Media Center



September 22, 2009 - Washington, DC

Thank you very much and please, first allow me to present my excuses, Secretary Clinton, President Bachelet, Mayor Bloomberg, for my delay in arriving here but as you know something happened yesterday in Honduras that did not permit me to come last night to New York.

I wanted very much to be here because this is one of the most important initiatives resulted from our Fifth Summit of the Americas that took place in Trinidad and Tobago in April this year, and during which our Heads of State and Government underscored the urgent need to reduce social disparities and inequalities and recognized the value of networking to share information on effective policies and problems. It was originally an initiative of the OAS and the Ministry of Social Development of Chile a year ago, where it was agreed the launching this network. But it was important that it received the blessing of all the leaders of the Americas.

We are meeting here today to launch this cooperative effort, and we hope that this Inter-American Social Protection Network will help us build the capacity we need to find new ways to break the cycle of poverty and inequality that affects too many of our citizens. I want to stress these words because Latin America and the Caribbean are not the poorest regions of the world but they are the most unequal, and, therefore we must try, very strongly, to improve the conditions of most of our people.

In recent years many of our countries have taken critical steps to advance in this area. For example, in terms of transfers that enables families to receive financial help so that they can take their children to school, and take them to clinics for their regular check-ups; also advances in terms to immunizations, or micro credit, which is also very strong in many countries of our region. So, in general, we think that it’s time to face this task, not only through economic growth, not only through the growth of social policies in general, but through programs to tackle the condition of the poor in our countries.

I am very happy to inaugurate in this scenario, in the framework of the U.N. General Assembly, and with the participation of two very determined, charismatic, and very popular women. As you know, President Bachelet has made social protection a key part of her work. I think that most presidents are remembered for many things, and President Bachelet will be remembered for her successful efforts in unifying and coordinating social security system for all the people. She has also promoted social development in the hemisphere, and recently she visited the OAS to announce that the Chilean Government will work with us to implement this initiative.

And, of course, Secretary Clinton has been a driving force to promote this initiative. From the first day she said that the basic problems of Latin America and the Caribbean had to do with poverty, had to so with inequality, and insisted that until we solved those problems there would not be a real democracy in the region.

I must also thank Mayor Bloomberg and his programs which he is launching here, “Giving opportunities to New York City”, which is a conditional cast-transfer approach modeled on Mexico’s “Opportunities” initiative, one that we are sponsoring also and encouraging to be promoted in different countries of our region.

So, this is a great opportunity for us and we are very happy to welcome the support of the international organizations and the multilateral agencies, the IDB, ECLAC, and the UNDP, of course they are here also. I would really hope that this is an effort that can push up countries closer to achieving the missions that we have to achieve by 2015, for the Millennium Development Goals.

Our leaders are going to review the Millennium Goals on 2015 and we are concerned that some of the poorer countries of the region have decided that they will not be able to fulfill the goals on time; I think that if we all move together in the same direction we can support each other. This time of crisis is probably not the best to make any kinds of promises, but at least we would like to keep the pace we were having in the past years in matters of reduction of poverty. The danger of the crisis is that we would go back to the past, as it has happened before. But, I think that if we all work together and this program is a success we would have put at least some effort into this very wealthy cause. I am very grateful to you for being here and thank you very much for your attention.

Thank you.