to the generous assistance provided by member states and observers, we are still far from completing this objective.

However, this region requires our special attention, not only because of demining which is a cruel vestige of past wars, but also, as the member states have requested, to develop the mechanisms foreseen in the Framework Treaty for Democratic Security, ratified last December by the Central American nations. In the same way, we must provide every collaboration that is wanted to the small island nations who are particularly vulnerable in the area of security and who will, ultimately, require the creation of subregional mechanisms adapted to their particular circumstances.

I would like to take advantage of this moment to recognize President Alvaro Arzu for his leadership in pushing forward the peace process in Guatemala. There is no doubt that his audacity and his courageous decisions energized this process. It is the responsibility of the inter-American community and the OAS to work with the United Nations in a coordinated fashion, with the group of friendly countries and with the Central American governments not only to follow up the Peace Accords, but also to supervise its completion and verification.

The dangers that confront democracy do not stem solely from the weaknesses of the institutions. Every one of our countries, in different ways and in different degrees, must face the dangers of terrorism, corruption and narcotrafficking. Perhaps, one of the greatest achievements of this past year is the fact that the Americas agreed that it is only through collective cooperation that we will be able to defeat such powerful enemies. Hence, the importance of the inter-American meetings of Caracas, Lima, and Santiago.

At the specialized conference held in Caracas, the countries of the Americas adopted the Inter-American Convention against corruption. Many of the decisions taken there to prevent this phenomena -- such as the classification of offenses, the measures to insure transparency of public administration, greater citizen control, or those intended to insure that banking secrecy and the right of asylum do not hinder investigations or sanctions -- go way beyond the timid actions taken by some industrialized countries to avoid the tax deductibility of the expenditures affected by corruption. The OAS will be notified of the progress achieved in this area by the countries who are signatories of the Convention. We are also ready to work on the subject of money laundering, pursuant to the decisions of the countries meeting in Buenos Aires. Furthermore, the Permanent Council of the Organization continues to work on the outline of additional actions in this area.

During the Special Conference on Terrorism held in Lima, the countries adopted a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. In both documents, the countries signaled their intention to establish in domestic legislation severe measures against an offense that they all agreed to treat as a common crime. They also agreed to adhere to and ratify the international agreements on terrorism, to intensify the exchange of experience, of political and intelligence information, and to amplify judicial cooperation.

The Americas' war against narcotrafficking must serve to strengthen the ties of solidarity and cooperation in the Hemisphere. Crime is the enemy, drugs are the threat, criminal organizations are the danger. We should not allow ourselves to swayed by the posturing because it only produces divisions and undermines collective action.

During the past decade, we have learned the hard way that neither isolated acts of heroism, nor the efforts of a few will defeat narcotrafficking. If there is a problem that requires collective action this is it. International cooperation is fundamental.

Perhaps, the principal merit of the anti-drug strategy of the Hemisphere, being prepared by CICAD, is precisely that it is, above all, an expression of unity. It is this unity -- together with the common objectives and strategies to achieve a reduction in demand, the development of national and international legislation, the promotion of alternative development, the strengthening of information and intelligence systems, as well as of the domestic institutions responsible for national security -- that increases our confidence that we will be able, sooner than later, to solve this problem in the Hemisphere.

From now on, the mission of the Organization is to secure these consensus and to help energize the collective will to launch these measures. This effort will contribute, if we keep faith and remain determined, to eliminate this terrible threat from the Americas.

The second pillar upon which we are building the new vision of the Americas is economic and trade integration. At the start of the second half of this decade we have a hemisphere in which a week does not go by without new barriers being dismantled and new markets being opened, without the feeling of the benefits that flow from freer markets and capital, and, finally, without progress toward the convergence and expansion of integration agreements.

The continent has undertaken the most ambitious integration project we have ever known. And what once seemed remote, now appears increasingly feasible.

The advantages of this integrationist euphoria are apparent in the results already achieved. Intra-regional trade within MERCOSUR has been increasing at a promising rate of 30% every year since 1992. Last year, trade between Latin America and the Caribbean grew 20%. At the same time, trade between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean has risen 72% since 1990. Canada, for its part, has increased its exports to Latin America and the Caribbean 30% last year alone.

In their declarations, the Ministers of Foreign Trade, meeting in Denver and Cartagena, defined a clear course for hemispheric integration and underscored the work of the Special Trade Committee, its advisory group and the Trade Unit of the OAS.

The Trade Unit, together with the IADB and CEPAL, have carried out a careful and detailed technical analysis and compilation of information in order to sustain their deliberations, thus helping to create a common language and technical description of the main topics and the programs adopted.

To this end, data bases have been established, systematic evaluations of the different issues to be addressed have been carried out, statistics and norms have been compiled, and finally the necessary ground has been laid to initiate the process of political negotiation on the basis of the same information and definitions of the problems to be resolved.

However, I believe that to reach the objective, set by our chief executives, to establish a Free trade Area by the year 2005, we must go beyond the successes achieved in the trade discussions. We must understand integration as a political enterprise that concerns us all.

At the OAS, we must assume this fundamental obligation as a challenge that is not only economic, but also political and social in nature.

If we want to preserve the will of our peoples, and ultimately that of the governments of the region, we will have to accept that in some countries, the citizens are getting tired of hearing about privatizations, fiscal deficits and trade policies as if these were the only issues in the public debate, when in fact there are so many other urgent problems. Their weariness is not a rejection. It is more likely a call for solutions to the problems closer to home.

I do not believe that people want to turn back. Reform and trade opening will continue to a welcome and appreciated change. Our people are not asking for a return to a failed economic model that could not offer the prospect of well-being. They are asking that reforms go further and address public policies and those areas of the state that deal more directly with daily reality.

I do not believe that there is support in Latin America and the Caribbean to reverse the gears of the strategies that are in place. Every new government in the region is committed to the opening of trade, integration, and greater competition. But at the same time, they are equally committed to state reform, elimination of poverty and an increase in social investment.

The viability of integration starts with the following question. How will the state guarantee social and political reform while pushing, at the same time, for equality, social justice, new rights, democracy, participation and civilian oversight?

Hence, the importance of thoroughly examining the question of poverty and social policy as well as its ties to the whole process of economic integration and trade liberalization.

For example, there are many who, as a result of recent set backs, want to see in the economic reforms and the modernization of Latin America and the Caribbean the origins of our poverty, instead of looking for them in the consequences of the debt crisis, in the low saving rates, in the lost decade, and in the structural inability of the institutions devoted to social policy.

This is why, with few exceptions, we continue to rely on outdated investment schemes and sterile social management inherited from the past. The state reforms undertaken in Latin America and the Caribbean, with few exceptions, have yet to address this vital area of governance.

The building of effective policies in education, health and human development to fight poverty will require reaching a consensus on the origins of our deficiencies in the social sector and the best ways to overcome them.

I would like to address the manner in which the OAS can strengthen its mechanisms to contribute more effectively to this unavoidable revolution in the design and implementation of a social policy able to improve the living standards of the least fortunate.

To respond to the increasingly louder calls by the Member States, and with in the guidelines of the General Assemblies of Managua, Mexico and Haiti, we will establish the Unit for Social Policy and Education. This Unit will have to assist in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies, to promote a broader exchange of information and experiences, and develop pilot projects of innovative strategies to combat poverty.

We have emphasized education, not only because of the long experience that the OAS has in this field, but also because of the shared belief that investment in human capital represents a decisive element in social development and in the elimination of poverty.

Mr. President and Distinguished Ministers, the Unit for Social Development and Education, in accordance to the guidelines of the new Commission on Social Development, will be an ally in the fight that each of our member states are waging against hunger, ignorance, illness and misery.

We all agree that we will not be able to pass on to future generations a prosperous integrated democratic and peaceful America without a collective alliance with nature.

That is the great opportunity that is offered by the Summit on Sustainable Development, organized by the Government of Bolivia with the support of the entire Hemispheric community.

The OAS is actively contributing to this important event, both in terms of technical assistance and logistical support thanks to the firm political support of the Permanent Council.

To strengthen the role of the Organization in this field, to help stimulate the Summit and its results as well as to support the countries who request it, we are going to establish the Unit for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The OAS will have to take advantage of the experience it has acquired thanks to its well known programs of technical cooperation and its promotion of exchange of experiences, in particular those derived from the successful seminar on Environmentally Sound Technologies held recently in Canada.

In order to respond to the new needs of the times, the Unit will have to become a vast inter-American clearinghouse of information and for the formulation of policies regarding the environment and sustainable development.

At the same time, the Unit will also have to work, in a meaningful way, for the establishment and maintenance of environmental legislation in the Hemisphere. The Unit will have to satisfy requests for technical support in the analysis and implementation of policies and national strategies, whenever the states so require.

The Unit will also have to work closely with the new Inter-Sectoral Unit for Tourism the primary function of which will be to maintain the long experience the OAS has accumulated in strengthening this vital productive sector of the Caribbean region.

In its initial phase, the Unit will broaden the standards of sustainable development that take into consideration the fragility of the ecosystems of the island nations and the cost of its protection.

Coordination with other multilateral organizations is another area in which we have been working diligently and with significant progress. With the IADB, we have identified projects in areas such as democracy, trade, social development, environment, human rights and science and technology. With the World Bank and the IADB, we have also agreed to work together in the areas of social policy, education and modernization of the state. At the same time we are considering with these institutions a program for the exchange of experiences in the context of a common strategy to address the problem of crime and to improve individual safety. This is a critical problem in our large cities that should receive greater human resources to carry out analyses and reviews. Finally, with the United Nations, we are advancing in the definition of the role of regional organizations with respect to electoral monitoring and we are increasing the exchange of experiences in the field of conflict resolution.

I would like to take a moment to address an issue of the greatest importance to the hemisphere. Only with a strengthened legal system and the development of new instruments, will we be able to ensure that the process of integration is launched along a path defined by rules and norms intended to help in the resolution of conflicts and the easing of tensions.

In it is this light that the General Secretariat presented for the consideration of the Member States of the OAS a document entitled "Strengthening of Inter-American Law". In it, we proposed to build on the long tradition of respect for international law on which rest the relations between the American States, to organize more systematically our work and that of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, to enable the Organization to maximize its potential and comparative advantages, and to work more actively in what could be its most significant contribution to the integration of the Americas.

The strong support that these proposals received from the countries and the careful work of our Committee on Political and Juridical Affairs who will submit to this Assembly an important declaration in this area, encourages us to follow a path that can only be but beneficial for inter-American relations and help us avoid the temptations of unilateralism and extraterritoriality of laws, so risky for American relations.

Such dangers can only be overcome through a process of strengthening of common values and principles that cement our relations, with a set of new rules to resolve our differences; and, with a active and joint commitment to collective action to affirm such values and principles.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Panamanians can be proud to see today that the years have given greater weight to the ideas of the great internationalist, former President Ricardo Joaquin Alfaro. In a speech delivered 63 years ago, Panama's then ambassador to the United States stated:

The more solidarity intensifies and time and distances are reduced, and people get closer one to another, and the need for peace, cooperation and justice grows, the more important will be the influence of international law because it produces the norms to which nations must adjust in order to reach their fundamental goals.

You will ask yourselves, with good reason, whether the organization has the capacity to tackle the many complex tasks that are required to put in motion a project of the scope we have described. In truth, the OAS of the past could not have managed the numerous responsibilities implicit in collective action.

For this reason, the launch of the new Inter-American Council for Integral Development offers a unique opportunity to adapt the OAS to the demands of the new era.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to refer to the bases upon which rests this new partnership for development. Today, I would like to emphasize the necessity for this cooperation be implemented increasingly on the basis of hemispheric solidarity, which will imply sacrifices and generosity on the part of medium-sized countries of the Hemisphere who today are the biggest beneficiaries of the cooperation provided by the Organizations.

I would like to add that, for it to adapt to the new hemispheric realities, the Organization will have to transform itself into a center of exchange of experiences, knowledge and information between our countries. And, on this basis, to build itself into a forum for the design and formulation of policies.

Beyond direct cooperation, the medium-sized countries must come to see the OAS as a useful organ for the development of their institutions and their policies. It will be equally important to continue the process of mobilizing resources to strengthen certain institutions of the system, and for progress to occur in certain areas of the new hemispheric agenda. Such a process is possible if the Organization follow the course drawn by the Commission on Administrative and Budgetary Matters, that is to say, a budget process that is more inclusive, more critical and more transparent.

In order to protect the resources for cooperation for the countries that need them the most -- in particular those of CARICOM and Central America and a few from South America -- it is increasingly important that medium-sized countries, to whom I have referred, take clear decisions. Otherwise, we will be caught in the trap of inflexibility in the management of our resources.

The launch of the CIDI is also a great opportunity to deepen the reform of the OAS, to adapt to the needs of the Hemispheric agenda, to strengthen the administrative and management functions of the Secretariat and the checks of the Member States, to maximize the use of its human resources without having to abandon the process of downsizing, and to advance toward a transparent budgetary and administrative decision-making system. At the OAS, we believe that it necessary and healthy for the multilateral system to be accountable to the countries, the medias and the peoples of the Americas.

Dear Mr. President and distinguished Ministers:

In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to Ambassador Lawrence Chewning Fabrega, without whose efforts and coordination the excellent preparation that have brought us to this Assembly would not have been possible; to the Panamanian Foreign Ministry and the Minister in Charge, Ricardo Alberto Arias, for the strong organization and support they have given us in the absence of Don Gabriel Lewis, whom we all admire and respect and for whom we wish a prompt return to health.

To the Permanent Council, I wish to express my sincere recognition for the dedication and seriousness that they have devoted to realize this new institutional architecture, in accordance with the will of our countries and the lofty goals that we have imposed on ourselves.

Once more, we draw our inspiration from the objectives of the Amphictyonic Congress. Our shared past, the values that unite us, the challenges we must seize and a common destiny sustain our belief that now it is possible for the dream of Simon Bolivar to shed its shades of a chimera.

I have wishes, Mr. President, that, at the end of this meeting, all of the tasks that we, at the organization, undertake with optimism will show that we are no longer in the same place where the Liberator left us; and, that as we approach the 50 anniversary of its creation, the OAS will today be transformed, strengthened, and will of dispose of the resources and instruments necessary to realize our dreams, those of Simon Bolivar, the dreams of peace, prosperity, equality, justice and liberty.