Media Center



April 19, 2004 - Washington, D.C

Mr. Chair of the Permanent Council,
Mr. Secretary General,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished ambassadors, permanent and alternate representatives,
Permanent observers,
General Secretariat staff,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to return to this Council after 28 years, now as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador. First let me thank the Council Chair and Ambassador of Mexico, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, for his kind words. I also thank all of you for considering the views of the Ecuadorian Government on the proposal to make “social development, democracy, and the incidence of corruption” the central topic of the dialogue of heads of delegation you will attend at the next regular session of the General Assembly, to be held in Quito. The people and Government of Ecuador have asked me to invite the foreign ministers and each of you to honor my country with your presence.

In the context of the Organization’s social agenda, the member states have faced the great challenge of furthering social development and ensuring democratic governance; accordingly, we have taken up the challenge of cooperating in the fight against corruption. This struggle, to which Ecuador attaches great importance, is closely linked to social development and democracy-building—objectives that sustain the inter-American system.

Corruption is a scourge on society and a matter of great concern to all nations of the world. It weakens democracy and undermines the legitimacy of governments and institutions. The need for coordinated action against corruption by the entire international community is pressing.

The Ecuadorian Government appointed a special mission, consisting of two high-level foreign ministry officials, who met with the permanent representatives of the member states. These conversations, held last week, yielded significant contributions, suggestions, and proposals on the central topic to be discussed by the foreign ministers. These are sure to greatly enhance the outcome of our deliberations in Quito.

The members of the OAS and its specialized organizations have delved into the subjects of social development, democracy, and corruption on an ongoing basis. At the First Summit of the Americas, for example, the Heads of State and Government recognized that the problem of corruption called for multilateral measures and actions. They therefore pledged to negotiate an inter-American convention for international cooperation against this scourge.

The commitments adopted in the Summits of the Americas process also give us a broad base of action and specific mandates in addition to the principles enshrined in basic declarations. The Inter-American Democratic Charter, as you know, expands upon the rights and obligations involved in building a society in which transparency in government activity, probity, responsible public administration, respect for social rights, and freedom of expression and the press are essential to the exercise of democracy.

The Declaration on Security in the Americas, adopted in Mexico last October, contributes further elements and identifies corruption as a new security threat to the states of the Hemisphere.

In that declaration, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting both passive and active corruption, which represents a new and genuine threat to the security of our states, undermines public and private institutions and society’s trust, does enormous economic damage, compromises stability, erodes the rule of law, and weakens the ability of governments to respond effectively to the demands of the Hemisphere’s peoples.

The same Declaration on Security therefore identifies cooperation, mutual legal assistance, extradition, and concerted action in fighting corruption as a political and moral imperative.

The effects of corruption, says the Declaration, extend to different fields of activity in our countries. Therefore, consideration of the topic proposed by Ecuador for the dialogue of heads of delegation at the General Assembly session in Quito should address new means of cooperation among nations to deny safe haven both to the corrupt and to the corruptors, in both public and private sectors.

In our efforts in Quito, it is essential that we underscore the need for more decisive promotion of a democratic culture as it pertains to anticorruption efforts.

Along these same lines, the Declaration of Margarita, adopted last October, calls corruption a critical barrier to social development and states that good governance, transparency, and accountability are among the essential requirements for making efficient use of official development assistance.

In the recent Declaration of Nuevo León, we affirm that the well-being of peoples requires the achievement of three closely linked and interdependent objectives: first, economic growth with equity to reduce poverty; second, social development; and third, democratic governance.

At the Summit in Monterrey, the Heads of State and Government gave us specific mandates to fight corruption, because it massively drains resources while slowly unraveling the democratic fabric of our societies.

The deep ties that bind all the peoples of the Americas are manifested in the pursuit of a common goal of social development and a more vigorous democracy for our region’s future.

Corruption interferes with that community of spirit and must be fought in both the public and private sectors. The Inter-American Convention against Corruption is without question the most important step taken in the hemispheric struggle against this problem.

We are certain that this convention is not an end point but our first major advance toward addressing this blight threatening the social development and democracy of our peoples.

In addition to strengthening existing mechanisms and devising new instruments, our countries should move beyond legal action and accept the “code of conduct” that arises from the initiative of each sector involved at the national level and that extends to international efforts to build common ethical and moral values.

Mr. Council Chair, the task of fighting corruption, like actions to promote democracy and social development, as I stated earlier, is incumbent on all the states. On this occasion, Ecuador proposes reaffirming the commitment, undertaken in the Declaration of Nuevo Leon, to deny safe haven to corrupt officials, to those who corrupt them, and their assets; and to cooperate in their extradition as well as in the recovery and return of the proceeds of corruption to their legitimate owners.

In this connection, Ecuador considers it important to support the signing and ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the Inter-American Convention on Extradition.

Social development and democracy are complementary concepts. We can’t speak of social inclusion without referring to civic participation, the crux of an interrelatedness that turns government action into state policy.

Civic participation will take on a new impetus at the General Assembly session in Quito this June. Ecuador is attaching high importance to the dialogue of heads of delegation with civil society representatives.

Ecuador, with support from the Organization, has placed special emphasis on civic participation. We have called upon various civil society actors in the Hemisphere to participate in preparations for the upcoming General Assembly session, so that their suggestions and recommendations will receive due consideration. We believe their contributions on the central topic we are presenting today will be important, and we are ready to enter into a fruitful dialogue that will help us identify innovative strategies in fighting corruption and developing government policy.

Mr. Council Chair, Ecuador has proposed this topic because it is convinced that only together can we build and develop a hemispheric agenda that fosters good governance, transparency, democratic institutions, and ethical and moral conduct in all sectors, and that leaves no room for corruption.

We therefore reaffirm the commitments we undertook at the Summits and in the hemispheric declarations and reaffirm as well our faith in international cooperation and solidarity, which spring from the genuine application of existing international instruments.

Another important achievement has been the adoption of recommendations in April by the Conference of States Parties to the Mechanism for Follow-up on Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, especially those related to specific measures to strengthen that mechanism.

We want the General Assembly to be able to establish precise mandates in Quito for continuing this process. The process should be strengthened at the Conference of States Parties to the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, which, as determined at the Special Summit in Monterrey, will be held in Managua this July.

Lastly, Mr. Council Chair, distinguished permanent representatives, Mr. Secretary General, and other officials of the Organization, let me again extend a cordial invitation from the Government and people of Ecuador to all the foreign ministers, all the representatives of the member states of the Organization, the representatives of the permanent observers, and the representatives of the organizations of the inter-American system and of the international organizations to attend the upcoming General Assembly session in Quito, a World Cultural Heritage site, where I can assure you of the warm and gracious welcome characteristic of the Ecuadorian people.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.