Media Center



March 15, 2006 - Washington, DC

Mr. Chairman of this the Thirty-second Special session of the General Assembly , Ministers, Ambassadors, Alternate representatives to the Organization of American States (OAS), Chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board, members of the Defense Board, observers, guests,

Three years ago, my delegation stated, “The OAS cannot support an Inter-American Defense Board that is not comprised of all OAS members and responsive to their needs.” Today, I am proud that we have strengthened the Inter-American system by establishing the Inter-American Defense Board as an entity of the OAS. Now, the Inter-American Defense Board and the Inter-American Defense College will be able to respond to the needs of each of our member states and provide the expertise needed by all of our states in facing the challenges of the 21st century.

I am also proud the U.S. and other states around this table will take leadership roles in these hemispheric institutions to ensure the success of them. I am proud my nation will host the College -- an institution central to the development of our officers and civilian officials today and in the future.

Mr. Chair,

Our presidents and leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile charged the Organization of American States with revitalizing and strengthening the institutions of the Inter-American system related to hemispheric security. On October 28, 2003, in Mexico City, at the Summit-mandated Conference on Security, our states succeeded in issuing the “Declaration on Security in the Americas.”

That consensus document complements our already dynamic security architecture. It provided us with a practical guide for resolving interstate border tensions, lowering pressure for arms spending, promoting democratic norms, and fostering a climate of confidence, trust, transparency, and cooperation in our Hemisphere.

The Declaration also set our course to clarify the juridical and institutional relationship between the Inter-American Defense Board and the OAS. It was recognized that both the Board and the College needed to be modernized and integrated in order for both organizations to contribute to security of the hemisphere.

Today, again in a consensus manner with the adoption of the new statutes of the Board, we have succeeded in meeting a key commitment of the Declaration on Security in the Americas.

Mr. Chair,

The Inter-American Defense College has been and is an integral component of our Inter-American hemispheric security architecture. It bolsters security and democracy by bringing together experts and practitioners from throughout the Hemisphere to hone their professional capabilities and contemplate the challenges that face our nations. Over 2,100 students have graduated from the College. Just days ago, one alumna was inaugurated as the new President of Chile.

In recent years, the College has expanded both its curriculum and student body to respond to the new realities of the hemisphere. I hope in the future the Inter-American Defense College will continue to expand and be a center for learning for a new generation of leaders. With our mutual support, the College will be even more integral to the Inter-American security architecture.

Mr. Chair,

The Inter-American Defense Board was created in 1942 by the then “Foreign Ministers of 21 states of the hemisphere” in the midst of World War II. It is the oldest defense organization in the world. Today, by the agreement of “34 democratic states of the hemisphere, the Board will embark on an important transformation in terms of leadership, participation and activities. This change will not only modernize the IADB but ensure the institution is relevant to our states. The advice and expertise provided by the Board and its staff to the OAS, member states and other Inter-American bodies is invaluable and unique. In the past, despite the growing need for expert counsel, the OAS and other Inter-American bodies did not made adequate use of the Board. Today, we have dramatically and positively changed that dynamic.

As our elected democratic leaders contemplate how to marshal their resources to confront threats, the IADB and IADC will be able to help them study the pressing issues of the day and make better-informed, well-considered decisions. The OAS and its member states need this expertise if we are to effectively respond to the threats of the 21st century.

I am confident that the IADB and IADC technical, advisory, and educational expertise on matters related to military and defense issues will prove invaluable to member states, and particularly to the smaller member states. Our work here at the OAS is not complete, however, without giving the IADB and IADC the tools they need to complete their mission. Today our accomplishment must be built upon. Let me offer several areas where actions by us are essential to continue the momentum established by the adoption of the Declaration on Security in the Americas and the new statutes of the Inter-American Defense Board.

The IADB was established at a time when many of the member states around this table were not independent, sovereign states. To date, 26 OAS member states have joined the IADB and 23 OAS member states have sent students to the IADC. I encourage the remaining eight states to join the IADB. I also encourage all of our states to seek to send at least one candidate or more a year to the IADC. Such a commitment not only would benefit each of our nations but it would also foster greater trust and understanding among our states.

Second, we must send our best and brightest officers and civilian officials to the IADB and IADC. Such a commitment by our states will ensure that a request for expertise and assistance will be met with the best knowledge and skill that our community of democratic states has to offer.

Third, we must provide the IADB with the resources it requires to succeed. The current contribution from the OAS regular fund of $1.4 million will not go far. Just as we have transformed the IADB and IADC we must approach these institutions in a new way. As the new statutes provide, I encourage you to consider ways of providing meaningful voluntary financial, personnel and technical contributions. With this assistance the IADB and IADC can succeed in their mission.

Finally, in the past, the OAS and other Inter-American bodies did not make adequate use of the Board. The OAS’s reluctance to task the Board was due to political and institutional prejudices that went unchallenged within the Inter-American system. With the new relationship being forged today, it is time for us to adopt a new attitude towards the Board and reap the benefits of its expertise.

Mr., Chair,

I would like to close my remarks with a rarely cited quote:

“The new situation in the world makes more imperative than ever the union and solidarity of the American peoples, for the defense of their rights and the maintenance of international peace.”

This assertion was the product of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, held in Mexico City in 1945 – the so-called Chapultepec Conference. The statement is just as relevant today as it was over a half-century ago, because it describes the new and dynamic security environment with which we are confronted in the 21st century.

Mr. Chair, the United States firmly believes in the OAS and its organs, agencies and entities, as it did when the OAS – this hemisphere’s premier regional organization – began its post-World War II existence. Today, in the face of both old and new challenges to hemispheric peace and security, we are committed to multilateralism – but relevant multilateralism - as we seek to address in common the challenges of the 21st Century.

Today, Mr. Chair, we have accomplished a key institutional objective and change called for in the Declaration on Security in the Americas. Today, the new IADB becomes a renewed instrument of relevant multilateralism. Today, the IADB is part of our house of the Americas, fortifying our ability to fulfill one of the purposes of this Organization as stated in its Charter of 1948: to strengthen the peace and security of the continent.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.