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Distinguished Ministers, Mr. Secretary General, Heads of delegation, Ambassadors, Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Norway is proud to have been among the two biggest contributors among the observer states to the OAS over the last five years. A great deal of our engagement in Latin-America is channelled through this organisation.

Norway decided six months ago to provide the OAS verification mission for demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of the paramilitary forces in Colombia with up to USD 300 000. The OAS mission is now entering a new and crucial phase of the verification of Colombia’s implementation of the Peace and Justice Law. Norway is looking forward to cooperate with the OAS on this very important task. The emphasis of our support will be on the human rights aspects of the reintegration of paramilitary soldiers, and with a particular focus on women in this process.

In 2005 Norway contributed to programs for conflict resolution, political management and demining in Guatemala. In the period 2002–2008 we expect to have channelled around 5 million dollars through OAS projects in that country.

Norway would like to emphasise the importance of the various OAS electoral observer missions to its Member States. The last six months Norway has supported OAS missions both to Venezuela and Peru. It is a pleasure to announce that Norway will also provide a financial contribution to the OAS monitoring of the elections in Nicaragua. Norway has also supported the Nicaraguan NGO “Etica y Transparencia” with approximately 400 000 dollar for its program “Electoral Observation and Civic Campaign 2006”.

International observation based upon international rules and procedures contribute to ensuring free and fair elections. The OAS should have a standing invitation from all its member states to observe their electoral processes.

The recent and successful elections in Haiti have presented a window of opportunity to strengthen democracy, security and welfare for its people. Norway will continue its engagement for political dialogue, reconciliation and peace on Haiti. Our main contribution in this regard goes to the Institute for Political and Social Studies – the ISPOS centre – that is sponsored by Norway, but run by Haitians.

During the last year the ISPOS institute has put in place valuable political instruments. One was the Code of Conduct for the elections that almost 30 political parties adhered to. Another is the Convention for the Political Parties that creates a common organizational platform for promoting common standards for the political parties. This Convention has worked out a Governability Pact under which the parties undertake to carry out political dialogue between the government and the opposition and to respect the rule of law and democratic elections. The international community should use these documents as a basis for encouraging the political forces to abide by the rules they have committed themselves to respect.

Norway will continue to assist in promoting dialogue between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Last month, Norway supported a seminar in Santo Domingo arranged by churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic where representatives from the two countries’ authorities, churches, civil society and press participated. We hope such arrangements will contribute to dialogue and reconciliation between these two interdependent neighbours.

The opportunity to follow the discussions during the General Assembly of the OAS provides the observer states with a first hand impression of the trends and winds that are blowing across the continent. I look very much forward to following the debates inside as well as outside the conference rooms in the days to come here in Santo Domingo.

Thank you for your attention