Media Center



January 8, 2009 - Washington, DC

Mr. Secretary General,

Permanent Representatives,

Ambassador of Brazil to the United States of America,

Mr. Assistant Secretary General,

Secretaries and other members of the Secretariat,

Ladies and Gentlemen, my friends,

I am deeply honored and gratified on this occasion to assume, on behalf of Brazil, the Chair of the Permanent Council, a body of the Organization of American States that, in the framework of the mandates issued by the General Assembly, plays a fundamental role in developing and implementing the inter-American political agenda and inter-American cooperation.

Our region has recently been the scene of important events in the area of political renovation. It has seen, in this context, a proliferation of initiatives of political coordination and cooperation, in different settings and of different types. The OAS must be an important part of this process. It must endeavor to renovate itself and demonstrate that it is capable of meeting the challenges of changing realities and prevailing aspirations in our region. This includes, among other things, challenges to develop a positive program, enrich the democratic agenda by adding a social component, and convert the Organization once again into an effective forum representing all countries of the Hemisphere.

In the first half of 2009, a series of events of considerable importance to the Organization will take place, among them the Fifth Summit of the Americas, in Trinidad and Tobago, in April, and the thirty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, in Honduras, in June. We must tackle the corresponding negotiations diligently and with a clear sense of our objectives. It is essential to set priorities for our activities and to endeavor to focus on truly relevant subject areas and decisions, avoiding a scattering of efforts and a multiplication of bureaucratic initiatives. Quantity does not guarantee that we will have quality. On the contrary, it can lead us to irrelevance.

The Organization has brought numerous and significant benefits to the region. The Organization’s founding Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter reflect a consensus among the member states on principles, purposes, and norms for coexistence, whose value is unquestionable and whose effectiveness has been outstanding and long-lasting. The Organization’s legal legacy is irreplaceable and has served as a benchmark and a mainstay of deliberations and decisions in other forums. In practice, it has contributed to the consolidation of democratic institutions and to respect for sovereignty, self-determination, and noninterference, as well as to the promotion of numerous, diverse cooperation initiatives and to the resolution or mitigation of bilateral problems and the easing of tensions within member states. Without trying to be exhaustive, I would also like to refer to the special role played by the OAS in electoral observation missions and in the promotion and protection of human rights–essential spheres of action for strengthening democratic societies.

The democratic ideal is flourishing and gaining in strength in the Hemisphere. The democratic institutional system, which must continue to be preserved and strengthened, necessarily entails the promotion of greater inclusion and social justice. This is an essential condition for the full implementation of democracy. For that reason, social topics take on a special meaning on the Organization’s agenda, in harmony with today’s prevailing political trends and the legitimate aspirations of our societies.

In this connection, allow me to highlight two instruments currently under negotiation that deserve our priority attention. I am referring to the Social Charter of the Americas and the Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. The first will complement and expand the values and principles affirmed in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The purpose of the second is to create a culture of inclusion, equality, and tolerance among our peoples, with the establishment of common parameters for stronger measures to prevent and fight all forms of discrimination in the Hemisphere. A focus on social topics and an increase in partnership for development will also help strengthen security in the region, in a multidimensional sense, as embodied in the Declaration of Bridgetown in 2002, and reinforced in the Declaration on Security in the Americas the following year.

The recent news that the Organization, in the pursuit of its objectives, will continue to benefit from the firm and clearheaded leadership of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza was heartening. His decision to remain at the helm of the General Secretariat will enable the Organization to continue revitalizing and revamping itself and playing a significant role in inter-American coexistence. In addition, I consider it especially meaningful that I am taking over the reins from my friend Ambassador Reynaldo Cuadros Anaya, Permanent Representative of Bolivia, whose term was marked by principles of humanity and solidarity, appreciated by us all. I wish him every professional success and personal happiness in this new stage.

As Permanent Council Chair, I intend to be open to dialogue at all times and to strive to benefit from the contributions and suggestions of all the permanent representatives. I thank them for their presence and I thank all of the friends who are with us today. Mr. Secretary General, you may also be assured of my unconditional support in furthering the agenda of the Organization.

Thank you very much.