Media Center



November 20, 2002 - Washington, DC

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished Permanent Representatives,
Distinguished Alternate Representatives,
Distinguished Observers,
Staff of the General Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for welcoming me so warmly to this august Council of the Organization of American States, and for affording me the opportunity to address you this morning.

I have had the pleasure of meeting with the Assistant Secretary General this morning, and I have come from the meeting with deeper insight into the many challenges our Organization faces; but I am equally convinced that the OAS will meet these challenges and find solutions, in keeping with its record.

I take this opportunity to commend the Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria, on behalf of the President of the Republic of Suriname, His Excellency Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan, for his ongoing and tireless efforts to restructure the OAS and make it a more streamlined, effective and efficient institution, ready to deal with the mandates of the Summit of the Americas process. The close ties between the agenda of the OAS strictly defined by the Charter and its executing instruments, and the mandates of the Summit of the Americas make a clear and definite case for strong OAS involvement in the implementation of the Summit mandates.

This Organization will largely be judged by the outcome of its reforms. Therefore, my Government finds it important that we create and implement reforms that ensure efficient and accurate implementation of all the Summit mandates, whereby attention to the traditional programs and projects of the Organization will not be neglected.

I understood that this Council also is working diligently on the modernization and reform of the OAS practices, structures and procedures in order to enhance its capacity to deliver more efficiently on the many very important objectives and goals. This endeavor is applauded and is a healthy sign of adjustment to the new challenges. I wish you the greatest success in these noble efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

In the Millennium Declaration, the groundbreaking document of the Millennium Summit of last September, World Leaders clearly acknowledge that women’s contribution in all important world issues is part of a broader change in the global understanding of the role of women in general.
In this document the World Leaders and Heads of States not only reaffirm the equal rights and opportunities of women and men; they also unanimously agree to promote the empowerment of women as an effective tool to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to truly stimulate and support sustainable development. This document points out that in the area of development, as well as in peace and in security, no strategy would be effective on the long term unless women were completely involved.

Next Monday, on 25th November, this Council will hold a “Special Session on Women Participation in Political Processes”. I am very pleased that this issue has reached the agenda of the OAS.

Women empowerment and the full participation of women in political processes strengthens the ability of countries to grow, to reduce poverty, govern safely, and ensure human security. It has been demonstrated that countries that reduce gender inequality in such areas as politics, employment, education, health care and property rights achieve significant rewards.

When we consider the fact that today women make up approximately forty percent of the global work force, and thus a considerable percentage of the hemispheric work force, it is very disappointing to see that they still face barriers when they try to reach the top.

Today there are more women in politics, for example, than ten years ago. There is no doubt that these women are making a notable difference, but yet the statistics show that political life continues to be dominated by men. Representative Democracy will, therefore, only be representative when all political actors, including the male dominated political institutions, acknowledge that women’s political skills and experiences can make valuable contributions to all important issues, and not only to the social and economic agenda, or the so called “women’s issues”.

In this context, I would like to pledge Suriname’s full support to the valuable work of the Inter-American Commission on Women.

Last month the Principal Delegates of this body gathered in the Dominican Republic and, among many important topics discussed the issue of gender equality and the empowerment of women in the hemisphere.

“Gender equality and the empowerment of women are instant tools to combat poverty and disease and to achieve overall development that is truly sustainable, because we are equally determined to build on the contribution of women in managing conflict and building peace”. These are the exact words of the Secretary General of United Nations spoken on the commemoration of the International Women’s Day, last March 8, 2002, the same day on which Suriname deposited the ratification instruments on the Convention of Belem do Para here at the OAS.

Mr. Chairman

The Government of Suriname has been in office for a little over two years. At the beginning of his second term as Head of State of the Republic of Suriname, President Venetiaan made very clear that his administration is determined to bring Suriname and its people back on the path of prosperity, growth, and development. The Government spares no efforts to address the issue of poverty alleviation. To that end the administration has recently put in place stringent measures aimed at ameliorating the lot of the most needy in our society.

At the hemispheric level we need to admit that more than 170 million of our population still live in poverty. The eradication of extreme poverty must therefore remain at the top of the OAS agenda.

The late Dr. Frank Essed, a well-known Surinamese scholar and statesman, defined three aspects of development with respect to small developing countries.

(I) “Our development is no restoration of the old colonial building of alien origin, but a new architecture of ourselves, based on the endowments of our own land and people.

(II) Each architecture is based on a model design, made visual by map and description. This holds also for every realistic national development model.

(III) Development is no addition of separate projects, but a multiplication of mutually interdependent components”

With these words allow me to briefly address the issue of development cooperation within this Organization. The Charter of the OAS stipulates under paragraph 29 that “The Member States, inspired by the principles of the Inter-American solidarity and cooperation, pledge themselves to a united effort to ensure social justice in the Hemisphere and balanced economic development for their peoples, as conditions essential to peace and security”. This means that development cooperation must be a prime priority of this organization.

It’s known that financially the OAS and many of its member states are having
difficult times. It is a great misfortune that the resources made available to the regular fund of the OAS have been in decline for the past twenty years, and there is no immediate plan to alter that trend.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, while member states are making many efforts to alter this situation. The reality of the declining voluntary funds of CIDI must be addressed in the short term through external resources for the financing of development projects in the member states. The political and institutional framework of CIDI, therefore, needs further strengthening, so that the question of poverty alleviation can take a more central position in our development cooperation efforts.

In this context it is crucial that the American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) be provided with the necessary human and financial resources to meet our expectations.

Mr. Chairman,

The struggle for human rights is a struggle of those in our member states without power. The Surinamese government, therefore, attaches much importance to the two hemispheric human rights institutions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

My government firmly believes that for this process to be carried out successfully and efficiently, the monitoring of human rights is essential in the Americas, by all treaty bodies as well as by the national and regional organizations of civil society in every member state. We note with great pleasure the constantly growing and increasingly active participation of such organizations in the work of this organization.

These institutions are indispensable to increase the effectiveness of the promotion and protection of human rights and to add to the effectiveness of the work in which we are engaged.

Mr. Chairman,

Next week, on 25 November, the Republic of Suriname will celebrate our twenty-seventh year of independence, while this year we commemorate our twenty-fifth anniversary of OAS-membership.

Today, as I am gratefully utilizing the opportunity the Permanent Council has graciously provided me, allow me to reflect on the relationship between the Republic of Suriname and the Organization of American States, and try to capture the spirit of this relationship.

The authority, the reach and strength of this organization, and their acceptance by the people of Suriname, were never more manifest than when we had to go through the gravest ordeal of our young nation: the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government and the subsequent systematic and gross violation of human rights.

The OAS was ready to cooperate with the democratic forces of Suriname to restore belief in the democratic process through free and fair elections, and to protect this process through strengthening of the democratic institutions. The unit for the Promotion of Democracy has played a pivotal role in this exemplary form of cooperation.

The Suriname-OAS experience has been a recordable success. The interaction produced a healthier environment for a viable democracy in Suriname, while it contributed to a strengthening of the charter of the OAS.

Mr. Chairman,

Against this background, it will be clear that Suriname has a lasting interest in the Organization of American States, in its goals and its achievements. We will continue to make every effort to meet our obligations and to support its programs, because their successful outcome will fulfill so many of the hopes and dreams of the people of this hemisphere.

I thank you.