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March 15, 2006 - Washington, DC

Madam Chair of the Permanent Council,
His Excellency José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General,
His Excellency Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General,
Distinguished Permanent and Alternate Representatives,
Distinguished Permanent Observers,

Today as I speak to the Honorable Permanent Council, I want to fulfill, on behalf of the Dominican Republic, two duties that fall to my country as host of the thirty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly.

First, I want to deliver formally, for discussion and approval, the Draft Declaration by which the Dominican Government hopes this event will be remembered.

Second, I want to share with you the thoughts and motivations of a political, economic, social, and strategic nature that led to the choice of “governance and development in the knowledge society” as the theme of this declaration.

However, before all else, I want to express the gratitude of the Dominican foreign ministry for the cooperation we have received from all the distinguished staff of this Organization and from the Information Technology for Development Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.

In choosing the central theme for the Assembly session, we looked back at initiatives to which our nations had committed themselves over a decade ago, such as those undertaken by our heads of state, at the Summit of the Americas held in Miami in 1994, to “ensuring universal service, so that the benefits of the information infrastructure will be available to all members of our societies.”

At the same Summit, the heads of state committed to ensuring, through the electronic media, greater public access to information generated by governments. They also mandated studies on the availability of and interconnection with international networks that facilitate commerce, improve education, and increase access to health care.

Those commitments, which have evolved into what is known as e-government today, by fostering transparency in government administration and by facilitating, expanding, and modernizing vital public services, will be instrumental in guaranteeing development, governance, and the institutional structure.

The Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City in 2001, produced a Plan of Action for the Connectivity Agenda for the Americas. That document made clear that the purpose of bringing our countries into the information society is to stimulate socioeconomic development, improve the quality of life of our citizens, and narrow the gap among nations and among rural and urban populations.

Three years later, at the Special Summit of the Americas held in Monterrey, Mexico, our heads of state and government again emphasized that information and telecommunications should be placed at the service of progress, social inclusiveness, and poverty reduction, in a context of balanced economic and social development.

These objectives are consistent with the knowledge-based economy that reflects the capacity to add value to local resources, processes, products, and services to create wealth in an efficient, sustainable manner and to distribute it more equitably.

Even so, some believe that countries like ours, whose human development indicators are not always encouraging, should not devote efforts and resources to developing information and telecommunications technologies, but should focus their budgetary spending on health services, education, job generation, and water and energy supply.

The question, however, is not whether to favor one approach to the detriment of the other. Information and telecommunications technologies can be put to work on behalf of development. They are proving to be powerful tools for improving education, health, living standards, well-being, safety, and public service administration.

Wherever you look, the world over, you will find that the nations that show remarkable development and surprising growth in social equality are those that have chosen knowledge-based industry as the driving force of their economies.

Although the very concept of the knowledge society is in constant flux, its most salient characteristics continue to be the translation of knowledge into a critical factor in development and the strengthening of learning processes to ensure the dissemination and productive use of knowledge.

In the past, when economists and government strategists thought about economic development, they started with an inventory of natural resources then made projections of their commercial use and industrial transformation.

Nations that occupied small territories, with small populations and scarce natural resources–resources defined as arable land and minerals–were considered disadvantaged, because that scarcity was assessed as a limitation, one that was nearly always insurmountable.

Over time, nations with those characteristics began to disprove those old paradigms, employing as their resource the value added in transforming natural resources acquired in other countries. These approaches became so noteworthy that no one could help but look in their direction, study them, and learn the lessons they offered.

Because of this chain of events—one of the most instructive in recent world history—no one still doubts that, from here on in, a nation’s wealth will be defined and evaluated in terms of its knowledge, the training of its human capital, the capabilities of its inhabitants.

At this moment, the accelerated evolution of information technology and its vast potential for application in society is making globalization an inescapable reality. At first, globalization was seen as an essentially economic, commercial, or financial phenomenon; now we know it will touch all relationships between humans, nations, and institutions.
Informatics, microelectronics, data processing, and telecommunications are turning the idea of the world as a global village into a fact we must take into account in our ordinary activities, no matter where on the planet we live.

These technologies will ensure the public sector the modernization our people demand; they will make our democratic regimes truly participatory; they will guarantee greater social equity and the development of our nations’ full human capital potential.

These technologies are accelerating economic development and competitiveness. As tools for standardized monitoring and early warning systems, they have facilitated responses to emergencies, demonstrating immeasurable effectiveness in natural disaster situations.

These technologies will give our societies their best opportunity ever to guarantee the democratization of knowledge, to disseminate and share it, so that every people, every institution, even every person can use it to develop potential and improve overall living standards.

Already possessing appropriate technologies, the knowledge society must move forward to universal networks and connections.

Creating networks to connect learning centers, science centers, libraries, historical archives, museums, cultural centers. Creating networks to connect hospitals, to connect all government departments.

Creating technology networks to connect peoples, to help remove the barriers and difficulties they face. Networks that open up new possibilities for all our peoples, regardless of where they live or how much they earn.

Viewing the process from the Latin American perspective, we can see that expanding a knowledge-based economy will help to reduce the high costs of transactions in the region and thus stimulate economic growth, generate employment, and promote international trade.

Right now our nations are developing transformation processes, using the expansion of the knowledge economy as a vehicle for development; but the depth of the challenges they face means taking those efforts to another level.

This process could benefit from a new political boost at the regional level from the Organization of American States, which is what we propose in our Draft Declaration.

Our region needs to overcome the lack of appropriate mechanisms and processes, with authority, and with an integrated knowledge-economy approach to formulating, managing, monitoring, and evaluating its contribution to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction with equity.

We believe this is a propitious time to strengthen our nations’ efforts in this regard, as a means of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and repositioning the region in the global environment.

The Government of the Dominican Republic acts in the conviction that the knowledge society is a platform guaranteeing development, democracy, transparency, and governance.

We have decided to make it the basis of the Draft Declaration of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States at it thirty-sixth regular session, because we believe the knowledge society will soon evolve from priority to strategic imperative for our nations.

In the Dominican Republic, we have done the preparatory work for the General Assembly session. The committees and work plans have been prepared. We await you with enthusiasm and open arms, ready to greet you with a warm and infectiously cheerful embrace at Casa de Campo.

Thank you very much.