Media Center



September 19, 2011 - New York

Allow me, first and foremost, to express my sincere appreciation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban-Ki Moon, and to the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CCITF) for honoring me with their invitation to take part in this important Symposium.

Its importance stems, first, from the indelible memory, 10 years later, of the 2,977 victims, from over 90 countries, who died in the terrorist attacks on the country hosting this Symposium today, the United States of America. Today we also remember, and feel deeply for, the innumerable people who were physically and psychologically injured, as well as the families and friends of the victims.

No ideal is more cherished by either the Organization of American States (OAS) or the United Nations than the defense of the life, dignity, and inalienable rights of human beings. Nothing therefore is a greater affront to the values and principles that our Organizations espouse and defend than the indiscriminate murder of thousands of innocent people.

Following the Second World War and shortly after the United Nations was founded, the international community opened a new chapter in the history of these rights and values when, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in global recognition of the universal validity and inalienable nature of those fundamental human rights.

Nevertheless, terrorism attempted, on that morning of September 11, 2001, to test the strength of that resolve. In response, the OAS member states, which were meeting that day in Lima, Peru, at a special session of the General Assembly, became, by one of those random chances in History, a memorable symbol of our indomitable will and determination. Having been informed of the attacks, the ministers of foreign affairs meeting in Lima decided to continue their work and adopt the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the chief purpose of that Assembly session. Thus the Charter was born as a reaffirmation of the region's commitment to democracy and human rights and as an unwavering response to those terrible events that sought to undermine, and even destroy, the principles and values in which democracy is rooted.

The unity and strength of our countries and organizations in those times of adversity are the second reason why our reflections at this Symposium are so important. We have striven in recent years to fine-tune an international system for preventing and fighting terrorism. That system dates back to the 1960s and has been developed over time in 18 universal conventions and protocols, but it has been transformed most dramatically in the past 10 years. In the inter-American context, back in 2002, the OAS adopted an Inter-American Convention against Terrorism with two main thrusts: the importance of international cooperation in counter terrorism and the need to respect human rights while countering this threat. The OAS member states also decided on steps within the Organization and endowed the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), which had been established in 1999, with a Permanent Secretariat (established in 2002) to support and advance the Committee's work and its mission. Such steps were complemented by numerous political declarations and resolutions of the OAS General Assembly, its Permanent Council, CICTE itself, and the Committee on Hemispheric Security.

Those actions in our part of the world were framed, echoed, and, in particular, complemented by others at the global level. United Nations Security Council resolutions 1373 of 2001, 1267 (1999), 1540 (2004), 1624 (2005), 1673 (2006), and 1810 (2008), along with other extremely important resolutions, amount to a milestone in international law in this field. Notwithstanding the work that remains to be done, we believe that tribute should be paid to all those involved in forging those legal frameworks for dealing with such a complex challenge.

Special mention should also be made of the important work done by the Committees established under the first three of the aforementioned resolutions, by the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CCITF), and by the bodies comprising the institutional network of support for States combating terrorism. Finally, the progress achieved with treaties and the fundamental Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 cannot but convince us of the positive impact of international cooperation in combating this scourge. They also warrant an optimistic view of the future of such cooperation and encourage us to make maximum use of the possibilities it brings.

All these regional and global measures by multilateral organizations, as well as each country's own efforts, internally and through bilateral relations, today constitute a complex network of actions to prevent and combat terrorism, which can still be improved but which has also undoubtedly proved effective. We should always remember that, despite the despicable attacks that have occurred, many have been thwarted and considerable progress has been made in combating the scourge of terrorism. And that, we wish to reiterate, would not have been possible without the international cooperation that counter-terrorist policies, by their very nature, rely on.

Hence the cautious, reasoned optimism that prompts a third consideration: if the past 10 years have shown us that international cooperation is crucial and a necessary condition for peace to prevail over acts of terrorism, what further steps are now needed in that direction? Shouldn't we pinpoint, frankly and fearlessly, those areas in that cooperation that need improving? Shouldn't we explore creative solutions to the challenges posed, while resolutely upholding the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights?

These are the kinds of questions that should help us frame our strategic vision of international cooperation against terrorism over the next 10 years. From an OAS perspective, as expressed by our member states in the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism, this optimistic strategic vision, tried and tested for success, requires deeper and more perfect international cooperation in counter-terrorism and a reaffirmation of the ongoing validity of a framework that insists on defense of the rule of law, democracy, freedom, and fundamental human rights.

The twin pillars of this strategic vision, however abstract they may appear to be, are in fact both concrete and intertwined. In practice, deepening and perfecting international cooperation involves, first, ratifying regional and universal treaties in this field, as they provide a firm and reliable legal foundation. Second, it follows that, after ratification, there must be a transposition or an adaptation of domestic legislation to achieve excellence with respect to best international practices and the adoption of standards with regard to security that harmonize the efforts undertaken. Those adjustments will facilitate, for instance, the provision of mutual legal assistance, the viability of extradition procedures, cross-border cooperation by law enforcement agencies, improved domestic coordination among the different government entities responsible for counter-terrorism and security, and transparency and respect for the law during the investigation and trial of terrorist acts.

The second pillar of our vision, namely the complete compatibility of the fight against terrorism with respect for the rule of law and human rights, as reaffirmed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights , also undoubtedly does have practical implications. Only the countries that abide by these premises can offer an essential ingredient for international cooperation: trust. By which we mean: trust in respect for shared values and principles that place the human being and her or his life, liberty, and dignity at the very center of our actions. Without such trust, cooperation becomes difficult, partial, or, in the worst case scenario, nonexistent: a state of affairs that criminals, organized crime, and, obviously, terrorists use to their advantage.

Furthermore, that legal framework, which respects and reflects the fundamental values inherent in our open societies, forces us to be creative, within pre-established and recognized frameworks, in order to achieve our objective. Tangible proof of the success of this approach, which ties in with, and to a large extent depends on, the trust we referred to earlier, is provided, for instance, by the existence of joint investigation teams or recognition of judicial verdicts ---tools that have yielded excellent results in the European Union and which are the product of creative thinking regarding ways to overcome, within a specific legal framework respectful of the individual and his or her rights, difficulties that only recently appeared to be insurmountable.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude with a fourth important reflection that plays a key part in the two-pronged strategic vision I have described: the role of international, regional, and subregional organizations in the fight against terrorism must not be underestimated.

The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by all its member states in 2006 and revised in 2008 and 2010, underscores the value of cooperation and coordination at different levels and among different institutions. The OAS and the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, ASEAN, CARICOM. SICA, and other organizations exist to serve their member states. But to serve them better, they need to collaborate with one another. That makes all of them better.

That is why the OAS General Secretariat, based on a concept of "hemispheric security" institutionalized in one of its secretariats, and through the dedicated work of its various departments, has been promoting strategic partnerships at different levels during the implementation of its projects. In this way we attempt to ensure that the most qualified players with mandates in this field at the global, regional, subregional, and national level participate in our programs. For instance, the strategic partnership that the CICTE Secretariat has developed over the years, under its Legislative Assistance and Combating Terrorism Financing Program, with the Executive Directorate of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTED), UNODC, the Financial Action Task Force of South America (GAFISUD), and with other areas of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the OAS, is a good example of this desire to build interagency cooperation and of the outstanding results it can bring about.

Similarly, at the OAS the concept of "multidimensional security" has triggered studies and programs designed to discern the points at which different contemporary manifestations of crime intersect, the methods and media they use, and their impact on our societies. For example, the similarities detected in ways different criminals smuggle arms, drugs, persons, and so on have enabled comprehensive programs, such as CICTE's Maritime Security Program, to have a beneficial effect not only on the recipient country's counter-terrorism capabilities but also on its broader capacity to provide security and border controls, which includes but also transcends specific areas.

In conclusion, substantively we have come a long way in the past 10 years toward equipping ourselves with the legal, institutional, and operational tools needed to defend ourselves against terrorism. We need to be aware that we face an ever-changing threat and that we therefore need to forge a consistent forward-looking strategy, focused on full development of international cooperation and on respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights. In that context, international organizations have a key part to play in the response to the terrorist scourge. To that end, they need to strengthen cooperation among themselves and to address the terrorist threat from a multidimensional and comprehensive perspective.

Mr. Secretary-General, I thank you once again for your invitation to participate in this Symposium and I assure you of our ongoing desire to continue strengthening our cooperation on behalf of our member states, in our common task of forging a future of peace and freedom for the international community.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.