Media Center



December 4, 2003 - Washington, DC

My fellow panelists and colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I would like to begin by thanking and congratulating the Office of External Relations of the OAS and the Center for Latin American Issues at the George Washington University for organizing this Seminar.

2. I am also grateful for this opportunity to address such a select audience on the results of the Special Conference on Security.

3. This is a timely event, as it brings together representatives of Governments, academic institutions, the media and civil society to discuss the fundamental issue of security in our Hemisphere.

4. While Ambassador Ruiz-Cabañas, who conducted the preparatory work for the Conference with such a high level of competence, began by analyzing the Conference results in a wider perspective, I am focusing my presentation on an important aspect for Brazil and its neighbors: that of sub-regional security perspectives.

5. I will also address other issues which I feel are relevant for a clearer understanding of the results attained in Mexico over a month ago.

6. The Brazilian Government believes that the Mexico Conference consolidated a paradigm shift in the way countries in this region are addressing their defense and security concerns.

7. This does not mean that all aspects contained in the Declaration on Security in the Americas are new. In reality, they have been discussed for many years by governments as well as by civil society in our countries.

8. In the framework of the OAS, this process started over a decade ago, with the adoption in 1991 of the “Santiago Commitment to Democracy and the Renewal of the Inter-American System”. This document initiated a process of consultation on hemispheric security, “taking into account an updated and comprehensive perspective, in light of the new conditions in the region and in the world”.

9. This process was developed in many stages before culminating in the Special Conference. During this period, many contributions were received from representatives of academic institutions, international organizations and NGO’s, as well as civil and military experts and other specialists in matters directly or indirectly related to security.

10. Our conclusion was that the subject of security, when referring to our Hemisphere, should be considered in the light of the multidimensional perspective, as defined in the Bridgetown Declaration, taking into account political, economic, social, health and environmental issues together with those related to traditional defense aspects.

11. But when evaluating the great complexity of the task to undertake, it became clear to States that it would be impossible to establish one single concept of security, with hemispheric scope, capable of comprising such different strategic realities as those of South, Central and North America as well as the Caribbean.

12. With the disappearance of a clearly identifiable and major common threat – as were nazism and communism – a strategic vacuum has been created in which the enemy not always appears in a clear form. This has allowed countries to define their own individual security parameters, considering the threats each of them perceived as most likely to affect their security.

13. This scenario gave rise to a variety of national policies and initiatives which could hinder the establishment of a common agreement to identify current threats and how to confront them.

14. In itself, this is not necessarily a negative development. Sub-regional processes were, and will continue to be, an extremely valuable contribution to the overall security framework in the Hemisphere. Clearly, subregional mechanisms, especially those relating to political and economic integration, bring important elements such as rationality, credibility and transparency, promoting stability and predictability and contributing to the consolidation of a peaceful and secure environment.

15. Integration processes which exist in Mercosur, the Andean Community, Central America, the Caribbean and North America, all containing important components relating to security issues, are good examples that corroborate this understanding.

16. However, sub-regional mechanisms should not be seen as adversaries to the establishment of a hemispheric security concept. On the contrary. The task of identifying consensual positions is facilitated among countries who share the same geographic realities, as well as similar political, economic and cultural circumstances. Consequently, subregional perspectives should be seen as necessary building blocks in the construction of broader concepts.

17. Bilateral understanding and cooperation between Argentina and Brazil, for example, and between Argentina and Chile, together with the resulting convergence of interests and opportunities which is growing since the beginning of the 80’s in the Southern Cone, created a sensation of “we-feeling”, as described by Karl Deutsch, that extended throughout the region.

18. The importance of sub-regional mechanisms should not lead us to the conclusion that different security agendas exist in the region. There is only one agenda, based on solidarity and cooperation, the principles contained in the UN and OAS Charters, as well as shared values and common approaches.

19. The architecture of hemispheric security should, therefore, be a flexible matrix. A model with a variable geometry which prevents immobilization, recognizes similarities and differences, and allows countries to coordinate efforts, united in their diversity.

20. The task of pointing out the main threats which affect our Hemisphere was not difficult. The main difficulty throughout the preparatory work for the Conference was to find a formula which would take into account different points of view, and at the same time avoid listing threats in a kind of priority or hierarchic order.

21. The Brazilian Government is now in the process of evaluating the outcome of the Conference. One of the core elements of this study is to take into consideration the main aspects highlighted by the heads of delegations in their Plenary presentations.

22. It is interesting to note, for example, that the subject of terrorism, that for obvious reasons constitutes an absolute priority for the United States, was not even mentioned in the speeches of the majority of Caribbean delegations. For those countries, extreme poverty, infectious diseases, climate changes, natural disasters and transnational crime are viewed as their main threats, challenges and concerns.

23. Terrorism is obviously a serious threat to hemispheric security, directly or indirectly, and as such, it is prominently reflected in the Declaration. However, it is necessary to acknowledge that it is not perceived with the same level of priority by all countries. This does not necessarily mean that they are not solidary or cooperative in the fight against terrorism, but that they feel more directly vulnerable to a distinct set of contingencies.

24. While discussing the themes for the Conference, Brazil, as a contribution to the debate, suggested the classification of the main threats, concerns and challenges into three major groups or categories.

25. The first group would comprise threats related to conventional security matters or traditional defense. In other words, all situations related to the use of military force in inter-State conflicts.

26. The second group would include the so-called non-traditional or new threats to security, defined as those originating from non-state actors, but which constitute a real and immediate threat and expose the State, its institutions and people to serious risks. This would include, for example, terrorism, the global drug problem, corruption, the illicit trafficking of firearms and the threat to infrastructure networks.

27. A third group would be composed of threats to security in a broader sense, but no less important. These are aspects which are many times related to the political and economic structural causes of security problems which are experienced by the majority of countries in the region. These threats could have a serious effect on the security level of countries. However, their containment, in view of their complexity and multifaceted character, cannot be carried out neither by military means nor through the hemispheric security mechanisms. They must be dealt with by strengthening democratic institutions and sustainable economic and social development. A clear example of this type of threat would be extreme poverty.

28. As you can see, the idea was to avoid the priorization of the threats I have already referred to, which would be impossible in a single list, given the legitimate but different points of view existing in our thirty-four countries on what constitutes a real threat, a challenge or just a concern. For that reason, we opted for maintaining together all three expressions: “threats, concerns and other challenges to security”.

29. Although the Brazilian suggestion to categorize the threats according to their nature did not prosper in its original form, Brazil was satisfied that the final document reflected in a balanced manner and without priorizations, the perspective and concerns of each OAS member State.

30. It is sometimes said that documents of consensus such as the one adopted in Mexico, in trying to cover all aspects and attempting to please everyone, end up not addressing anything seriously or deeply enough. My understanding is quite the opposite. In my view, the Declaration on Security in the Americas is a comprehensive and inclusive document. The strength of its legitimacy lies in the fact that it takes into account the concern of each and every State, and recognizes the value of subregional approaches. It will undoubtedly become a reference for the inter-American legal system in security matters.

31. As pointed out by the Head of Delegation of Saint Lucia in her speech,“the Declaration recognizes the diverse nature of the States of the Hemisphere, and does not give any other country the bragging rights to say “they did it my way”.

32. There was also initial resistance by some delegations to recognize extreme poverty as a security threat, because in their view this would be overstretching the concept of security. To them, promoting development and fighting poverty would be more appropriately addressed in economic fora instead of a security conference.

33. Brazil was one of the countries that insisted on including extreme poverty as one of the threats, concerns and challenges to hemispheric security. In reality, “securitizing” poverty in an international document is something that has never hitherto been done. For this reason, we have been contacted by the press and also by NGO’s, concerned that we could be associating the less privileged classes with crime and illicit activities.

34. Obviously, this was not the idea. The concern, however, was understandable, given that the nexus between underdevelopment, poverty and security is not evident at first glance. As you may be aware, it is not always easy to convey to the general public security issues which are becoming more and more complex and multifaceted. And this is one example.

35. It is true that unemployment and marginalization provide fertile terrain for illicit activities, but the consequences of extreme poverty go well beyond the criminal aspect, and by no means can be resolved through repressive measures.

36. When the number of people living in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean totals over 220 million, including more than 100 million living under critical conditions, extreme poverty becomes a strategic issue, in addition to its social and economic significance. Extreme poverty can compromise social cohesion, give rise to unstable conditions and threaten democratic institutions.

37. Therefore, underdevelopment, poverty and security have to be considered in an integrated form and not addressed separately, as we have been doing until now.

38. The solution to this serious scourge – extreme poverty - is not easy, and will not be reached by involving law enforcement, let alone military bodies. Rather, the adoption of national, bilateral, subregional and hemispheric initiatives are necessary in order to overcome the obstacles which impede sustainable economic growth and social inclusion. We must shift the focus from the consequences to the root causes of insecurity.

39. Undoubtedly, the main responsibility for reverting social injustice and promoting development lies with each one of our countries. And a document such as the Declaration we adopted in Mexico, based on principles and objectives defined in a collective manner, promotes change and encourages the adoption of new internal policies.

40. Finally, I would like to mention briefly another aspect of hemispheric security which was the subject of an intense debate on a subregional and hemispheric level. I refer to the role of the armed forces in the new hemispheric security architecture which we are trying to establish, a role which was not defined on the final Declaration of the Mexico Conference.

41. As you are aware, the Declaration on Security in the Americas – however much a part of the inter-American body of principles - is not a legally binding document such as a treaty or a convention. But some enforceable decisions, referring to its contents, may be adopted in the forthcoming OAS General Assembly to be held in Quito in June 2004.

42. Until then, we must proceed with our work to clarify the juridical and institutional linkage between the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) and the OAS, keeping in mind that the Board’s mission is to provide Member States with “advice and the delivery of consultancy services of a technical-military nature which in no case may have an operational nature”, as well as the principle of civilian oversight and the democratic selection of its authorities.

43. Brazil firmly holds the view that the IADB, created in the 1940’s and integrated by representatives of the armed forces and defense bodies of most of our countries, has the role of promoting the exchange of ideas and experiences of a military nature, apart from coordinating relevant humanitarian de-mining and peacekeeping missions.

44. Furthermore, Brazil believes that the IADB constitutes in the inter-American system the body where conventional defense and military matters are addressed, and we frankly see no reason to extend its activities to areas such as fighting drug-trafficking, terrorism, corruption, poverty and infectious diseases, among others. This would duplicate unnecessarily and weaken the efforts of the other competent inter-American organisms and entities. The Declaration reflects, very clearly, this position.

45. Another point to be considered is the future of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), and the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement of Disputes (Pact of Bogotá). The Rio Treaty, which was invoked by Brazil after the terrorist attacks of September 11, remains in our view a valid instrument, in its concept of solidary hemispheric response to threats and mechanisms to face them. However, adopted in the context of the Cold War, both instruments need to be revisited, in order to verify their adequacy to the current security realities in the Hemisphere as a whole and in its diverse sub-regions.

46. On these three important issues – the Rio Treaty, the Bogotá Pact and the IADB – we will now concentrate our efforts, accommodating the various sub-regional perspectives. The Committee on Hemispheric Security as the focal point of the interamerican security system has a central role to play in this development; and we look forward to the same measure of success in Quito in June 2004 as we attained in the Mexico Conference.

Thank you very much.