Media Center



February 1, 2005 - Washington, DC

Translation provided by the Permanent Mission of Chile to the OAS.

President of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, Permanent Representative of Paraguay, Ambassador Manuel María Cáceres.

Acting Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi R. Einaudi.

Permanent and Alternate Representatives of the Member States of the OAS.

Permanent Observers before the OAS,

Distinguished guests, officials of the organization and members of the press.

I come to this Permanent Council to state, before the ambassadors representing the member States, my proposals for the future of the Organization of American States, the central political institution of our Inter-American system.

I do this with the full backing of my government and of all the representative forces of my country, who have openly declared their support of our decision to assume the responsibilities and obligations of our common hemispheric work.

I am honored by the presence in this Council of the President of the Chilean Senate, Senator Hernán Larraín, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Deputy Gabriel Ascencio and of the Vice President of the Senate, Senator Jaime Gazmuri. They are the principal leaders of the Chilean Congress and represent the government’s political parties as well as the opposition’s.

This election is an extraordinary event that none of us could have wished for. Less than a year ago the General Assembly elected, unanimously, a Secretary General whose term was brought to an early end.

This unfortunate situation has had an objective and subjective impact within the Organization, one that can only be repaired through a new election, one that is open and transparent, and that also coincides with the end of the mandate of the Assistant Secretary General, creating the scene for an unprecedented renewal.

We have then, the possibility of making from this crisis an opportunity, in so far as we have a broad debate about the present and the future of the OAS, to forge a consensus that allows us to overcome a mistaken sensation of irrelevance, which causes harm to our hemispheric effort.

Chile attributes to the OAS a central importance in promoting the shared principles and values of our societies. We live in a globalized world that requires institutions, rules and regulations to generate the conditions for co-existing in prosperity and stability. Therein lies the value we assign to multilateralism as a legitimate and inclusive mechanism that is able to guide an organizing process that must bear the seal of cooperation.

The OAS has a key function to play in this context, to project the regional perspective in an integrated, cooperative and transparent international system. We make up a region with a noteworthy ethnic and cultural diversity that we must be able to reflect creatively in our action.

Our System has the institutional capacity necessary for this work. The Summits of the Americas have made up a fundamental space for defining the Inter-American agenda and positioning the Hemisphere in the world. They have guided the OAS’ work.

The General Assembly brings together our Ministers of Foreign Relations to review that agenda and to specify the priorities for our work.

This Council is a permanent, high-level body of the first order that should allow for an effective, collective leadership.

We also have other hemispheric organizations – the IDB, PAHO, IICA, ECLAC, among others – with whom we should strengthen coordination to configure effectively a true Inter-American System that serves the interests of our peoples.

We also have, and this is a fundamentally positive development, growing organization in the sub-regions that make up the reality of our continent: CARICOM and the Central American Integrated System, MERCOSUR, the Community of Andean Nations and the recently created South American Community, which should allow for better coordination among the different economic, political and cultural realities that make up our hemisphere.

We have available a significant body of judicial, political and technical tools to approach, using a regional perspective, the main challenges of the contemporary agenda.

We have definitively made important efforts to contribute to regional stability and governance, configuring an Inter-American System that is complex and integrated, and that requires political leadership.

Our concern is to grant the Organization the necessary strength to allow for an efficient use of these instruments and the proper compliance with its mandates. It is up to all of us, member States and the Secretariat, to make the OAS the organization that the region requires in this globalized world.

To achieve that, it is necessary to prioritize and focus our work on the basis of the great principles which we share: the consolidation of a democratic culture and the reinforcement of governance; the promotion and protection of human, civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights; integral development and multidimensional security.

This common work continues to make sense, to the extent that we are capable of giving them new content, in agreement with the new realities, problems and challenges that we face today. Sometimes we have defined our agenda with issues that are not urgent for our peoples. We must continue to prioritize democracy, human rights, security and development. We need to understand these challenges in the new regional and global reality and to approach the concrete problems that our people have suffered for decades and that we have not solved in an effective manner.

The future of the Organization is the responsibility of us all. The direction of the OAS belongs to the General Assembly and to this Council; that direction is in its essence collective and that is how we should conceive it and practice it. To this effect we must incorporate the perspectives of the different sub-regions, enriching their political dialogue and the exchange of points of view in an effort to configure a focused agenda.

This is how I understand supportive and inclusive leadership that represents the political and geographical balances in the region.

Democracy and Governance

The Inter-American Democratic Charter, was signed in Lima on September 11, 2001. This was the culmination of the process of defining democracy as the form of governance in the region and the central axis of coexistence.

This process starts from the great achievements of peacemaking and democratization of the region beginning in the last decades of the last century. Democracy spread rapidly through Latin America, strengthened by the entrance to our System of the countries of the Caribbean and Canada, where, happily, democracy was already a form of government that was historically consolidated.

The beginning of the third millennium finds us in a situation which makes us proud: all the states represented in the Organization have democratically elected governments.

Certainly, this general situation is nuanced and is not without difficulties. It is a fact that in recent years -the clearest case is Haiti- democracy has been subjected to harsh trials.

The Haitian crisis poses a special challenge for the international and hemispheric communities: to work together to give back to the Haitian people the hope for a dignified future in peace.

The active participation of the countries of the region in the Peace-keeping Mission of the United Nations reflects the political will for cooperation, with a long term vision, in the reconstruction of the country.

We must not forget the work of the OAS in Haiti, where Secretary General Luigi Einaudi’s indefatigable labors have been of enormous importance.

The OAS is the regional organization and, as such, it must assume greater responsibilities. I will work with the United Nations to ensure that our organization fulfills that role.

We must work together to validate fully the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, without hesitating to apply them, with justice and confidence, when it becomes necessary.

We must continuously strengthen transparency and representation in our electoral systems, to extend to all the value of liberty, the government of majorities, the respect for human rights, and the political participation by minorities.

The OAS must have the ability to face critical situations and to aid in overcoming them. But, and above all, it must adequately identify the factors that fundamentally weaken democracy and to anticipate the causes of crises and to approaching them more effectively.

Generally, our democracies do not face anymore crises derived from the ideological confrontations or the military usurpations that occurred in the Cold War years. The risks of the antidemocratic adventures do exist, but the fundamental conflicts lay in older political, economic and social phenomena that we have not yet been able to overcome and that, in some cases, have worsened.

The dangers for democracy arise when citizens cease to believe that this system, which they have fought for and in which they have placed all their hopes, can solve their problems.

Latinobarómetro published a poll in August 2004, which was widely disseminated in the region, that gives an account of the deterioration of support for democracy in the countries of Latin America. Acknowledging that there are great differences by country, there is a majority that say that democracy is the best form of government. But in this framework, many voice their discontent with democracy and believe that it does not improve their condition and there are even those, and they are not few, who are willing to exchange degrees of democracy for better solutions to their problems.

The meaning is clear: the Achilles heel of democracy lies in governance.

The OAS should remain vigilant before any attempt to subvert or overthrow the democratic order in any of its member states. But it should emphasize the creation and strengthening of solid and responsible institutions, free of corruption and able to approach people’s real problems. If it does not, we will continue to go from crisis to crisis without ever dealing with the fundamental threats, while maintaining the structural weaknesses that make us vulnerable to populism, authoritarianism and to the indifference of the citizenship.

It is fundamental that the OAS be able to lend its help in the prevention of the emergence of political, economic and social crises to any members that require it. The promotion of a timely and effective application of the mechanisms and principles consecrated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter obligates us to cooperate, in a permanent manner, with member states undertaking the development of strong and participatory democratic institutions.

We must reinforce the follow-up and multilateral evaluation mechanisms in the fields that have a direct relationship with the fundamentals of governance. In this context, we will strengthen the work carried out in the framework of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

It is necessary for us to cooperate in the application of the recommendations of that convention with the goal that member states harmonize their laws and establish good practices in such important issues as public contracts and government procurements, the influence of private moneys in politics, the behavior of lobbies, the financial statements of officials, the formation of effective police forces, etc.

Democratic institutions must be strengthened and given credibility. In order for this to be achieved it is necessary to develop autonomous judicial systems that grant real and timely access to citizens when their rights are violated, making the principles of equality and transparency a reality. For this reason we will strengthen the work of The Justice Studies Center of the Americas, whose objectives are to support the states of the region in the reform of their judicial systems and to contribute to the improvement of the human resources for the administration of justice.

Inter-American Human Rights System

The Inter-American Human Rights System is one of the Organization’s greatest achievements. As a Chilean, I have witnessed the role that the System played in the reestablishment of democracy in my country.

The work of defending victims of violations of human rights has been significant. We should give equal relevance to prevention, all of this within a framework of adequate financing.

To achieve an even greater understanding of the protection of fundamental rights, we will contribute to the constructive dialogue between the Commission and the Court and the judicial powers of the Member States with the goal of allowing for joint action in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The negotiations for an American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are also of great importance. This is a process that we must support effectively.

It is also necessary to approach the issue of migration from the perspective of human rights through the harmonization of the public policies of the States for the protection of these workers and their families. To accomplish this, we must put in motion the Inter-American Program for the Promotion and Protection of the Human Rights of Migrants.

Multidimensional Security

The security situation that we face in the hemisphere has changed. We face multidimensional challenges like terrorism, growing delinquency and gangs in the cities, organized transnational crime, natural disasters, climate change, AIDS and other infectious diseases.

We must improve the existent regional mechanisms such as the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) and the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE), the expert groups on cyber-crime, money laundering and corruption and must increase our levels of agreement and cooperation.

Our countries face, in differing degrees of seriousness, the problems created by the rise in crime, gang activity and violence among youth, especially in the cities.

The collective effort can go much farther. We must promote substantial cooperation in crime prevention by contributing the capacity of those countries that have the best practices in this field through personnel training, technical cooperation in police reform efforts and fighting corruption.

At the same time, it is possible to design cooperative programs with countries that have already made successful strides in organizing their citizenship to fight crime. My country has had a good many experiences of cooperation in the hemisphere in police training and technical consulting. We are sure that this effort, if made multilaterally, can be made even more effective.

I come from a country that has known the force of natural disasters. Earthquakes and tsunamis are not unknown to us, just as hurricanes and floods are not unknown to others. Unfortunately, it is only when a catastrophe happens that we begin to examine the way in which we can help one other and many times that assistance is tardy and insufficient.

In this field, we must revitalize the Inter-American Emergency Situations Assistance Fund. The good functioning of this Fund is critical to continue to support the governments in the drafting of preventive strategies, including the reinforcement of human and institutional capacities, such as the prompt mobilization of help to those affected, with special focus on the countries that are smaller and more vulnerable to these phenomena.

Our work in the OAS must integrate a permanent effort at disaster prevention and the mitigation of their impact.

We admire the progress made by medical science in the United States such as the one that has allowed the announcement, just this week, that AIDS in newborns has been reduced to minimum levels. We must make efforts, along with those of the PAHO, to achieve these gains for all the members of our system.

Development and Cooperation

It is imperative for the OAS to be attuned to the gravity that the social threats represent for the Inter-American Community. Its leadership should have as a guiding priority assisting the members whose economies are smaller, less developed and that make up more than half the membership.

The OAS must reinforce its coordination with specialized international organizations, the private sector and the international community to face the most urgent issues of social development.

The negotiation of a Social Charter of the Americas and a Plan of Action gives us an opportunity to move ahead in the definition of institutional proposals.

We must prioritize the areas of cooperation where the OAS has comparative advantages and can carry out work effectively in close coordination with other global and regional multilateral agencies.

The Summit of the Americas in Argentina next November, whose central theme will be job creation to strengthen democracy and reduce poverty, gives us an opportunity to do so.
The educational factor is key in this matter. Recent studies reveal a widening gap between Latin America and the Caribbean and the developed world. In the knowledge age, it will be difficult for our poor to lift themselves out of poverty and to close the social gap without the adequate development of their educational systems.

It is not enough to spend more money on education. It is also necessary to use the resources assigned to education more efficiently. We must strengthen the scholarship program for pre- and post- graduate work and better train our teachers, who are key to the education of our children.

The OAS must promote meetings between the smaller and less advanced economies with donors to support specific projects of interest in the sub-regions, that include the priority areas.
We must seek ways to coordinate in the sphere of regional application of the Barbados Plan of Action, and of the initiatives agreed upon recently in Mauritius during the Conference on the economies of the Small Island Developing States.

Within the framework of a medium-term development strategy, we will work in the design of a Program for the Support of Exports from the Small Economies and their adequate financing. It is also indispensable to restore the priority of tourism as a tool for development for many countries of the region.

In the field of trade negotiations, we must give a greater impulse to develop the negotiating capacities of the smaller and most vulnerable economies.

The Potential of the Regional Organizations

An effective multilateral system requires a coordinated and complementary relationship between the global System and the regional organizations.

In this context, the OAS is called to contribute in a significant way to the achievement of the shared values and principles of peace, security and hemispheric development. The Organization has the advantage of proximity and a more complete knowledge of the realities of the region. In addition, we must make a contribution from our regional perspective to the drafting of global norms. This work must be carried out in the widest and most participatory consultation process.

Institutional Reforms

I must acknowledge the collaboration and efforts of all the officials of the Organization in carrying out its busy agenda.

We want a more efficient, transparent and participatory OAS, one that duly reflects the priorities and sensibilities of all. To achieve this goal, we must continue the process of modernization, ensuring inclusion and making certain that our regional policies incorporate, where appropriate, the sub-regional and national factors. I will undertake wide consultations to gather the concerns and suggestions of all in order to move forward in this process.

The OAS depends on its member states for its financing. Their contributions form the basis of its budget and general decisions about its allocations must be approved by them.
I will dedicate my efforts to make clear to our contributors that their support adds value to our daily hemispheric work, and that each one of them benefits in a greater measure than the value of their contribution. I am sure that this exercise will stimulate countries to comply in a timely fashion with their obligations.

We must also review whether the contributions are commensurate with our mandates and established priorities. If we become convinced that they are not, the contribution levels must be revised. I note, with satisfaction, the fact that this topic is already one of the priorities agreed upon by a growing number of countries.

Additionally, I will seek the support of the international community, particularly that of our Permanent Observers and sister agencies, as well as from private sources interested in the life of the institution and its impact on the hemisphere. I will not only request their funds, but I will create opportunities for their active participation in projects that will benefit from their specialized knowledge and experiences.

At the same time, it is indispensable to infuse a greater dynamism in the relationship between political and financial institutions, strengthening the mechanisms for cooperation such as the Technical Secretariat of FTAA (ECLAC-IDB-OAS) and the Inter-Agency group that provides support for the Summits process.

The promotion of equity and gender equality will be priority objectives during my term as Secretary General. We will continue working to identify and to eliminate the obstacles which impede the full participation of women in the development of our societies. We will increase our efforts to make sure that women are represented, equitably and at all levels in every organization, body and entity of the OAS.

I will concern myself with implementing and deepening the participation of civil society in the work of the OAS as was formalized in the last General Assembly in Quito and the Special Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, in January, 2004.


An effective OAS, one that can serve the member States and the societies that they represent, must have a clear connection among its political, judicial, human rights and development components.

This requires from us all, Member States and the Secretariat, the obligation to approach pragmatically the circumstances and realities of the region. In this context it is indispensable to deepen the convergence between the Organization and the Summits of the Americas Process.

An OAS with a strengthened political leadership should have the capacity to contribute to the direction of the implementation process of the mandates of the Summits. It is difficult to conceive leadership in any other way.

The multilateral system, including the United Nations, faces the challenge of renewal. The OAS has the responsibility of projecting the Inter-American perspective to achieve a genuine integrated, effective and legitimate multilateralism.

Our Organization is going through a complex moment. It is difficult to conceive of its repositioning, its revitalization and modernization without the active political support of its member countries. This Permanent Council must be a privileged forum for dialogue between the Member States and the General Secretariat to adequately prioritize the main political, institutional and social demands of the hemisphere.

Our rich cultural and social diversity must become, at once, the central challenge and the basis for building a future where all of us have the opportunity to develop our life projects.

I come from a country that is open to the world, that values multilateralism as a strategic option to generate the conditions for the stability that nations require for their political, economic, social and cultural development in the XXI Century.

My history of public service has given me the opportunities to actively participate in the drafting of the basic consensus for the reestablishment and consolidation of democracy in Chile, which has been fundamental in reaching significant political, economic and social achievements during the last fifteen years.

It was my duty to organize the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago in 1998 and to preside over the planning process. It was a most productive dialogue. I also headed the Chilean delegation to the OAS General Assembly for five years.

Today, I hope to share this experience with an Organization that is called to leadership in the achievement of common values in the hemisphere and in the negotiation of the norms to organize the world of the future.

This is a political task of the greatest magnitude. We are convinced that the OAS can make a significant difference in its success.

It is in this spirit that Chile has proposed my name to lead this Organization, and it is in this same spirit that I ask for your support.