Media Center



June 6, 2011 - San Salvador, El Salvador

Our countries are all feeling a similar pain, and reeling in agony because our security protective systems have failed us and have unfurled, even as we watched, a contagion of crime, violence and citizen insecurity unimaginable by any of us a mere ten to fifteen years ago.

Mr. Chairman, esteemed colleagues

Permit me firstly to extend words of gratitude to the Government of El Salvador for the gracious hospitality accorded my delegation since our arrival in San Salvador three days ago. And secondly, I also want to commend our host country, through your good self, Minister Martinez in its choice of so relevant and essential a theme – Citizen Security in the Americas, for our deliberation at this, the Forty-first Regular Meeting of the General Assembly.

Mr. Chairman, almost three years ago, in October 2008, the Ministers with Responsibility for Public Security in the Americas (MISPA) met in Mexico City and adopted what has become known as the Commitment to Public Security in the Americas. By that ‘commitment’ Member States pledged to:

“foster, in coordination with the pertinent institutions, public policies designed to prevent crime, violence, and insecurity; and to Promote educational programs, particularly in schools, to raise awareness among the different players in society regarding the prevention of crime, violence, and insecurity”

That commitment made in Mexico City, Mr. Chairman, was re-validated and re-inforced:

1. In the deliberations of the Second MISPA Meeting in Santo Domingo, Dominica Republic, in November 2009;
2. By the Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights, prepared by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, and officially presented in December 2009;

And need I remind this eminent gathering, Mr. Chairman, that that ‘commitment’ has essentially been the theme of every General Assembly Dialogue, since it was made in October 2008.

a. The theme of the General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in June 2009, was “Towards a Culture of Non Violence” (and let me as an aside welcome Honduras back to the Inter-American fold) b. In Lima, Peru, last year - 2010, the theme was “Peace Security and Cooperation in the Americas”
c. And today, June 2011, in San Salvador, the theme is “Citizen Security in the Americas”

It is this consistency and constancy, to which I refer Mr. Chairman, when I speak of the relevance and essentiality, of the choice of theme, by host country, El Salvador.

I congratulate and thank you publicly on behalf of your country, Minister, having already done so privately

Nonetheless, Mr. Chairman, I am obliged to inquire, “Is this message so subtly subliminal, that it could be lost on anyone of us? Is it purely happenstantial, that this theme reverberates at every turn?”

It could not be!!!

Mr. Chairman,

Our countries are all feeling a similar pain; and reeling in agony, because our security protective- systems have failed us and have unfurled, even as we watched, a contagion of crime, violence and citizen insecurity, unimaginable by any of us, a mere ten to fifteen years ago.

The statistics in just the last 24 months in my country are dire! Guns have seemingly become the first option to settle every score, no matter how trivial. Combined with the drug trade, this is a formula for the disruption of the peaceful enjoyment of life which our citizens ought to expect in any thriving democracy. With the ease with which all our borders are being transgressed, Mr Chairman, this problem is hemispheric in scope, and so must be the solution. I commend the CIFTA project for the marking of firearms, to which my country is a signatory, a small step in the right direction, and urge similar concrete, action, including the harmonization of legislation, greater connectivity between agencies, and the sharing of information towards quantifiable results through the eradication of this ominous threat.

Not only do Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be global leaders in homicide rates, but also………the rates are rising steadily and alarmingly.

One member state records a greater than ten-fold rise in homicide rate in as many years.

Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean is now an unrelenting epidemic, which is having a deadly impact on Socio- Economic development.

As our populations become more youthful, the issues which we must address to keep young people alive, and secure, take on greater urgency.

The youth agenda, more critical in its urging, begs to underscore the importance of debating youth issues and integrating them into the development of national and hemispheric policy making sure that no one is left out.

We are losing a critical generation because we are failing to provide options to challenge their technological savvy, their inventiveness, their cunning, their need for outlet. We are failing to meet the challenge of stemming the tide of delinquency through the redirection of youthful energies, and finding appropriate mechanisms to blend the punitive with the corrective. In our small, developing states, we have a limited population and limited resources, but we have limitless potential for disaster and for the proliferation of criminal activity if the issue of citizen security is not elevated to a place of prominence for debate and action in all hemispheric fora.

I believe that societal violence is not immutable. There are tried and tested ways of addressing this problem.

But there is no quick-fix remedy, and the solution is not to be found in piecemeal approaches.

All sectors of societies have a role to play. I applaud here, the willingness to partner, demonstrated by a number of Civil- Organizations in our country, manifested in various forms of direct participation.

Mr Chairman, my delegation is convinced that the issue of Women’s’ Security has to be foremost and central to any serious discussion on Citizen Security in The Americas.

The response of the Organization of the American States to the defense and protection of Women’s Rights and their security ought well to be defined by its capacity to succeed on the basis of it being appropriate, efficacious, and just!

I therefore applaud the OAS for its commitment to fighting this battle full force, by first of all recognizing the scope of this reality, and establishing protocols for addressing the issue, as articulated in the Convention of Belem do Para.

Our individual and collective response to infringements against gender security must be the full might of our juridical and legislative systems.

You will no doubt recall, Mr. Chairman, that at last year’s General Assembly in Lima Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis issued a call for the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States to convene a meeting of high level officials of Member States, before the next General Assembly, to bring requisite attention; and to formulate a solution-focused plan of action, in relation to the prevention of inter-personal violence, and the promotion of Citizen Security, in this hemisphere.

While repeating that call here today, I would also want the records to reflect, that although the call has not yet been fully answered, I acknowledge the commitment demonstrated; and express my appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary General and the Secretariat, for Multidimensional Security, in setting the stage for this discourse. In addition, St. Kitts and Nevis and CARICOM in general, look forward to working closely with the General Secretariat over the ensuing months, in advancing its Violence Prevention Framework.

It is laudable, with the gathering of the highest authorities of the hemisphere’s Foreign Ministries, to seize the occasion of the Annual General Assembly of the OAS to confront priority areas which demand our focus.

More important is the need for concrete follow through and for action which evidences measurable results that are as dynamic as the problems they are designed to resolve.

Citizens whose security is violated do not want to wait for years to question if and when something will be done to address crisis situations; they want to feel the impact of such decisions as immediately as they feel the infractions against them. We have a monumental task, and as decision and policy makers, we are called upon to effect resultsoriented change that our citizens can feel contributing to their peace and security.

Mr. Chairman, the theme which you have wisely chosen for our consideration is one which brings with it, moral imperative and a right-of-passage.

We look forward to intense and solution-focused engagement on this issue, with the confidence that through our combined efforts; and with the support of International Development Agencies; and that of the Inter-American system, particularly the Partners of the Inter-American Coalition for the Prevention of Violence, we can indeed bring a measure of relief to our deserving peoples.

In closing Mr Chairman, I am convinced that one element of citizen security which cannot be mandated is HOPE.

Hope cannot ‘spring eternal’ on its own, but requires catalytic activation.

Hope is a practical intangible that has formed the basis of many successful lives, and provoked the formation of organizations such as the OAS which is built on the ideal that humankind will always prefer good over evil.

Let us, through our efforts, make decisions that will be the catalyst to inspire new hope that tomorrow’s world will be a more peaceful and secure place for all of us as citizens of this .hemisphere, and of this universe

History will not absolve us, Mr. Chairman, if we fail in this essential task.

May it please you, Mr. Chairman.

I thank you.