Media Center



September 13, 2002 - WAshington, DC

Protocolary Meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS,

Mr. Chairman,

Mr. Secretary General,

Assistant Secretary General,

Distinguished Permanent Representatives and alternates,

Other representatives, special guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you all for so warmly welcoming me to the Organization of American States and for the opportunity you have afforded me to address you here this morning.

Permit me to commence my remarks here today, Mr. Chairman, by solemnly recognizing and identifying with the thoughts which doubtlessly have been preoccupying all our minds especially over the past few days. It was a mere year ago plus two days, on the 11th day of September 2001, the very day that the General Assembly of the OAS ratified the Democratic Charter in Lima, Peru that the United States, and indeed this hemisphere and the world was set upon by brutish, heartless men who challenged our expressed resolve to defend the principles which this organization so boldly espouses. The events of that fateful morning transfixed this world and transformed it forever. That was indeed a defining moment in man’s history.

The OAS was resolute in its commitment to stand firm with the United States and the civil world in combating all forms of terrorism. St. Kitts and Nevis at that time too placed on record its unequivocal condemnation of those responsible, reaffirmed its solidarity with the Government and people of the United States and committed itself to cooperate fully with the efforts to rescue and reconstruct as well as with the investigative, punitive and preventive measures which were being put in place in the aftermath of the tragedy. We have demonstrably lived up to our commitment. In addition, shortly after the events of September 11th St. Kitts and Nevis, as a gesture of goodwill and support, offered respite to the New York City firefighters and their immediate families. They were invited to a vacation at one of several hotels in our beautiful Caribbean country, free of charge. Many took advantage of this offer and some other countries in short time followed our lead. Mr. Chairman - Ambassador Noriega, if at all it needs be said, be assured that St. Kitts and Nevis is unswerving in its commitment to support the United States in this struggle and we stand solidly with the other member states of the OAS in their resolve to confront this pervasive conspiracy of subversion, which ultimately affects us all.

It is a known fact, Mr. Chairman, that Small Island States such as St. Kitts and Nevis that are open and extremely vulnerable to global phenomena, suffer proportionately greater losses from terrorist incidents than do the targets of such terrorist attacks. The events of September 11, for instance, dealt a very severe blow to the economies of Caribbean Countries. In St. Kitts and Nevis, our economy was still reeling under the impact of a number of hurricanes that had visited our shores, when we found ourselves having to confront the massive economic shock emanating from the September 11 crisis.

For months after the crisis, our hotels, which are the mainstay of our economy, remained empty and revenue collections declined dramatically. In fact, we were forced to revise our growth projections for 2002 from 4% to under 2% and our revenue estimates missed its target by well over 10%. Moreover, we continue to feel the reverberations of September 11 because over 12 months have elapsed since the crisis and the level of tourism arrivals is still well below expectations.

It is in such difficult crises that we look to the OAS to champion our cause, to bring our problems to the forefront of the international community, and to facilitate the transfer of technical and financial resources from the richer and more powerful member countries to those in need. For us, the OAS must become the spirit, the vision and the hopes of this hemisphere’s brotherhood of nations. This is an important ideal towards which the OAS must consistently and vigorously strive, especially in times of crisis.

As we are exposed to new and different realities, we tend to develop the ability, nay the strength of character, to tackle such challenges by adopting more pragmatic and appropriate attitudes and methodologies. On the other hand when challenged, we could simply revert to old patterns of thinking and ways of doing things. We must resist this temptation. In this new and dynamic global environment in which we exist, there is very little room for old. We must relentlessly pursue and embrace new ideas and new systems of thought as we attempt to find solutions to the problems that confront us.

Change, Mr. Chairman is an inescapable constant of human progress but it must be managed well for best outcome. To change ourselves we must first come to know ourselves. Likewise, to change the nature of our hemisphere, we must first come to know it and to know it well. We must accept for example that we live in a heterogeneous, culturally complex and plural society of nations that is not simply or rigidly amenable to any one formula. Hence, it seems critically important that the entire hemisphere becomes even more aware of the peculiar problems of small and vulnerable states such as St. Kitts and Nevis and enshrine in our Charter the need for special and differential treatment in respect of such States. Small Caribbean Island States comprise a significant portion of the membership of the OAS and we believe that the OAS is well placed to play a lead role in promoting the interest of small states in global economic relations. The members of the OAS must advance the concerns and peculiarities of the small member states in all trade and economic negotiations including the FTAA and the WTO. This is the essence of brotherhood. As a family of nations, we must each become our brother’s keeper.

We have demonstrated this brotherhood in our quest to advance democracy in the hemisphere and to ensure that citizens throughout hemisphere enjoy the right of participation in the political processes of their respective countries. Certainly, we could not be blamed if we allowed ourselves a moment’s boast; for owing to our efforts and commitment, democracy is relatively well entrenched. Good governance is now the watchword in every corner of our civil societies, thanks to initiatives such as the Democratic Charter and to the resolve of fellow governments to advance the cause of democratic institution building in our Hemisphere.

Still, there is much work to be done. I look ahead with optimism to a time when all members of this hemispheric family can sit at the table of the esteemed OAS and share in the common experience of peace, democracy, prosperity and respect for human rights. We have a charge to keep to the many millions of people of this hemisphere and I salute you here at the OAS for the tremendous contributions that you have been making in shoring up the foundations of democracy and working to ensure that our hemisphere is secure, free from aggression, uncivil acts, and any form of violations against the spirit and letter of the OAS Charter.

The OAS is one of our proudest and most successful institutions. Where others have faltered, the OAS has continued to make positive strides. That is why I am concerned Mr. Chairman and sincerely lament that even from within its membership may emanate many of the limitations that plague the organization. This in some part, is linked to national politics, but in large measure, it is symptomatic also of the serious economic dislocations and social upheavals that bedevil our hemisphere. It seems to me therefore that even beyond the formulation of a Democratic Charter, we may need to elaborate strategies to assure that economic deprivation and social dissonance do not continue to plague our member States. The OAS has some experience in development assistance and we must ensure, if we truly want to improve the human condition and guarantee security in this hemisphere, that we work to allow the OAS to continue to evolve, but in a way that it gets better at delivery of services and support to our peoples.

In this regard, Mr. Chairman, the OAS must take an active interest in the issues that affect the development and progress of its developing member states. In particular, a number of small Caribbean member-states suffered massive economic setbacks because of the very penal measures of the Financial Action Task Force. The decision of the FATF to blacklist a number of Caribbean States has seriously hampered the development of their respective financial services sector and has disrupted the flow of direct foreign investments to these countries. As a result of the black-listing, international banks were refusing to do business with these countries, and investors in the real sectors of these countries were afraid that the banks in their home countries would refuse to facilitate the repatriation of their profits and capitals. For countries in which foreign direct investment plays such a critical role, this situation was devastating and threatened to derail the whole development process. Fortunately, St. Kitts and Nevis through its diligent efforts in upgrading its regulatory systems has now been removed from the FATF black-list. It now seems too, Mr. Chairman, that there is some doubt as to whether the FATF would continue to publish its list of what is deemed ‘uncooperative nations’.

Unfortunately, the voice of the OAS appeared muted during this whole unhappy episode that threatened to stifle the development of so many of its member States. In the same vein, many of the smaller Caribbean countries have been facing immense economic and fiscal challenges related to worldwide recessionary tendencies, the impact of frequent natural disasters, trade liberalization and globalization. Yet, the OAS seems (relatively) unresponsive to these problems and difficulties. I fully appreciate that OAS has always devoted much of its attention to political systems and democracy, but I am of the firm view that economic factors must what underpin the evolution and development of political systems, including democratic government and governance structures. In a world in which globalization could so radically shift the economic fortunes of nations, the OAS must give greater weight to economic and social issues.

With the unsettling anticipation of new global challenges Mr. Chairman, the OAS may need to review its mission in order to redefine the concept of hemispheric security so that it embraces and embodies ideas of hemispheric human security. Although democracy is undoubtedly an important ingredient for economic development, democracy without the wherewithal to implement relevant support measures and systems, cannot feed hungry children, it cannot provide healthcare for the aged and infirm it cannot ensure the safety of our ‘youth at risk’ and it cannot guarantee social stability. Democracy must be made to work for the people who place their faith in it, and it works best when it delivers on its promises. The entrenchment and institutionalization of democracy throughout the hemisphere has provided an effective foundation for peace and a catalyst for globalization. Now is the time and the chance for us to make democracy and globalization work EQUITABLY, as they really should.

Globalization in its current forms seems to undermine prospects of equitable development of a human security framework in our hemisphere. We need to marshal our collective efforts at the OAS to help the impoverished, the oppressed and the economically disenfranchised. Our job should be to ensure that they too do better than survive. We have played our part in liberating masses of people in this hemisphere from the inhumanity of dictatorships and the tyranny of human rights violations, and we have afforded them opportunities to participate in democracy. While this is laudable, Mr. Chairman, we must confront the fact that we have measurably failed to translate these freedoms into the kinds of policies that challenge old economic edifices so that we may refurbish the social safety networks in many of our member States.

For while we have provided greater opportunities for consumers to have access to more choices of goods and services, it has become increasingly difficult for them to even feed themselves since many can ill-afford the prices. Although we have opened the doors to mobile capital, which we said would bring new job security, we neglected to build lines of defense to offset the fallout socioeconomic effects whenever this mobile capital arbitrarily migrates away from our more fragile economies. Indeed, the streets of some capital cities are now scarred by the anguish of people whose entire livelihoods have been washed away by floods of nebulous opportunities, ill-conceived policies and other incongruities, which appear to favor the strong and punish the weak.

If we are to heed the call of destiny, we must champion the cause of the economically disadvantaged, especially those who merely exist well below the poverty line. Our hemispheric security agenda must reflect a re-engagement with human security. This will require developing new techniques to translate concepts into tangible benefits for the poor among us. It will challenge us to think beyond accustomed norms. It will demand us to take bold and imaginative steps, sometimes into the unknown, and to establish strategic alliances and partnerships with governments and civil society. I believe the OAS must rise to these challenges.

Mr. Chairman, I urge this organization to further develop and promote the concept of hemispheric security, which you have so insightfully endorsed, so that it may be perceived by the many, not solely in terms of an incursion by a foreign army or acts of terrorism, but also in the context of the powerful invading forces of hunger, illegal drugs, small arms trafficking, inequitable global competition, and HIV/AIDS, which all wreak havoc on our societies daily. Let us think of it also in the context of environmental protection and preparedness to confront threats; threats which are predictable, such as hurricanes, as well as those which are veiled but frighteningly real such as trans-shipment of nuclear waste through our vulnerable and fragile eco-space with its potential for unimaginable catastrophe. These are but some of the uncivil forces that threaten to undermine significantly any attempts at ensuring human security in our hemisphere. If by our action or inaction we allow these forces to take firmer roots, for all the hard work in bolstering democracy, unwittingly we would have allowed a Trojan Horse within the hallowed precincts of our secure democracies. Then we truly would have missed the opportunity to marshal the forces of our nature in redefining the common destiny of our Hemisphere.

Permit me, Mr. Chairman, as spokesman of the Caribbean Community of Nations on Human Resources and Health (Including HIV/AIDS) to reiterate a justifiable concern regarding one of the colossal human security threats to our hemisphere - that of HIV/AIDS. It is so ubiquitous and so deceptive a force, that most people tend to think that it could never affect their lives. They arm themselves with the false belief that it is not a serious issue for them or for their country. They think of it as someone else’s problem. But make no mistake, it is everyone’s problem. It is our hemispheric problem and our global problem. In much the same way that globalization has joined our economies and facilitated the ease of travel, so too has it accommodated the spread of HIV/AIDS and it behooves this organization to be an active partner in finding solution to this threat to our hemisphere’s security and indeed to global security.

On this we must work together, Mr. Chairman, for in saving the lives of our neighbor we save our own. We must educate our young, through every medium at our disposal. We must do all that we can to minimize the potential for spread of this infection and we must ensure that we find ways to treat and to care for those who test positive and are ill. HIV/AIDS threatens humanity in its very basic and truest form. It deprives those who are infected of the ability lead normal lives and denies them the opportunity of contributing fully to their society. We have an obligation Mr. Chairman to provide care for persons affected by this disease as much as we do for persons afflicted with other treatable diseases.

Our Caribbean experience has brought into clear focus a number of strategies that must be carried out in a clear and integrated manner. We have determined that strategies and programs must be balanced and integrated to deal with issues of prevention, care and support. The solutions must involve Governments, NGOs and individuals. As leaders, we must ensure that we galvanize the human, technical and financial resources to take the fight forward and to shape the environment that is essential to a successful assault on HIV/AIDS. We must move rapidly to implement all the multi-sectoral approaches that are required, and we must engage international agencies more effectively. At the same time, we have to be highly proactive in enhancing access to education, medicines and health care.

Mr. Chairman, because of the obviously close links between the Caribbean and the USA and the migration pattern that has been established over the years, we are pleased that the US Government through its Executive and Legislative arms has outlined its HIV/AIDS program of assistance and cooperation with Caribbean countries through its Third Border Initiative. Only recently, in a high level meeting between the US Government and Governments of CARICOM in Guyana, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson signed on as a member of the Pan Caribbean Partnership (PAN CAP) against HIV/AIDS.

What is PAN CAP?

The high incidence in the spread of HIV/AIDS places the Caribbean second only to Sub-Sahara Africa. In response, Caribbean Heads of Government endorsed an initiative against HIV/AIDS coordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with core partners (including, CAREC, CHRC, CRN+, UNAIDS, UNDP, PAHO/WHO,) and a number of others among which are NGOs and donor agencies, in particular the National HIV/AIDS Programs. PAN CAP involves member territories outside the CARICOM States such as French, Dutch and US dependent states.

The operations of PAN CAP are guided by a regional strategic plan and most recently it has successfully negotiated with the pharmaceutical companies for cheaper anti-viral drugs on a regional-wide basis and is leading a regional alliance in developing a proposal to the Global Fund to assist the entire region in areas of care and treatment, prevention and human rights and the reduction of stigma for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Mr. Chairman, PAN CAP is an illustration of the veracity of regional cooperation in confronting a critical regional challenge. It seems appropriate that the OAS should likewise consider ways of assisting with the fight against this pandemic. It is ravaging the human resources of the Caribbean particularly our youth, and most of all our young women, all in their most productive years,

For small States of this Hemisphere, Mr. Chairman, ensuring human security also means fighting not an army of organized foreign soldiers but smaller, money-hungry, vertically integrated, well-armed and technologically adept ‘bands’ of drug traffickers committed to making profits irrespective of the effects of their destructive practices on our vulnerable societies. We commend the work of CICAD and its leadership in coordinating a hemispheric understanding of and a cooperative approach to this unwelcome phenomenon. St. Kitts and Nevis shall continue to do the best that we can to cooperate with this important process. It is critical to us, for example, that we find solutions to stem the influx of light arms into our backyards where they threaten the security of our children and put our erstwhile tranquil societies at severe risk. In that same context we must endeavor to break the cycle of corruption that facilitates unhealthy alliances between legitimate and illegitimate forces in our societies. Such tendencies undermine our democracies and compromises human security.

In our global scheme Mr. Chairman, we speak often of the divide between poor and rich states, developing and developed and small and large. The objective truth is that the current global system is substantially weighted in favor of the large and wealthy states, and smaller States such as those in the Caribbean are, perhaps unwittingly, marginalized. However, today, I am not here to speak of the traditional "us versus them". For though there is apparent truth and relevance in this, it is an old and worked paradigm. Today, what we must face is a new construct of "we versus us." No one can afford the luxury of thinking that the problems in any corner of this hemisphere, is cocooned in that corner. We are all interconnected and if we fail to address one problem that threatens democracy, if we neglect the issue of economic deprivation in one island, or overlook the effects of HIV/AIDS and of drug production and trafficking in any corner of this region, we do so at our collective peril.

I have a deep interest in this hemisphere, Mr. Chairman, and I have been encouraged by what I have come to appreciate as the potential of its leadership to do good. However, I am also chastened by the disenchantment expressed by some, and by their frustrations with our stewardship. They look to us for leadership. We must give them that, and more. We must give them hope. We must work together to minimize the myriad problems, and to find ways to make sure that we can all sit at the hemispheric table, comforted by the knowledge that our people are indeed free. Free not just to vote, but free to chart their future, free to earn so that they can feed, clothe and educate their children and decently house their families, free to prosper, free to realize their fullest potentials and to feel socially included, and free to rejoice in their own true freedoms knowing that their Destiny is secure in the hands of their leaders.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you and this distinguished body for your time and for your patient attention. May this Organization be further emboldened to positively influence our people’s destiny, and may God bless us all.

May it please you Mr. Chairman.