Media Center



June 7, 2010 - Lima, Perú

First let me thank Secretary General Insulza, President Garcia and Foreign Minister Garcia Belaunde for their hospitality and leadership. In recent years, Peru has provided a strong example in our Hemisphere and beyond of delivering on the promise of democracy to change lives, spur growth, and unleash the full potential of a talented and determined people. So it is fitting that we have come here, to Lima, to once again reaffirm the common values and aspirations that bind us together as a community of nations and peoples.

We’ve gathered here to discuss peace, security, and cooperation, and I commend our hosts for setting an agenda that speaks to our common vision of this hemisphere and its potential. We all share the goals of expanding social inclusion and economic opportunity; of ensuring the safety of our citizens; of securing clean sources of energy; and of building effective institutions of democratic governance and accountability, while preserving and strengthening our heritage of pluralism, tolerance and diversity in a century in which these attributes will become ever greater global advantages.

And at this gathering, we have an opportunity to advance our efforts on security cooperation in important ways. We are committed to strengthening our hemisphere’s mechanisms for collectively resolving disputes and for further fostering the conditions of sustained peace. And thanks to the reduction of interstate tensions in the Americas, we can look for ways to reduce excessive weapons expenditures, freeing up resources to enhance our competitiveness and expand opportunity for our people.

As members of this community, each of us has a responsibility to meet the needs of our citizens, but the major challenges we face are transnational, and demand international collaboration and partnership.

We believe that what is good for the Americas is good for the United States. It is in the national interest of the United States – and of every nation represented here today – to promote pragmatic and productive collaboration among all the members of this community we call the Americas. That is why we welcome multilateral partnerships like UNASUR, CARICOM, SICA, and the South American Defense Council’s goal of promoting greater confidence among its members and more effective cooperation to ensure security from organized crime and terrorism.

Our community is bound together and strengthened by our multilateral institutions, and they are indispensable to achieving our common aspirations. Their focus and membership vary – some including the United States and some not – but in every case their effectiveness depends upon members’ willingness to step up and meet their obligations.

Multilateral organizations, and indeed partnerships of any kind, are useful when they make a real difference in the lives of our peoples. Our partnerships must be measured by the results they produce, not by their roster of members or ideological alignment. The United States is committed to doing our part as a full and active partner in the Americas and working with those organizations and groupings that take concrete actions and demand real results.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has reengaged in the Americas with robust multilateral diplomacy, and we support the Organization of American States as the foremost multilateral organization of the Hemisphere. We all know that the OAS has not always lived up to its founding ideals and that there is serious work to be done to bolster the institution. But the OAS’s goals of strengthening democratic institutions, safeguarding human rights, promoting development, and enhancing multidimensional security are more important than ever. And mechanisms established by the OAS, such as the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, provide critical tools to help improve governance and respect for human rights in our Hemisphere.

We believe that it is possible to build a stronger, more vibrant OAS that more effectively serves the interest of member states and of the people of the Americas, and that has both the capacity and the will to tackle regional challenges and avert crises before they arise. Today I would like to propose three steps to realize this vision.

First, we need to refocus the institution on its core mission of advancing strong democratic institutions that foster peace, citizen security, and opportunity for all the people of the Americas. Last year alone, the OAS conducted election observation missions in Bolivia, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, and Ecuador. This is among the organization’s most important contributions. But the OAS suffers from a proliferation of priorities and mandates that dilute its efforts, drain its budget, and diminish its capacity. We should align the OAS budget and staffing in accordance with its core activities, and it is critical that this happen in time for September budget discussions.

Second, all of us must work together to reform the OAS budget and take responsibility for its future. The current path is fiscally unsustainable and threatens the viability of the organization itself. President Obama has asked our Congress for a three-percent increase in support for the OAS, but the United States cannot do this alone. We look to other countries to do what they can to increase their support.

Third, in keeping with refocusing on the core mission of the OAS, it is time to move ahead with implementing the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The United States will work with member states to jointly develop a collaborative Plan of Action to guide implementation, and we hope to see this plan adopted in time for the 10th anniversary of the Charter in September 2011. In particular, we should consider more precise guidelines for what constitutes an unconstitutional alteration and incorporate the Charter’s “essential elements” of democracy in the OAS peer review process. The creation of a Special Rapporteur for Democracy would enhance these efforts. Our ongoing discussions about Honduras make clear the urgency of this agenda. As we emphasized when the United States, along with the rest of the hemisphere, condemned the coup in Honduras, these interruptions of democracy should be completely relegated to the past – and it is a credit to this organization that they have become all but nonexistent in the Americas.

Now, it’s time for the hemisphere as a whole to move forward and welcome Honduras back into the Inter-American community. We’ve worked with many others to help Honduras find a path back to democratic order. We saw the free and fair election of President Lobo, and we have watched President Lobo fulfill his obligations under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord – including forming a government of national reconciliation and a truth commission – and demonstrate a strong and consistent commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order. At the same time, we must find ways to address conditions like those that led to the coup in Honduras before they turn into crises in the future. There can be no higher priority for all of us than strengthening our institutions and mechanisms of cooperation to so that they effectively preserve the rule of law, basic rights, and the democratic order everywhere in our hemisphere.

For our hemisphere stands at a crossroads today. A rising generation of young people – born in the Americas, versed in the technologies of the 21st century, and enriched by the diversity of our multicultural societies – stands poised to lead the globe in the years to come, to thrive in vibrant democratic societies and open and interconnected markets. They can build the businesses, discover the innovations, and develop the solutions that our future demands. Or, our hemisphere can fall backwards. And we will see another generation frustrated by democratic dreams deferred and economic potential denied. Those young people look to us. Because the decisions we make today will help dictate the future they build tomorrow.

Democratic, accountable governance and human rights are the birthright of every man, woman and child in the Americas. And responsible, democratic governance is essential to meeting all of our other challenges -- widening the circle of prosperity, promoting greater social and economic inclusion and equality, protecting our citizens, securing clean sources of energy, and even addressing the impacts of climate change.

The OAS has a vital role to play as a champion of democratic institutions, human rights, and the rule of law in the Americas and the most important forum of our community of nations. But ultimately, the OAS is the product of the member states, and we must come together to ensure the OAS can meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century. The United States stands ready to work with all of you to achieve this goal.

Thank you.