Media Center



April 3, 1995 - Washington, DC

"Beyond all the tasks we have to undertake, the most important is to nurture the culture of peace."

In October 1962 when Dean Rusk, then U.S. Secretary of State, formally inaugurated the Inter-American Defense College, the world was at the brink of nuclear war. The deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuban soil was a critical episode in the confrontation between the two superpowers, one that involved the future of the whole Hemisphere.
Almost 33 years later we are faced with a new world. We are confronted with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Cold War. With the end of the strategic confrontation between communism and capitalism, the international system has opened, power has dispersed, and new actors with diverse interests have entered the scene. The world appears more secure. Nuclear annihilation seems less possible.
Yet the end of communism does not mean the end of conflict. Military confrontations have far from disappeared. Indeed, today we witness the eruption of many regional and intra-state conflicts that have layed dormant for decades.
In fact, it seems that some countries suddenly felt free from the constraints of a bipolar world, one in which any conflict could be used by the superpowers to channel their animosity. These countries are now more inclined to revive old territorial disputes and intra-national rivalries.
So the end of the Cold War is, paradoxically, a mixed blessing. On the one hand, collective action has never had such a good chance of effectively contributing to peace and stability in the international system. Today’s atmosphere of greater pluralism and convergence facilitates multilateralism and constructive engagement by the community of nations. But on the other hand, the absence of the bipolar world and the elimination of the strategic importance of peripheral confrontations reduces the perceived cost of the unilateral use of force by individual actors in the international system.
Therefore, our challenge is to maximize the possibilities for international peace, stability and security that the emerging international system can offer. And at the same time we must create sufficient deterrents to war by accepting a new collective discipline in which the community of nations as a whole actively assumes the responsibilities of promoting and ensuring peace and of preventing and solving conflicts.
What I am saying is that the end of bipolarism created the possibility to deal with conflicts or collective problems in a new way. If nurtured properly, multilateralism is an appropriate and effective tool that provides many answers. The end of the Cold War allows us to dream about the hemispheric community of nations and the global society.
But the question that follows is what can be done to make those dreams come true? How can this window of opportunity be used before is closed by irreversible political realities?
The United Nations is engaged in a far-reaching effort to redefine the concept of global security and its role within the international system as a key actor in promoting and guaranteeing international peace. The Organization of American States, within the context of its own charter and the scope of a regional multilateral organization, is also making significant progress in the same direction.
Hemispheric security and the preservation of peace in the continent are topics that have a special significance for the community of nations of the Americas. In the last decade we witnessed fundamental transformations in the regional context that facilitate greater cooperation and promote a higher degree of collective action in favor of peace and security in the Hemisphere.
The demise of the Cold War, in addition to the end of dictatorship and authoritarian regimes in Latin America, economic integration, the resolution of various internal conflicts and, most importantly, the presence of democratic institutions provide a new context that clearly modifies strategic realities and the needs of national defense in the region.
On the other hand, terrorism and internationally organized crime emerged as new threats to collective security in the Hemisphere. The fact that these spill over borders and national jurisdictions demands new variants of effective multilateral cooperation.
The recent settlement of territorial and border disputes in Central America and the Southern Cone illustrates the immense possibilities that the new context offers for the pacific resolution of disputes. Unfortunately, that path was curtailed by the recent incidents between Ecuador and Peru.
This situation confirms the need to engage our collective efforts and resources in innovative ways to promote the resolution of the historic factors of tension that still persist. We also have to guarantee that territorial disputes do not escalate to a point in which they became a major threat to hemispheric or regional cooperation and peace.
To synthesize, we have a radically different political and strategic environment offering both great opportunities, as well as new threats. We therefore require a profound redefinition of the concept of hemispheric security as well as of the inter-American system of military cooperation. The time for change is now.
In June 1991, the 21st General Assembly of the OAS in Santiago agreed "to initiate a process of consultation on hemispheric security in the light of the new conditions in the region and the world, from an updated and comprehensive perspective of security and disarmament".
Following this mandate, the Permanent Council established the Special Committee on Hemispheric Security. This group, effectively led by Ambassador Patiño-Mayer from Argentina, has made significant progress in our efforts to redefine the basis for inter-American cooperation on the various dimensions of hemispheric security.
The member states adopted a resolution in which they defined a set of prerequisites for peace. They declared:
...peace is not merely the absence of war...[but also] interdependence and cooperation to foster economic and social development, disarmament, arms control and limitations, human rights, the strengthening of democratic institutions, protection of the environment and the improvement of the quality of life, for all are indispensable elements for the establishment of peaceful and more secure democratic societies.
The new security agenda for the Americas, therefore, includes a wide range of issues that includes but goes beyond specific military matters. The exchange of information, the development of social and economic integration within the region, confidence building, cooperation in the areas of public security, the fight against terrorism and organized crime, will, indeed, provide the basis for a new system of hemispheric security.
Although consistent progress has to be made in the broad agenda that we have in front of us, I believe is urgent to move forward in four priority areas.
First, we need to change and adapt the old security and defense inter-American system to the new challenges we face. Conceived within the parameters of the Cold War, the system is beginning to show signs of obsolescence. The General Assembly of the OAS, the Permanent Council and the Special Committee on Hemispheric Security, all have agreed on the urgency of this reform.
Even before the final decisions are made on future institutional and legal changes in the structure of the system, progress can be achieved in making it more effective and responsive to the contemporary security problems in the Hemisphere.
We should coordinate to make sure that the programs and activities of the College and the Inter-American Defense Board reflect the new agenda of the Hemisphere and the tasks assigned by the Miami Summit to the Organization of American States. The first step will be to make sure that all the member countries have a seat and a voice at the Board, even if they do not have a conventional military structure.
The programs and activities of both the Board and the College should be open to include the topics of a wider security agenda. Disarmament, the control and limitation of weapons, human rights, civil-military relations, the strengthening of democratic institutions, public security, the fight against terrorism and organized crime are all issues that should be incorporated more coherently in the concerns of the inter-American defense institutions.
The opening of the College’s academic activities to the study of those issues of interest for civilians, as well as enriching the analysis of military and security issues with the perspectives and insights of the civilians, will help to make the system more responsive to the real worries of the peoples of the Americas.
The Board and the College should also assume a wider role as technical advisors for the member states, the Organization, and the Secretary General’s Office in many of the issues that make the new security agenda.
Concerning human rights, there exists a whole spectrum of possibilities for coordination between the Inter-American Human Rights System and the hemispheric defense institutions. Few things could contribute more to peace and the stability of democratic institutions in the region than a more harmonious environment in the relations between military forces and civilians.
Finally, the experience of the Inter-American Defense System in coordinating and supporting humanitarian and peacemaking efforts of military nature, such as removing land mines, collecting and destroying armaments, military observation, and rebuilding key elements of civilian infrastructure should be implemented, particularly in coordination with UN missions in the region.
The second task that we have to undertake is to create the mechanisms of cooperation required to defeat the new and dangerous threats of terrorism and organized crime.
In the Miami Declaration, the heads of state and government agreed that "the recent attacks suffered by some of the countries of the Hemisphere demonstrate the grave threat posed by terrorism to security in the Americas" and in relation to the problem of drugs they said "the narco-traffickers and their criminal organizations put at risk the security of our people through corruption, intimidation and violence."
Taking into account that terrorism and organized crime have the ability to operate internationally, and that usually the scope of their criminal activities goes beyond one country, it is a priority to develop innovative instruments for regional and multilateral cooperation. Without a common effort to confront them, terrorism and organized crime will increasingly became a source of tension and even violence between countries of the region.
The Summit of the Americas assigned to the OAS the responsibility to organize a special conference for the prevention of terrorism. We hope this will chart the course for an enhanced system of inter-American cooperation against this major threat to hemispheric security.
In addition, the leaders of our Hemisphere agreed that we would develop an integral strategy to fight the different expressions of the problem of illicit drugs. Identifying the traffickers networks and their assets, tracking money-laundering, controlling precursor chemicals and arms, exchanging evidence to bring drug-lords to justice, stopping the flow of drugs and enhancing the domestic capabilities to defeat consumption are key areas in which common efforts are essential to achieve success.
If we really aspire to defeat organized crime and its serious consequences to collective security in the Hemisphere, we need to make a "quantum leap" in the existing patterns and instruments for inter-American cooperation against drugs.
The third key task to consolidate peace and security is to develop a program of confidence-building measures in the Hemisphere. At the Summit, all the countries assumed the commitment to "support all actions that promote a regional dialogue aimed at strengthening mutual confidence, opening the way for a hemispheric conference on confidence building measures to take place in 1995". The Special Committee on Security of the OAS has already done significant work in that direction.
We are convinced that the preliminary activities and the political dialogue at the conference will provide the elements and decisions required to put forward a visionary program to increase trust, confidence and mutual understanding in the region.
A central aspect of this effort most be to develop information sharing systems on military budgets and arms expenditures. A greater degree of transparency and knowledge of those matters will encourage mutual confidence. A broader understanding of the profile of the specific defense capabilities in the Hemisphere, and the confirmation of its non-offensive nature, will certainly help in reducing uncertainty and tensions.
The Secretary General’s Office received the mandate from the General Assembly to work with the UN in gathering and sharing this kind of information. It will work actively with the member States to make it more accurate and generalized.
Finally, the fourth and probably more complex task will be to promote the resolution of the pending territorial and border disputes among the neighboring countries in the Americas. We recently learned how serious and painful is the threat of unresolved issues of this nature. As established by the OAS Charter, the member states should address and solve those disputes only in the context of international law and through peaceful means. The OAS must be ready to provide to requesting countries, all the diplomatic, technical, legal and negotiating resources they could eventually need to overcome the past.
The OAS is very pleased to join forces with UNESCO to promote the analysis of the issues related to the preservation of security and stability in our modern world. Probably beyond all the tasks I mentioned above, the most important is to nurture the culture of peace. That is what we are doing with this symposium.