The Wilson Center is an invaluable platform for public policy debate on key issues around the world, and of course, in the Americas. The motto of the Center – “independent research, open dialogue, and actionable ideas” – is one that resonates with Secretary General Almagro and the members of his team, myself included, as he begins his mandate at the Organization of American States.
Members of the board of the Wilson Center,
President Jane Harman,
Senator Bob Corker, and other esteemed guests,
On behalf of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to be here with you this evening.
In particular, Open Dialogue and Actionable Ideas are also at the heart of the Secretary General´s plans for the Organization.
The OAS needs to be a fundamental instrument for democracy, and human rights in a much broader sense.
Democracy entails the exercise of rights; it entails a culture of dialogue. Democracy imposes tolerance, respect, the capacity to work together, to exchange ideas, the recognition of the rights of each individual, and a community spirit.
The people do not elect officials, they elect men and women with the political skill to deliver results for the common good.
That is why the administration has chosen as its motto “More rights for more people.” Because the Hemisphere has had enough of exclusion; it is tired of racism, of persecution, of prejudice, and of senseless conflicts. The people of this Hemisphere want inclusion, peace and democracy.
But as you are aware, democratic governance is about more than just elections. That is why one of the key initiatives of the administration of the Secretary General will be a school of governance for public servants and civil society in the Hemisphere, as a tool to strengthen the practices of institutional transparency, build consensus to undertake reform, and public accountability.
All of you know that we from a leftist Party in Uruguay...
Integrity and ethics are values that go beyond ideologies or easy characterizations of right and left;
Essential democratic values such as equality and freedom go beyond that characterization as well.
These are values whose implementation brings hope to new generations, many of whom are being driven away from participation in politics and decisions that affect their future by the collusion of politics and money in the public arena.
Democracy has two kinds of legitimacy:
Legitimacy of origin and legitimacy of practice, and we all know that there is no perfect democracy in the world, in all our countries we have minorities that cannot freely access their rights. We have to work together to improve their access to human rights.
That's our commitment.
But even if we deal with imperfect democracies we have to defend them, because there is no worse imperfection than the lack of legitimacy of origin for a democratic society.
Free elections are not a sufficient condition for a democratic way of living, but they are a necessary condition.
We have to work together, in the entire Hemisphere to support the Member States to ensure the legitimacy of origin and to improve the legitimacy of practice of our democracies.
We face several challenges in achieving our goals, one of them is corruption.
This administration will have a zero tolerance policy on corruption.
That is why we will also focus on working together with our member states to increase transparency and to intensify the fight against corruption, supporting them through training and access to best practices in transparency and accountability. We have tools; we will use them. And where we need tools, we will create them.
In addition, we will focus on several specific initiatives.
• Citizen security is consistently ranked among the top two or three concerns of the peoples of the countries of the Hemisphere. We will work alongside multilateral organizations on a hemispheric initiative, adopting a holistic approach to the problem.
• In order to improve the prevention of social conflicts, we will facilitate dialogue between investors from both outside and within the region, states, and communities in key productive sectors that generate wealth and conflicts about how that wealth is distributed.
• Another initiative will focus on natural disaster prevention and management in the Caribbean and in Central America.
• We will work to improve interconnectivity in the Caribbean.
• And finally, together with the IDB, the World Bank and Development Bank of Latin America, or CAF, we will launch the Pan American Education System, an initiative that will enable us to progress from achievements in access to education to achievements in enhancing the impact of education at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.
And as we prepare for the upcoming General Assembly next week, which will be our first, we hope that it will result in the beginning of the transformation of the OAS into a more efficient and valuable Organization, closer to the needs and demands of the people in the Americas.
In doing so, we will hold ourselves to two concepts we share with you at the Wilson Center: Open Dialogue, and Actionable Ideas.
We count on you in this process and we are sure that we will strengthen our partnership for the common good of the Americas.
Thank you and I wish you a very successful meeting.