Media Center



June 6, 2004 - Quito, Ecuador

Mr. President:

Citizens from all confines of the Americas are gathered here tonight in Quito, called upon to pursue our struggle to achieve integration and solidarity. We thank your government and the Ecuadoran people for their warm welcome and hospitality. In these lands liberated by Bolívar, Sucre, and Córdova in Pichincha, all of us feel at home. We are grateful too to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricio Zuquilanda, and to Ambassador Marcelo Hervas for their invaluable support.

We all admire, President Gutiérrez, your firm resolve to uphold the kind of policies required for the stability of the Ecuadoran economy. We know, too, that the scope for solving some social issues that have accumulated over decades falls short of citizens’ expectations. Hopefully, political players in Ecuador will take decisions that do not sacrifice the governance of their country, undermined so often in recent times.

As I end my term as Secretary General of the OAS, I am called upon to submit a report that covers, even if only briefly, the situation when we began; what we set out to do; and what we have achieved; and to shed some light on the long road that lies ahead and on the course we would like our relations and hemispheric institutions to take. A more complete report on this 10-year period will be provided to delegations.

When we attempt to take stock of events over the past 10 years, we must admit that they surpassed our greatest expectations. At the same time, the problems and challenges our peoples faced increased exponentially, particularly as a result of greater interdependence and globalization.

The revolution in information technology and telecommunications began to have profound political, economic, and social effects. Interdependence transcended frontiers, social classes, religions, and races. In the Americas, these factors are intensified by the existence of common cultural, historical, and geographical ties.

We went back to our roots, when the OAS was founded, to create a union based on principles. We left behind us a time marked by isolationism, rivalry, and misunderstanding and shed many of the ties that had bound the OAS in the past. We ceased to invoke the principles of our Charter more to divide than to unite us; more to vent our fears than to forge a shared ideal; more to contain unilateralism than to spur collective action.

Our term began amid encouraging signs of the possibilities of a new multilateralism within the OAS and of the Organization’s ability to adapt to a world evolving at prodigious speed. Our task was to find the instruments, mechanisms, and ways to accomplish that.

Thus, when President Clinton convened, by common accord with all the governments in the Hemisphere, the first Summit of the Americas in Miami, he did so on the basis of the notion that we were united by shared values and a common destiny, and that we were prepared to construct a robust agenda supported by unprecedented political resolve. Against that backdrop, we put forward “A New Vision of the OAS,” which was resolutely endorsed by the General Assembly in Montrouis. The OAS was therefore to have a new opportunity in the regional concert of nations.

In Miami, Santiago, Quebec City, and Monterrey, the OAS received a growing number of mandates in fields ranging from democracy to human rights, good governance, support for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, education, equity, the fight against poverty, and social inclusion. Ministerial meetings became the driving force behind our efforts to fulfill the mandates of the Summits. Our Heads of State instructed us to draw up the Democratic Charter, and the institutions of the inter-American system were assigned a more prominent role.

The OAS and regional diplomacy have made huge strides toward adhering to the principle of the Charter regarding the will to achieve the peaceful settlement of disputes.

It is against that background that one must measure the success of the guarantor countries that facilitated the Declaration of Peace of Itamaraty and the Peru-Ecuador Peace Agreement; the Argentina-Chile Agreement on the Continental Ice Shelf or Ice Field; and the Treaty on the transfer of the Canal to Panama.

However, in 1999-2000 a series of still pending territorial disputes resurfaced. In the OAS, we welcomed the decision by the Governments of Honduras and Nicaragua to take their differendum to the International Court of Justice. We are pleased that we were able to contribute to the adoption of confidence-building measures that made it possible to address incidents in the disputed zone. We were also able to fulfill our responsibility, with the support of the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History, in connection with the demarcation of the land border between Honduras and El Salvador established in the judgment of the International Court of Justice.

With Guatemala and Belize we worked on a panel of facilitators to find a balanced, permanent agreement on their territorial differendum. We were assisted by Honduras as an interested third party. Currently we are working with the governments concerned on a transition arrangement.

The contributions of our member states and observer states were channeled through a Peace Fund established at the initiative of Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, who has worked on these issues with professional expertise and dedication.

Likewise, at the request of states, we carried out investigations to contribute to the peaceful settlement of disputes. On that basis, we conducted an investigation into the diversion of Nicaraguan weapons to Colombian paramilitary groups and another to determine the facts surrounding the events of February 12 and 13, 2003, when the army and the police clashed in Bolivia. Undoubtedly, the time has come for member states to consider institutionalizing the area of OAS activities dealing with dispute and conflict settlement. We delve further into this topic in our report on the past 10 years.

From each of the crises of the past decade, in which we acted promptly and diligently, we learned more about how to defend democracy.

In the 1990s, the threat posed by military coups waned and authoritarian leaders emerged as the principal risk to democracies. Perhaps the egregious example of this was Peru, which in 1992 began to consolidate an authoritarian regime that gradually began to sap the powers of the other branches of government and eliminated the checks and balances essential in a democracy. The absence of controls in turn generated a dangerous apparatus of corruption and abuse of authority.

The Paraguayan experience of 1996, when a military coup threatened the government of the day, taught us much about the potential for excellent coordination with the presidents and ministers of foreign affairs of MERCOSUR and with the United States. The heads of the armed forces in those countries also played a part in dissuading the rebels.

Subsequently, MERCOSUR was again to play a key role following the assassination of Vice President Argaña, when President Cubas and others had to step down and were offered asylum.

Here, in Ecuador, in 1997, we learned how a country’s leaders cannot lose all touch with citizens and how it is essential to practice transparency and accountability. All of us are duty-bound to defend democratic principles, but those who govern have to be worthy of their posts and sensitive to the concerns of citizens.

In the next incident in Ecuador, President Mahuad resigned amid protest marches that convinced him that his greatest contribution to social harmony would be to step down as Head of State. It took a vigorous response by the international community, led by the OAS, to prevent a de facto junta from seizing power and ensure that a successor was found in accordance with the Constitution.

Haiti has proved to be a particularly intractable case for the OAS. After several years of efforts, we feel a great sense of dissatisfaction. Since President Aristide’s return in 1994, there has never been genuine democratic coexistence in Haiti, nor full acceptance of the legitimacy of governments elected by the will of the people. Nor did efforts to combat backwardness and extreme poverty progress at the pace the international community hoped to see.

With Ambassador Einaudi, we did our best to find a solution to the grave political crisis triggered by the fraud associated with the parliamentary elections of May 2000. In July 2001, we found a formula for establishing an Electoral Council sufficiently representative of all sectors. That process was thwarted by some violent incidents occurring during that month.

Later on, after further serious acts of violence, we again had to put together a mission focusing on democracy, human rights, security, and the administration of justice. Given the outbreaks of violence in recent months, the CARICOM Plan could not be implemented as anticipated, even if some of the formulas it contained for forming a transitional government had been used. Amidst disagreements as to how to interpret what happened, we have tried to keep up our activities in coordination with the United Nations and to safeguard the work of our Mission, which plays a fundamental role in support of the Haitian people.

In Nicaragua, our Commission for Support and Verification (CIAV) mission contributed, in the course of its long stay, to the demobilization of the Contras and then, as part of the Truth Commission, played an outstanding part in the development of a culture of democracy and human rights.

In Guatemala, following the peace agreements, we have conducted a special support program for post-conflict reconstruction, an area in which the OAS has been acquiring valuable experience.

In Colombia, we are currently working on the process of verifying the demobilization of paramilitary groups and their reintegration into civilian life.

Our Unit for the Promotion of Democracy has striven, successfully, to raise funds among member and observer states to be used in strengthening political parties and congresses and to finance campaigns, decentralization, and citizen participation.

Of all the activities carried out by this Unit, undoubtedly the most important are the Electoral Observation Missions, which have made a substantial and growing contribution to the consolidation and defense of democracy in the Hemisphere.

Peru is a particularly notable case. Armed with a mandate from the General Assembly held in Windsor, Canada, and supported by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs of that time, we strove in 2000, in consultation with the Government, political groups, and civil society, to help restore Peru’s democratic institutions and constitutional order.

As for our observation mission during the so-called verification of signatures phase of the recall referendum process in Venezuela, last Thursday the authorities announced the preliminary results on the convening of recall referenda for congressional deputies and the President of the Republic. That marked a fundamental step toward compliance with the agreements of May 2003, facilitated by the OAS, the Carter Center, and the UNDP, which at that time had served to defuse political tensions. I would like to thank the people of Venezuela for their public spirit and democratic maturity.

It does the Government of President Chávez credit that in the midst of the current polarization in Venezuela it has kept to the course that led to application of Article 72 of the Constitution. The manner in which the President accepted the outcome means that there will now be a period of intense democratic competition and respect for the rule of law. I would like to thank the Coordinadora Democrática for the support and confidence extended.

The National Electoral Council acted at this stage diligently, transparently, and effectively. We must also point out that throughout this process we have benefited from outstanding cooperation with the Carter Center. My thanks also go out to the Group of Friends for their insight and steadfast support as well as the head of mission, Fernando Jaramillo, for his excellent work.

The proposal to draw up the Democratic Charter, which is a guide for our behavior, arose out of the Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, Canada. It reflects our vision, values, needs, and aspirations, as well as our collective will. An awareness has been created the world over of social justice, free and fair elections, respect for the separation of powers, the independence of the judicial system, and efforts to combat impunity, as well as the relentless attack on corruption and the search for transparency. The defense of freedom of the press and freedom of speech has been given new momentum, as has the growing presence of civil society with its contributions and its criticisms.

As never before in history, strong forces have emerged to combat discrimination and come to the defense of the rights of the most vulnerable, women, indigenous peoples, migrants, and children. Respect for the rights of each citizen of the Americas is incumbent on us all. The state’s shortcomings, particularly in the provision of public services, are problems of democracy. The Charter is a living and a fundamental document.

The inter-American human rights system is more active today than ever before. Today there is undoubtedly greater consensus among member states, better rules and regulations, broader grounds for admissibility, and more participation by civil society. Today the system is in a better position to cover more cases, expand the promotion of human rights, and strengthen investigation mechanisms. Clearly, national systems now play a more prominent part in the protection of human rights.

Friendly settlement is also becoming much more frequent. We have made progress toward establishing the financial, budgetary, and operational autonomy of the human rights system. There is now more access to inter-American case law. Much smoother relations have been established between the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Court. The Summits of the Americas have called upon all member states to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights and to accept the jurisdiction of the Court.

I believe the human rights system is now poised to take a qualitatively important step forward. However, for that to happen, it will be necessary to endow it with more resources, settle the universalization issue, afford citizens greater access to it, and decide whether our human rights organs can perform their work on a more permanent basis. It is my hope that the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be adopted promptly.

One clear achievement of the dialogue of ministers of labor during these past years has been to provide an appropriate definition of the social dimension of economic integration processes. An effort has been made to modernize labor ministries with respect to the fundamental rights of workers, labor courts, social dialogue, consensus-building, and collective bargaining.

As regards hemispheric security issues, we have moved toward a concept of security that places greater emphasis on nonmilitary risks, including, in the case of the Caribbean, natural phenomena and other factors that may jeopardize the survival of nations.

Establishment of the Committee on Hemispheric Security in 1995, the First Regional Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, in Chile, and the second one, in San Salvador, paved the way for the creation of instruments and activities that would allow for some predictability and transparency in the actions of states, their armies, and military forces. This was all supposed to lead to commencement of a process of arms control and disarmament.

The Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions and the CIFTA Convention on illicit trafficking in firearms were adopted as part of this process.

The mine-clearing activities in which we engaged in Central America and Ecuador are part of this effort. Recently, we initiated this process in Colombia. In the last two years, more than one million mines have been destroyed in furtherance of the mandates of the Ottawa Convention.

Adoption by the General Assembly of the Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere marked a significant step forward in unity and cooperation. Subsequently, CICAD undertook a multilateral intergovernmental evaluation of the countries’ anti-drug policies in an effort to assess individual and collective progress in the face of all manifestations of this problem.

Our meetings in Lima in 1997 and in Mar del Plata in 1999 enabled us to secure a multilateral framework to move ahead firmly and with resolve in the wake of the terrible terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. They constituted an unprecedented attack on our civilization, values, human rights, civil liberties, and principles of tolerance and pluralism that are common to us. CICTE and the Convention against Terrorism have enabled us to act resolutely and in unison.

The Special Conference on Security in Mexico adopted the multidimensional approach adopted in Barbados, one which recognizes that many of the new threats, concerns, and other challenges to hemispheric security are transnational in nature and require international cooperation. The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs has made significant contributions to the development of this security agenda.

The OAS-IDB-ECLAC committee has made it possible for us to work in creating the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Our role has been technical and not political.

A common language was created, databases were established and systematic comparisons made of questions to be resolved, and statistics and standards were compiled. As a result, the Foreign Trade Information System (SICE) was consolidated. The process of political negotiations could begin on the basis of the same reliable information, which was accepted and verified by all. Support has been provided to the negotiation groups, the ministerial meetings, business forums, and the academic community. Major support has also been given to the group on small economies.

We have played an important role in institution-building for negotiation purposes in the Hemisphere, including the Caribbean.

In drawing up the Democratic Charter, we found that many of the most serious challenges to democracy are related to problems in our political systems and deficiencies in the states’ performance of social functions.

But over and above these difficulties, for which we are largely responsible, in the past 10 years we have confronted new challenges, which to some degree are beyond our control. Here I am referring to the three major capital flight crises we experienced, which have resulted in extremely low growth rates, with backsliding in some countries, and enormous pressure on our political systems.

No political system is unscathed by increased inequality or setbacks in the fight against poverty.

Poverty, inequality, and social exclusion are therefore the most serious threats and the main challenges to democracy in the Hemisphere. By and large they stem from the weakness of government institutions and the poor quality of our policies.

The action we take in the area of education is very important. During this decade and this new period, the primary function of the OAS in education was not, nor should it be, to fund projects, but rather to serve as a forum for ministers to come to a consensus on educational priorities in the Hemisphere. We therefore hope to achieve three objectives: reducing poverty, reversing inequality, and preparing countries and their economies for globalization.

We must ensure that our educational systems neither maintain nor exacerbate inequality. Work is under way in the areas of evaluation, quality, equity, indicators, connectivity, management, decentralization, job skills, new technologies, horizontal cooperation, preschool education, and teacher training. In these endeavors, we will rely on our Unit for Social Development and Education.

The Meetings of Ministers of Justice or of Ministers or Attorneys General of the Americas have paid special attention to legal and judicial cooperation in combating transnational organized crime, terrorism, and cybercrime, as well as alternative means of settling disputes, and on penitentiary and prison policies.

We hail the proposal by the Government of Ecuador on the topic of social development, democracy, and the impact of corruption as the keynote theme for this Assembly. Corruption undermines the allocation of resources for development. Large quantities of resources earmarked for social issues have not reached their intended destination because of corruption.

Our groundbreaking Inter-American Convention against Corruption, adopted in Caracas in 1996, was the first of its kind and paved the way for the adoption of other international instruments. The Inter-American Juridical Committee demonstrated its creativity in developing original ideas. The Convention solves the problems of the right to asylum, bank secrecy, and extradition. Its thrust is not only punitive but preventive, so as to root out the causes of corruption and promote modernization of the state.

We have worked with the IDB and with Canadian and U.S. resources on its ratification and implementation. A follow-up mechanism was also adopted to promote its implementation. The topics of transparency, the fight against corruption, and accountability are critical to building robust democracies.

It was at the initiative of Bolivia that a Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development was held in 1996. In Santa Cruz we developed a regional approach to a large number of the commitments undertaken at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the Barbados meeting on small island states. In the area of sustainable development, cooperation measures were promoted with regard to development and maintenance of environmental management; creation of a network of environmental law; watersheds and border areas; sustainable tourism; renewable energy; disaster reduction in the Caribbean; integrated coastal management; and climate change. On some of these issues, we worked with the Caribbean Development Bank and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Moreover, as a result of OAS participation and its role in the Summits process, the Organization is now one of the institutions at the forefront of efforts to incorporate civil society participation.

We have turned to development cooperation to implement the new agenda emanating from the Summits and to help respond to the needs of ministerial meetings; we have introduced increased solidarity; we have tried to focus cooperation resources on countries in greatest need; and we have put together more regional projects. The Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) was set in motion.

In collaboration with the United States, we set up the Educational Portal and the Trust for the Americas. The Agency has made it possible to facilitate civil society participation in projects with a high social content. Canada has lent us a hand during this phase by providing fresh resources. Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile have also provided funds.

Throughout the decade, the Organization has had to operate within rigid financial constraints and limited human resources. We cut our regular staff by 22 percent. We adopted modernization programs to enhance our efficiency and output and we have installed a state-of-the-art financial management system. Personnel policy today is more flexible and competitive. In addition, the Organization’s main facilities have been completely revamped. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank each and every staff member of the Organization for his or her valuable contribution. Without their ongoing commitment, we would never have achieved the goals that we set for ourselves.

We have been very successful in raising funds for programs and projects, which last year exceeded our Regular Fund budget by $82 million. This, in comparison to the $14 million we raised in 1997. Payment arrears fell from $57 million to $10 million dollars, thanks to the collaboration of Brazil and the United States. Thus we improved the Organization’s reserves and liquidity but budgetary problems persist. A moderate increase in quotas has been proposed, which in our view is essential.

We are pleased with the report of the external auditors, who issued an unqualified assessment of the Organization’s financial statements. Thanks are due to the Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Affairs for their constant support, their dedication, and their sense of professionalism. Our thanks also to the Permanent Council, which has always enhanced and enriched our initiatives and has been the center of change within the OAS.

We have made our way through this decade imbued with a deep optimism about this stage of hemispheric relations. However, despite our considerable progress, we can say, without hesitation, that if the Hemisphere is to move forward, it requires multilateralism more than institutions.

We have to show our citizens that we are able to manage globalization and that we are not powerless in the face of its consequences, problems, or challenges. We require a system with greater solidarity and a sharper humanitarian focus. We have made strides with regard to political and security issues but not social issues. We must recognize that, with the exception of the IDB, our inter-American system is extremely small and chronically underfunded.

In concluding my term as OAS Secretary General, I wish to make an appeal for us to focus our energies not on examining the present but on looking toward the future. We have succeeded in shaping an Organization that is more relevant and universal in terms of its political objectives. Undoubtedly, the OAS has become an institution that provides balance to inter-American relations.

A long road still lies ahead if we are to make the Organization a reflection of the collective aspirations of our governments and our peoples. We have to chart a course that leads to environmental preservation, integration, peace, democracy, equality, justice, and freedom, in short, a course of solidarity, growth, and prosperity.

Thank you.