Media Center



June 27, 2019 - Medellín, Colombia

Distinguished Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation;

Esteemed Chair of the OAS Permanent Council, Ambassador Carlos Trujillo, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the OAS;

Distinguished representatives of the member states;

Secretary General of the OAS, His Excellency Luis Almagro Lemes;

Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Nestor Mendez;

Distinguished permanent observers to the OAS;

Representatives of international organizations;

Special guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:

It is a great honor for the Government of Colombia, and for me personally, to preside over this forty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

I would like to thank my colleagues, the distinguished foreign ministers of Honduras and Paraguay, for their kind words and for the trust they displayed in, respectively, proposing and seconding me to chair the discussions of this regular session of the General Assembly. I would also like to thank the General Assembly for accepting my nomination and for entrusting me with that lofty responsibility.

I am resolved to discharge the tasks I have been assigned with the utmost diligence.

Distinguished foreign ministers:

I wish to echo the remarks made yesterday by the President of the Republic, Iván Duque Márquez, on behalf of my country’s government and people, welcoming you to Colombia and to Medellín, a city that is delighted to host the hemispheric meeting that has brought us together here, at what is undoubtedly a crucial juncture for the region, in light of the challenges we must face and of the opportunities available to us for overcoming them.

I am certain that this city, renowned for its civic spirit and innovative energy, where the General Assembly is meeting again, after eleven years, will provide an ideal stage for our thoughts and our discussions.

As I said a few months ago at the Organization’s headquarters, when I had the opportunity to convey my country’s intention to host this meeting to the Permanent Council, hosting this Assembly in Colombia is an expression of faith in the inter-American system and in the OAS, an expression of faith arising from Colombia’s conviction that answers to the great challenges we face in the Americas do exist, which only the inter-American system—with the values that drive it and the virtues inherent in it, and in spite of its limitations—can offer.

Over the seven decades that have passed since the creation of the OAS, which took place here in Colombia, the member states have displayed a notable capacity for innovation in the way they address the leading issues on the regional and international agendas. Because of that, over time the OAS succeeded in becoming what it is today: a privileged forum and a key element in hemispheric governance and, through that evolution, in generating an institutional framework that is now the shared heritage of our nations and our citizens.

That framework has equipped us to respond to the challenges that the Hemisphere’s states face in several domains. But we cannot ignore the fact that we still have more to do, more to achieve, in order to meet the expectations of our countries’ citizens under the four pillars of the OAS’s work: democracy, human rights, integral development, and security.

For that reason, Colombia today reaffirms its commitment toward multilateralism, toward international and hemispheric governance, and consequently toward the inter-American system. And for that reason we want this Assembly to embark on a process of gradual and accumulative reflection that will lead us to identify innovative solutions that will equip inter-American multilateralism with the tools and mechanisms it needs to discharge its mission more effectively, renewing the member states’ commitment to the founding values and principles enshrined in the Charter, adapting its agenda to the citizens’ new needs, improving and optimizing practices and procedures, and boosting the dynamism of its relations with other international organizations and with nongovernmental actors, including the business sector and civil society organizations, which are also key elements in hemispheric governance.

Naturally, the discussions we will hold and the decisions we will adopt during the course of this OAS General Assembly can at no time lose sight of the reason why the Organization and our national governments exist: the inhabitants of the Americas, for whom respect for human rights, strengthened democratic institutions and the rule of law, integral development fueled by sustainable economic growth, and multidimensional security are essential.

As President of the forty-ninth regular session of the General Assembly, I make myself available to all the attending delegations to encourage and facilitate a broad, constructive, and relevant dialogue in pursuit of the goal that has brought us together here today: that of innovating to strengthen hemispheric multilateralism.

I thank you all for your support and your willingness to make it so. Thank you very much.