Media Center



October 28, 2013 - Washington, DC

Today, the Declaration on Security in the Americas does indeed constitute our principal set of guidelines on security matters. The concepts it defines, and which were adopted 10 years ago, radically altered both substance and priorities in an area that has constituted one of the four fundamental pillars of the Organization ever since it was founded. In that sense, the Declaration on Security in the Americas is on a par with the basic documents of the other pillars of the Organization, such as the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Social Charter, and the Convention on Violence against Women.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Mexico, which, in 2003, hosted the Special Conference on Security which gave rise to our Declaration and has, moreover, always been concerned to explore and develop issues relating to security in the Americas both conceptually and politically.

Your country, Madam Under-Secretary and Mr. Ambassador, has promoted key security agreements in the Hemisphere ever since, and even before, the OAS was established. We need only recall, along with many other milestones, the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace of 1945, the signing of the Tlatelolco Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean of 1967, and the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA) of 1997.

The roots of the 2003 Declaration lie in the far-reaching transformations of strategic and political scenarios, both global and hemispheric, in the decades prior to its adoption. The end of the Cold War and the democratization of Eastern Europe coincided at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s with the return of democratic governments in South America and, shortly afterwards, the restoration of peace in Central America. The region was going through a totally new era in which the key issues were defense of democracy, protection of human rights, the quest for lasting peace, and defense of the rule of law. It was the convergence of concern to uphold these principles that gave rise to a hemisphere-wide reaffirmation of democracy, beginning with OAS General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 1080 (XXI-O/91), adopted in Santiago, Chile, in 1991 and culminating a decade later with the signing in Lima of the Inter-American Democratic Charter on September 11, 2001.

In the midst of such massive transformations, it was abundantly clear that the Cold War mentality that had predominated in the OAS since its inception had become totally obsolete. External aggression against the Hemisphere, which had served as a pretext for the Rio Treaty, had never occurred in the form expected at the time. On the contrary, it was the Treaty that served to justify interventions and, on the only occasion on which it could have been used, namely to prevent the War in the South Atlantic, it demonstrated how ineffective it was. Nor were the region's internal wars, attributed exclusively to external influences, capable of justifying the old Cold War rationale. What was needed was a new vision encompassing the core objectives of peace, democracy, and development and adding to them today's security challenges.

The Declaration on Security in the Americas firmly established the notion of multidimensional security in our Hemisphere. It not only relegated to the past concepts associated with worldwide conflict; it also formally freed the American states to seek their own security, not through conflict but, rather, through cooperation and collective action. By weaving the concept of multidimensional security into the broader fabric of the Inter-American Charter and the needs of human beings, the Declaration on Security clearly ties in with the concept of human security developed at the United Nations.

Its great merit and power to guide us lies in its ability to provide a coherent and comprehensive vision of the whole set of threats to security our nations must address. As has often been pointed out, the notion of multidimensional security not only covers traditional threats to security but a set of new threats as well, arising in a variety of social contexts. For them, too, our governments are responsible.

The Declaration also clearly points to the differences between the new threats and the old, because while it acknowledges the ongoing importance of the latter, it indicates that they are of a different kind and therefore require different mechanisms of cooperation, if they are to be addressed.

In short, security is multidimensional not just because the threats themselves differ but because the responses to them and the players responsible for addressing them are also different and need to complement each other's actions under democratic and participatory political leadership.

Several analysts have expressed concern that our extension of the term "security threat" to such phenomena as poverty, illiteracy, extreme inequality, inadequate health care, and so on renders the new doctrine perilously similar to the concepts that gave rise to the now discredited doctrine of national security used in our region's recent past as a pretext to justify totalitarian dictatorships.

That is a major mistake. On the contrary, by recognizing the importance of social and economic factors in the generation of public insecurity, especially with respect to serious offenses, such as drug-trafficking, trafficking in persons, and organized crime, our multidimensional concept enables us to assert that in these cases it is up to the authorities of a democratic State to deal with the root causes before they give rise to situations requiring repressive interventions. The concept of multidimensional security does not expand the role of the armed forces. On the contrary, it more clearly demarcates that role and places it more firmly, with clear tasks, under the control of the civilian authorities responsible for allocating security assignments to the various institutional actors involved.

It is not a question of maintaining, as the national security doctrine did, that security is everything, but rather that security is everyone's concern, within each individual's sphere of competence and within the framework of the democratic rule of law.

Guided by these principles, nowadays our concerns as countries are to implement measures that will enable us to:

a. Respond appropriately to natural disasters, pandemics, and possibly catastrophic accidents, that have cost thousands of lives in almost all the countries of the Hemisphere;

b. Combat the whole range of manifestations of transnational crime, from trafficking in persons and illicit drugs to money laundering and terrorism;

c. Transparently maintain the ability of our Armed Forces to deter a potential external attack, while developing new capabilities that will enable them, in collaboration with other entities responsible for security to address the multidimensional nature of those threats; and

d. Finally, grasp the importance of, once and for all, overcoming our underdevelopment, constraints on public freedoms, poverty, marginalization, discrimination and social inequality, which are often the breeding grounds or origins of the principal threats to public security. However, this last-mentioned and doubtless most important area is the remit of the State's and society's social services and should not, generally speaking, involve the State's armed forces, whose activities must always be restricted to the first three of the aforementioned tasks, under the control of the civilian democratic authority.

Thus, the Declaration on Security in the Americas does not just guide our thoughts and analyses. It also provides a conceptual and legal framework for a restructuring of the security architecture that is already under way in our countries.

On the multilateral front, despite major progress, much remains to be done to organize and coordinate our solidarity and cooperation and forge security for all, based on our collective effort.

Let me mention just a few instances in which, in my opinion, our collective action falls short of our needs for hemispheric coordination.

Crime is both organized and transnational. Our response, in all fields, from prevention to control, rehabilitation and assistance to victims, must therefore also be both organized and transnational and, wherever possible, demonstrate that it is quicker off the mark than that of our adversaries. Just over a year ago, pursuant to a mandate of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Americas, a series of consultations among experts concluded with the so-called Tlatelolco Commitment, which recommended the establishment of an Inter-American Commission against Transnational Organize Crime, headquartered at the OAS. It was proposed that that body should head inter-American cooperation in this specific field and that it could be supplemented by an entity to coordinate intelligence operations and actions by prosecutor's offices.

That proposal should undoubtedly be considered, given that even today, in the second decade of the Twenty-First Century, the inter-American system lacks a technical and political organ devoted to organizing and coordinating our collective efforts to address a threat we have been subjected to for decades.
At the same time, since the forty-first regular session of our General Assembly in 2011 in San Salvador, when this General Secretariat signed a Cooperation Agreement with the American Police Community (AMERIPOL), that voluntary and spontaneous association of police forces in our region has been harmoniously carrying on police coordination and cooperation activities, in close cooperation with the OAS. We have worked well with AMERIPOL and hope to continue doing so in the future.

At the same time, it is essential to achieve the ratification by all member states of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA), a key instrument for combating illicit arms trafficking. The steps undertaken with regard to the marking of conventional weapons are insufficient if we neglect the need to have legal instruments that are binding on all of us.

Finally, in 2006, and in connection with the Declaration on Security in the Americas adopted three years before, changes were made to the Statutes of the Inter-American Defense Board. Those amendments led to the IADB becoming what was called at the time an "entity" of the OAS. They also defined with greater precision the terms governing political oversight of the Board and effectively democratized the process by which its authorities are elected.

Since then, however, not enough progress has been made with establishing the mechanisms needed to bring the IADB and the Inter-American Defense College into line with today's new circumstances. On the contrary, a debate has been organized regarding the inter-American defense system and the entities that should form part of it, based on the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, which have a central role to play in this new period.

It remains essential to effectively adapt the agencies that depend on us to the current circumstances of a region in which cooperation has overtaken concern with hypothetical conflicts and in which bilateral or multilateral, multidimensional cooperation among our Armed Forces is already in place in a number of spheres, without there being a hemispheric organization overseeing it or an international legal framework to regulate it.

On other occasions, I have voiced my opinion that the Inter-American Defense Board needs to be converted into an Inter-American Defense Commission, as a regular OAS body with the participation of the member states, with clear and transparent statutes and rules, and guided specifically by the principles of solidarity and cooperation embodied in the Declaration on Security in the Americas, and answering to the Meeting of Ministers of Defense.

I do not envisage it as another Permanent Council Committee, but rather as a body similar to CICAD or CICTE, with its own governing body, but at the same time a Presidency or Secretariat fully integrated with the OAS General Secretariat. I hope that this proposal can be considered during the debate, with a view to identifying a multilateral cooperation architecture in this field, headed by the Meeting of Ministers of Defense and supported by the Organization of American States,

Distinguished Ambassadors and Delegates:

I sincerely believe that the best way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of our Declaration is to promote political decisions that cater to technical needs and allow the Declaration's principles to be realized in multilateral activities.

In concluding these remarks, I would once again like to thank Mexico, in the person of its Under-Secretary and its Ambassador, for taking the felicitous initiative of organizing this meeting to celebrate our Declaration on Security in the Americas, examine how far we have come conceptually, and examine also what lies ahead with respect to security and how we must prepare ourselves to address threats to it.

I urge you not to forget that the document whose signing we celebrate today resulted from our arriving at an awareness of a mutual need. It was a moment at which we recognized that all our countries, big and small, powerful and weak, are subject to similar threats and that addressing and overcoming them requires the solidarity and participation of all of us, on an equal basis. The purpose of that participation must always be to achieve for our peoples conditions in which they can live democracy to the full, free from threats to their personal security, and pursue development in peace.

Thank you very much.