Media Center



December 10, 2001 - Washington, DC

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Organization of American States.

After the horrific and infamous attacks of September 11, not only to civilians of this great nation but also to nationals of 28 of 34 of our member States, the Organization of American States immediately took the political decisions necessary to secure a wide coalition that would provide legitimacy to the actions that meant this unprecedented challenge to the core values of the Americas.

It was sadly ironic but very meaningful, that the very day of the attacks, the OAS General Assembly of Foreign Ministers, including the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, adopted the Democratic Charter -- a unique document that sets out each member state's responsibility to ensure democratic governance and allows any member state, or the Secretary General, to trigger a rapid diplomatic and political response by the OAS if democracy in the continent is confronted or interrupted.

A couple of days later, a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs was convened in Washington to address the situation, pledged solidarity to the United States and expressed the support and cooperation of the hemisphere in the fight against terrorism.

At the same meeting, 21 of the 34 active member states of the Organization that are parties to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, acting as an Organ of Consultation, declared that the terrorist attacks against the US were attacks against all American states parties to the Treaty.

All of the states present at the meeting also moved promptly forward, at the national, regional, and hemispheric levels, in the implementation of concrete steps against terrorism.

In addition, Member States committed themselves to the strengthening of the Inter American Committee Against Terrorism. Concrete work is being undertaken by this Committee to deal with different aspects related to terrorism including financial controls, border controls, identification of cooperation measures, as well as a redefinition of policy objectives and critical areas of concern. Countries are making use of the OAS as a forum for the exchange of ideas as well as for the dissemination of information among governments and experts in the region.

The Americas are also working thoroughly in drafting a new Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, that will hopefully be ready by mid-2002, which will be a model for the rest of the world in the fight against terrorist acts.

The last point I want to make is related to the negative economic effects that the attacks of September 11 have had on the OAS member states. The smaller states are particularly beginning to feel the economic consequences of the devastation that occurred on September 11. The World bank is calculating a 25% drop in tourism earnings in 2002. Uncertainty in our region is reducing investment, capital flows and affecting business decisions. These circumstances are making the current crisis in Argentina, a lot more difficult to manage and unravel.

Now is the right moment to insist that the answer to terrorism can not be solely a military undertaking. We must also secure democracy by encouraging sustained growth and development. Our ultimate goal is to focus in the achievement of the Free Trade Area of the Americas that could triple the trade flows among a hemisphere of 800 million Americans.

The OAS is committed on meeting these challenges, and today's conference is part of a series we are co-hosting with the Center for Latin American Issues of the George Washington University to encourage a hemispheric dialogue on these important issues.

Once again, welcome to this House of the Americas, and thank you for your kind attention.