Media Center



May 26, 2005 - Washington, DC

Allow me to begin my remarks by once again expressing my gratitude to the Member Countries of this Permanent Council that elected me to the office of Secretary General of this Organization almost one month ago. Like you, I, too, am profoundly grateful to the Acting Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, for the outstanding job he did in piloting this institution through these difficult times.

I also thank Ambassador Cristián Barros for his work in directing the transition team, which enabled me to take up this post of Secretary General just two days after completing my term as Minister of the Interior of Chile.

Today, I would also like to extend a special salute to all the staff of the OAS, as they are the supporting structure of this Organization. I will always be interested in hearing their views and place a special premium on the kind of professional participation that recognizes that experience and help to add value to the functioning of the OAS.

This Permanent Council represents the constituents of this Organization, which are the sovereign States of the Americas. You and the governments you represent are the ones that must engage in dialogue and settle upon realistic and effective ways to deal with our pressing needs. This Secretariat will always stand ready to encourage and support that dialogue and hopes and expects to be working on a daily basis with the Council, in a quest to build the consensuses that will carry us forward.

This is a complex juncture at which to assume the office of Secretary General. A number of challenges lie ahead for the Hemisphere’s integration and overall future. We must move forward in consolidating our democracies and strengthening democratic governance; protecting human rights. In the consensus that integral development is more than just economic growth; incorporating the principles of inclusiveness and equity as the basis for prosperity. And we must advance, finally, in a multi-dimensional security policy that effectively addresses the main security problems affecting the people of the Hemisphere.

The OAS has already made important contributions toward recognizing, reaffirming, and implementing these principles and values. But shared values, by themselves, will not suffice. This is a policy-making organization. Policy is not only a matter of values; practical results also count effective public policies that effectively apply to the foundation of the hemispheric community.

A renewed political will is needed from the Member States to make the OAS a more effective institution, with a targeted agenda whose priorities are decided by consensus arrived at through a more participatory process that welcomes input from civil society and the private sector.

This is the road that has to be traveled to make this Organization more relevant and to increase its capacity to mobilize collective interests.

I invite you to seize this opportunity to strengthen this Organization and give it its proper place as the principal hemispheric forum.

Democracy and Governance

The Inter-American Democratic Charter is one of the crowning achievements of the peoples of the Americas and a fundamental obligation incumbent upon all those who govern. It establishes the bases of the present and future identity of the Americas; it is everyone’s mission and establishes the pillars of legitimacy and friendly relations in the Hemisphere.

The Charter was signed so that it would be fulfilled. It is not just another declaration. All the nations of the Hemisphere that signed it undertook a solemn commitment to materialize each and every one of its contents.

Democracy requires free elections and respect for the classic rights and freedoms. But democracy also demands an unwavering devotion to promote an absolute citizenship in which the people enjoy the fullest civil, social, and cultural rights. We have said in the first article of the Inter-American Democratic Charter that the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy. It is our duty to guarantee that right, respecting the democratic rights of all citizens and safeguarding at all times the effective exercise of the rule of law.

Effective application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter is indispensable for the future of our democracies. The Organization must have the instruments to enable it to anticipate possible crises and to take preventive action with governments, using dialogue to avert escalation of a crisis. This implies having objective and practical mechanisms that enable us to evaluate how democracy is functioning in the Member States. While respecting the autonomy that every sovereign democratic state enjoys, such mechanisms will also serve to enhance the workings of democracy, thereby enabling better conditions for domestic peace and stability.

Likewise, we must be able to react to a breach of the democratic system, using the in a timely manner, the political and diplomatic instruments that help to overcome the crisis and to cooperate to restore democracy.

It is up to the Member Countries to agree upon the mechanisms by which to fulfill the obligations that the Charter creates. The Secretariat will always be ready to make proposals in that direction.

I have pointed out that many of the difficulties faced by out democracies have to do with the workings of state institutions and the frustration citizens feel when their concrete problems are not solved. To enhance governance in our democracies, it is necessary to prioritize on programs that boost the development of sound institutions that serve to make citizens more secure, foster an appropriate climate for the economy and growth, provide justice for all citizens, defend human rights, and guarantee transparency in everything the government does.

Human Rights

The history of our region has paralleled the advancement of human rights. Many of our countries have experienced traumatic periods in their histories during which human rights were violated or suppressed. In those very same countries, the people waged their own battles to reinstate the value and dignity of life as their core concern. This is why the inter-American system of human rights is such an enormous accomplishment. Its promotion and defense is, therefore, part of our identity.

We have a human rights system that functions well, albeit one that is sometimes under-funded. It has brought prestige to the OAS and has guaranteed the rights of many citizens at difficult moments in our institutional life.

The system that we have crafted for ourselves is premised upon a harmonious relationship with the Member States, in which cooperation must play a pivotal role.

We must strive to ensure that the States view the actions and decisions of the human rights organs as necessary complement to their own national policies to promote and protect human rights.

From the standpoint of cooperation, we should endeavor to foster the dialogue that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have with the national judicial branches.

The signing of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is indeed a priority, from the perspective of promoting the respect for the dignity of our native peoples and their active participation in a tolerant and pluralistic world that recognizes their unique and specific rights. Civic responsibility entails embracing the right to be different and make it fit into the realm of political rights and citizen representation.

If our goal is to have a human rights system that works, then the resources needed to achieve these noble objectives have to be guaranteed.

Integral Development

The ongoing challenge of strengthening governance requires collective action that goes beyond the work of governments alone. We must be capable of opening our institutions to the mobilization of society’s concerns, to the issues that matter to people, by generating sound and transparent mechanisms for participation, as the basis for forging the collective will of the people. However, progress in this sphere is unsustainable without objective dissemination of social rights, without a high-quality education and health, in short, without providing our citizens with the social and material conditions need to achieve their aspirations.

The Hemisphere’s achievements in the area of democracy will be apparent only if efforts to consolidate political citizenship are matched by determined efforts to create social and cultural citizenship as well.

We live in a Hemisphere of contrasts, in which prosperity co-exists with extreme poverty. One of the distinctive features of the social situation in Latin America is the highly skewed income distribution in most countries of the region. Indeed, Latin America has the highest inequity index in the world, even by comparison to regions with less social development and higher rates of poverty. In our region we have educational, health services, and housing conditions that par with those in the most developed countries and this contrasts with the t great numbers of our citizens still struggle in poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, malnutrition, and poor sanitary conditions.

We have diagnosed many times this dramatic situation. The OAS faces the political challenge of expanding its role in the social sphere. Today we need effective public policies that foster equality of opportunity and engage all sectors, so as to make the citizenry’s most pressing needs matters of general interest. It is vital that society’s interests and views be taken into account in developing and managing public policy, thereby opening up social and political institutions to more inclusive and mature forms of social integration. Social rights are inextricably linked to political rights and the right of association.

The OAS must be prepared to promote partnership for integral development, and combat poverty in the Hemisphere, contributing to the design and implementation of national development strategies. In this endeavor, the coordination with specialized regional and global agencies, the private sector, and the international community must be strengthen , thereby making for more rational and effective use of resources. Particular attention must be paid to the smaller and relatively less developed economies and tailor them to their specific needs and sensibilities.

The negotiation of a Social Charter of the Americas offers us the opportunity to move beyond our differences and to agree upon institutional proposals that tackle these problems effectively; we must start this task without delay. Just as I said in the case of the Democratic Charter, in regards to the social aspect, declarations alone will not suffice. It is necessary to design adequate mechanisms and a concrete Plan of Action to ensure that we move forward towards the objectives that the Social Charter will propose.

In this regards, I cannot go without mentioning the relevancy of the theme that our Heads of State and of Government will be discussing at the upcoming Fourth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, next November: “Creating Jobs to Confront Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance.” That theme continues to be a moral and political imperative for the Hemisphere.

Multidimensional Security

The risks and threats in today’s world have become global in nature and no country is immune to them. But it is evident that these threats strike some regions harder than others. Some sectors are highly vulnerable because they do not have the means to deal with global threats, natural disasters, transnational organized crime, terrorism, AIDS and the pandemics. Hence, the OAS’ work ethic in this realm is to generate preventive initiatives and instruments for the Hemisphere as a whole, with special attention to the most vulnerable countries.

The Declaration on Security in the Americas is a great step forward in acknowledging the multidimensional nature of the challenges that the Hemisphere faces in this field. It is an effort to take on the threats to security while also addressing their causes.

We ought to continue to strengthen the existing regional mechanisms, such as the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), and the groups of experts on cyber crime, money laundering, and corruption.

Similarly, steps should also be taken to revitalize the Inter-American Emergency Assistance Fund. The proper functioning of this Fund is critical to continue to provide the States with assistance in mapping preventive and reactive strategies, especially the smaller countries most vulnerable to these phenomena. The OAS must integrate an ongoing effort to prevent disasters and mitigate their impact.

Relationship between the Global System and the Regional System

Responsive and effective intergovernmental institutions capable of mobilizing and orchestrating collective action are needed at both the regional and global levels. If the goal is a efficient and integrated multilateralism, we must strengthen our coordination with the United Nations system and other political and financial international organizations, and to complement the work being done there. This is a topic I will address at the upcoming session of the OAS General Assembly. With such coordination, we can increase the multilateral action and avoid duplication

The Organization’s knowledge and experience in the region can and should be used to craft global strategies for guaranteeing peace and security. With that in mind, I plan to maintain a fluid dialogue with the United Nations’ Secretary General and to follow closely the reforms at the United Nations as to what pertains to the regional organizations.

We should aspire to have an Organization able to prevent and deal with crises that affect the region’s stability and thus do our part to make the world a safer place to live in. This is the reason for the OAS’ presence in Haiti. I will continue to encourage the Organization’s active involvement, through the Special Mission, in the political, economic and social reconstruction being headed by the United Nations Stabilization

The instruments, institutions and mandates of the inter-American system have served to keep the Organization current, have helped it to fulfill its principles and objectives and to grapple with the major issues. We now need to inject renewed vigor into those instruments, institutions and mandates, enrich them and partner them with new strategies and mechanisms so that they are able to rise to the challenges in the region today. To that end, the budgetary deficit has to be addressed and Member Countries need to be encouraged to make their contributions to the Organization’s regular budget. Convocation of a special session of the General Assembly would surely be a means to address this very sensitive topic.


I am convinced that the Member States want the OAS to be a forum of cooperation and a place for political dialogue where countries of differing levels of power and development and diverse identities can come together. This diversity ought to be regarded as a positive force and not as a cause of alienation and contention.

Having a common vision built upon the principles and values that inspire us, is essential in order for the OAS to have meaning in the Americas, for our peoples to believe that the Organization can make a difference in their lives, in their aspirations and in their destinies, and for the OAS to be able to participate collectively in the governance of a global world.

Today we embark upon a new phase in our common hemispheric aspiration. As with any human endeavor, this one will require conviction, a sense of responsibility, dedication, sacrifice, and dreams. I am asking the Member States to lend me their support so that I might better serve their interests. I invite them to join me in this, our common hemispheric mission. Let us dream together so that we might endow the Organization with the political relevance that we all want for it and that the peoples of the Americas deserve.

Thank you very much