Media Center



March 1, 2004 - Washington DC



I am happy to welcome you to Washington and to the headquarters of the OAS. For me it is a personal pleasure to see this multilateral expert group so close to the culmination of its work in the second evaluation round.

When all of this began, few believed that anything like a multilateral evaluation system could actually work. Few believed or expected it to be real. And yet, almost 6 years after the Summit of the Americas at Santiago de Chile called for the creation of such a system, it has been successfully negotiated. It has completed the evaluations for 1999 and 2000.

And you are near completion for 2001 and 2002, even as the third evaluation round preparation work for 2003 and 2004 is already in place. However, your work won’t be easy. The national evaluations on progress in implementing the recommendations have to be at the same time:

1. Clear on where significant progress has been made – and just as clear when not.

2. Fair in the assessment of obstacles being faced.

3. Objective on assistance, recognizing that sometimes it is indispensable.

The MEM stands out as an example of what can be done, and this was noted at the Special Summit held in Nuevo Leon last November. I believe all of you have a copy of the Executive Summary from that session. You can be proud of what you have accomplished so far.

But I need to think more of the future, and looking at the challenges we face together in the Americas, we need to become better. The MEM must get better. It must mature to be THE most accepted authority on what progress is being made, on what progress is not being made, and on what must be done about it.

And it must do so in terms of frankness and seriousness that are clear to all.

The MEM now has a privileged position, but it can only keep it by becoming more serious in its evaluations, more acute in its recommendations and more prepared to provide help where it is needed. You have a real advantage in that the public accepts the MEM as objective, not politically motivated. But that advantage will disappear if the MEM’s product does not represent reality, and in these times not being ready to confront reality is dangerous.

Populations throughout the region are showing signs of serious strain. Economies have not grown sufficiently even to overcome the most miserable poverty. Democracy itself, dedicated as it is to the participation of all citizens, is under pressure.

And while it is certainly true that drug trafficking and substance abuse are not the key causal agent and therefore not the means of a solution for the afflictions of contemporary life, it is also true that drugs are a major issue everywhere in the hemisphere. In almost every country, drugs are a life and death issue for individuals and families. In some countries, they are a life and death issue for communities and institutions. And in some countries they threaten the state itself.

We have reached the point where communities throughout the Americas are acutely conscious of the credibility of government, and sometimes of the lack of basic credibility. And drug trafficking, the corruption that inevitably accompanies drugs, the violence and destruction that are its indelible residue, all attack the basis of government. So while we begin with the discussion of drugs, we end with the question of governability. The GEG product won’t be accepted unless it is credible to publics who have learned to be critical.

For these reasons, therefore, Drug trafficking and its consequences must be a key part of all national agendas.

And the MEM is the only instrument which can truly be said to represent all of the Americas. The question is how will it do so in a future which is almost surely to bring more insidious and more threatening behaviors?

The MEM must rise to meet this threat. It must rise in some cases even before the threat is completely clear. The speed of money laundering, its ability to move, to change forms, change methods, is such that at times it is effectively beyond the law, removing any chance for effective intervention by the bodies that represent the law. You have the example of street gangs made up of young people who are casually prepared to commit any crime and who are routinely associated with drugs. Countries were surprised by them and many still are.

For the MEM to do its part, it must give to the individual countries and to the hemisphere only the very best analysis and evaluation. Its work must cause governments and the public to think. It must recognize the good product of hard work and it must do the same for no work. And it must be prepared to face controversy.

This year there are 14 projects which came out of MEM recommendations from the first evaluation round and which are using donor funding to fulfill them. They are being carried out now among the member countries. The same thing has to happen here in the second evaluation round, and the MEM has to identify priority problems and mobilize assistance to get them resolved. It has to be a complete approach: analysis, evaluation and then cooperation and/or assistance leading to resolution.

So MEM, not forgetting that is has the best structure and indicators anywhere, cannot just be as good as it was. It has to become much better if it is to continue to have a place in the councils of the Americas.

You are the ones who will determine whether that will or will not be the case. Your work now must reach the Summit of Buenos Aires in 2005. It must be a focus for Summit participants. If that is not the case, then actions that need to be taken by states, by regions and by the whole hemisphere will simply be ignored, and what follows after that you already know. Many of you are here at some personal sacrifice, something which I recognize. And many of you know from personal experience how hard it is to create a serious, functioning National Drug Commission. And just as well you know that almost without exception the national coordinating agencies must become institutionally stronger to make a serious national effort possible. As you prepare your assessments, therefore, I ask you to concentrate on the most basic and serious questions, because those who read the GEG’s work in May of this year are going to be asking precislely “How serious is this?”.

The MEM has achieved much. It must achieve more. The Experts have shown that they can produce high quality, high relevance material. As you conclude the drafting of progress reports on implementation of recommendations from the second round, the Experts must advance again. Much depends on you, and I am proud to see that we have come this far even as I am hopeful that once again we can do what so many cynically believe is not possible. I assure you that the future of many depends on it.