Seventh Lecture - José Miguel Insulza

Eduardo Stein

Seventh Lecture - July 15, 2005
(Universidad San Martín de Porres en Lima, Peru)

"Hemispheric Integration: An Overview of Challenges and Perspectives"

Speaker: José Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary General

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome all the public of the Americas witnessing this transmission, by radio and television. The subject which brings us together today is precisely one that I have had to face for a little less than two months now that is the present and the future, the prospects of the Inter-American System. I think it is also appropriate that this subject help us for the first lecture of the Americas being held outside the headquarters of the OAS, in Washington, to have it held here in the city of Lima, Peru. As I had occasion to say earlier, there’s a different period in Inter-American system since the signing in 2001 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in whose preparation or development this country played a preponderant role and also we recall that Peru, the Ambassador of Peru, is the one who pushed things forward as Permanent Chair of the Council of the OAS and promoted the real functioning of this instrument so it’s just a matter of justice that the first mission or reference to it be done here in San Martín de Porres, the university which has been so fundamental also in supporting the Charter.

When we talk about the Inter-American System, I think it is necessary to describe what we are talking about because from a formal point of view I think it is an almost perfect system designed by architects, it has a summit, presidents who meet every three years; the main organization from a political point of view is the Organization of American States, which participates, which has a General Assembly where the foreign ministers meet every year, There is also a permanent council, ambassadors from all the countries, the 84 member countries and a series of meetings through secretarial meetings, the meetings take place throughout the year There is a bank involved, the Inter-American Development Bank.

There are certain sectorial organizations: the most important ones, such as the Pan American Health Organization, the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, further to other institutions which are not really part of the Inter-American System but rather part of the United Nations, in the case of the Economic Commission for LA or Thomas Institutions like the Monetary Fund of the World Bank which devote special attention to Latin America.

To that of course we have to add the existence of different organizations of the regional level or sub-regional, if you prefer, as is the case of MERCOSUR, CARICOM, the Central American Community, the Andean Community of Nations and the South American Group of Nations. The problem then or/of strength of the Inter-American System is not institutional.

When one talks about the Ibero-American Summit nowadays one tries to simplify things though, referring to Rio, the Inter-American Group. There are a number of organizations, which as a whole, in their totality, resolve the problems of the region in certain perspectives.

However, very often this institutionalism conceived as a promise on the one hand. How often do citizens of our countries who have had problems, who have been treated unfair say, “I will go to the OAS,” referring to the Committee on Human Rights of the OAS, of course. How often in our countries when there is a problem in the United Nations they also go there. It intervenes as well. That on the one hand is true and on the other, there is a certain perception of distance. The organizations are far away and the problem is how to bring them closer, how to relate them to people, how to make things more functional and better answering to the needs of our citizens.

If we look at the Organization of American States, its main problem is not the subjects that the group covers, democracy, human rights, for example, peace and security and development; a trilogy which is almost complete of matters which we should be looking at in terms of the mandates that the chair, the presidency and other organizations contribute.

Consequently, when we talk about the relevance or otherwise of the Inter-American System, we are not talking about something which can be criticized formally but rather we are also looking at the needs or the need that this group effectively in a priority manner deals with the problems of the region This is a problem of relevance of the OAS, or whatever system you’d like to call it, and we establish how this can occur.

It is very important to look at the condition of the region nowadays because depending on the condition of the region derives this idea that we can also face things from the point of view of international organizations in facing a crisis or certain incapacity to respond. We are not going to go that far back in history, we will merely say that after the decade of the eighties, the so-called lost decades of LA, there were rules hand in hand with an important flourishing of democracy in the region, there were rules, as I said, a series of reform programs, proposals from economic modernization which go hand in hand with the political revitalization that democracy brought with it seemed to promise a new decade or an end of century which was far more positive and more valuable if you will for our region and of course when the promise of the nineties, the beginning of the nineties had been so huge characterized by a return to democracy which happily lasts in most of our countries, the promise had been so big, so important I would say, that the disillusionment was even more so and surveys of the year 2000, large studies on these subjects in the year 2000, showed for example, strong growth in insecurity, in general terms, not only an increase in delinquency which has been a problem in many large cities but also insecurity in employment, economic insecurity, loss of faith in the future, citizens, this was told to us, we found this in a study in the city of Chicago if I am correct, in the year 2000, they thought that the future of their sons was less promising than their own had been.

Something that should never happened in our region before. There was also a growth with that of distrust and distrust most surely affects/affected democracy.

Full Speech