8 de junio de 2003 - Santiago, Chile

Mr. President:

We have come to these climes from the farthest reaches of the Americas, guided by the great admiration that the strength of the democratic institutions of this nation commands; by the steadfastness and courage of this people that struggled against authoritarianism and the systematic violation of human rights and public freedoms. Here, the trade-off between democracy and development is no longer an issue for discussion. You, the people of Chile, have said clearly that growth cannot be used as a pretext for sacrificing rights.

I wish to thank the people of Chile for their traditional generous hospitality. I also wish to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Ms. Soledad Alvear, for the sense of dedication she has displayed to ensure the success of this Assembly session, for the renewed and dynamic Chilean foreign policy pursued in support of unity and integration, and for her counsel, which is always invaluable and to the point. May I also thank Ambassador Esteban Tomic for his effectiveness and professionalism.

My special thanks to you, President Lagos, an indisputable leader of the Hemisphere –a leader in whom we recognize integrity, vision, intelligence, wisdom, and a vast knowledge of public affairs. You embody the democratic values for which we, the people of the Americas, are struggling.

President Lagos, you have also managed to build an economy that has triggered more dynamic growth, an economy that has led to a reduction in poverty, a rise in per capita income, and higher rates of savings and investment. It has made Chile a hotbed for innovative ideas in social policy. In fact, democratic stability, freedom from civil strife, and respect for the rule of law are now the basis for an environment that favors investment and strong democratic governance.

It is no coincidence that democratic governance was also the topic of the recent meeting in Cuzco. Undoubtedly, the beginnings of this millennium have been turbulent. At our General Assembly session in Costa Rica, when the first version of the Democratic Charter was discussed, it seemed that the ideas and mechanisms it embodied would only meet with sporadic resistance. At times, it seemed a fine and timely academic exercise to update the carefully crafted and pioneering resolution 1080 and the Santiago Commitment to Democracy.

Already at the General Assembly session held in Barbados in 2002, we were able to appreciate the relevance of the Democratic Charter. And since last year we have held firmly to its precepts in the face of the many difficulties our leaders confront in responding to the demands of the citizenry, addressing its claims, dealing with protests and unrest that surface in opposition to government decisions or policies, globalization, or regional integration, some of which are well-founded, whereas others are hardly justified. The Charter has therefore become a crucial and key living document; one might almost say that it is absolutely essential. Enshrined therein are the many dimensions of what democracy is today.

The great changes wrought in the Americas by globalization have increased problems and challenges exponentially. And on other occasions, we have had the opportunity to talk about capital volatility, the most undesirable feature of globalization, one that is today the greatest obstacle to democratic governance in the Americas.

When we talk about democratic governance, we must also mention the enormous pressure on our political systems that globalization has created. This has brought to the fore the flaws, weaknesses, and defects of these systems. Globalization unveils and unmasks problems that have been present in our societies for decades.

And in these times that hardly abound in material gains a global awareness has emerged of social justice and democratic victories; free and fair elections; separation of the branches of government; an independent justice system and the fight against impunity; the unrelenting assault on corruption and the quest for more transparency; accountability; and the harshest judgment of political parties. Defense of freedom of the press and of expression has taken on new momentum; our embattled institutions have been shaken to their foundations by the growing presence of civil society, with its fierce criticism, cries, and protest. As never before in our history, the fight against discrimination and defense of the rights of the weakest, women, indigenous peoples, and children, have surfaced with intensity.

In many of our countries, major shortcomings in the delivery of public services prevent our people from leading dignified lives. All are offended that Latin America is the most inequitable region of the world. Few are interested in whether or not this is a consequence of the previous or current economic model. And this all undermines democratic governance.

Faced with the magnitude of these challenges, we must equip the OAS and the inter-American system in such a way that governments in difficulty are able to make effective use of their institutions, face the problems, and, as you say, President Lagos, govern over and above globalization.

The unfinished process that enabled Guatemala and Belize to devise proposals to resolve their significant differences on their common border is known to all. Honduras also offered its assistance. Using a mechanism of facilitators for both parties, and with the Secretary General of the OAS as a witness of honor, we have come a long way on a road which, we trust, will lead to a happy outcome in a not too distant future. My thanks to so many member countries and observers that assisted in financing this process.

I also wish to mention the effective efforts of Ambassador Luigi Einaudi and his team to ensure compliance with the confidence-building measures between Nicaragua and Honduras while the International Court of Justice rules on the merits of the litigation. I also wish to make reference to the work being done with the support of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History to help Honduras and El Salvador carry out the judgment of the Court of The Hague concerning the demarcation of the common border.

The OAS has also opened up an area for rapid and effective investigations. This was the case with illegal arms trafficking, which involved operations and transactions in three states: Colombia, Nicaragua, and Panama. The investigation, conducted by Ambassador Morris Busby, will be useful to the judicial, police, and military authorities and to governments, in their commitment to control illegal arms trafficking within the framework of CIFTA.

In the case of the serious incidents that occurred in Bolivia on February 12 and 13, we have managed, with the assistance of experts from the United States, Brazil, and Colombia, to come up with an initial description of the facts, help the Executive establish the political accountability of their officials, and make recommendations to prevent any recurrence of such events. Our report suggests actions that the Prosecutor’s Office might take to complete the investigations and determine which individuals were responsible.

I would now like to draw your attention to the programs of our Unit for the Promotion of Democracy that help to enhance democratic governance: the Inter-American Decentralization Network, the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties, meetings on parliaments and electoral authorities, the Conference on Political Party Financing that we cosponsor with the Carter Center, and the ambitious research program we have embarked upon with the NGO IDEA.

Hemispheric security, for its part, has become a top priority at the OAS. Chile played a part in initiating that process, when it held the first meeting on confidence- and security-building measures. This year a second meeting was held, in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on the security concerns of small island states, which confirmed the multidimensional nature of hemispheric security issues. At that meeting, the General Secretariat delivered the report on security for nuclear waste transport through the Caribbean Sea. The meeting also redrew attention to the critical part played by natural disasters in the island states of the Caribbean.

The CICTE meeting in San Salvador served to renew hemispheric commitment to the fight against terrorism. Both at the Meeting of Ministers here in Chile and at the meeting of experts on confidence-building measures in Miami, participants emphasized the importance of transparency and mutual trust for the security and defense of the Hemisphere. We have managed to establish a significant joint agenda of the Ministers of Defense and the Committee on Hemispheric Security.

In CICAD, we have made further progress in applying the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM). This year, for the first time, the Commission was able to support priority programs identified by countries and chosen by the Commission, including, for instance, a program to measure the impact of drugs on day-to-day crime. I would also like to underscore the comprehensive proposal on strengthening mutual legal assistance, mandated by the Ministers of Justice in Ottawa, as well as the progress made with respect to cybercrime.

The Special Meeting on Security to be held in Mexico is a great opportunity to establish a flexible structural framework, based on cooperation, that draws on and coordinates experience with the different instruments, tools, and initiatives developed at the OAS to address new nonmilitary threats.

As for demining, we are pleased to report that Nicaragua has cleared 65 percent of its territory; operations in Costa Rica were completed in 2002; and in Honduras they are expected to finish in September. In addition, over the past two years, 500,000 mines stockpiled in Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru were destroyed. I should like to thank all those who donated funds and supervisors for their invaluable cooperation.

This whole process of adaptation is being achieved thanks to a vigorous transformation of our agenda in connection with the Summits of the Americas process. Tomorrow, in the framework of our General Assembly session, ministers will have an opportunity to hold a meeting open to the media, special guests, and civil society.

This year we have established an Executive Secretariat, headed today by a distinguished Chilean lady, to help us meet these numerous responsibilities, to constitute the institutional memory of this process, to assist the implementation review group and the Governing and Executive Committees, and to coordinate with other international organizations such as the IDB, the World Bank, IICA, PAHO, CAF, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, and the Caribbean Bank.

Over the past year, the Secretariat has helped us support the ministerial meetings, which constitute one of the principal components of the follow-up and implementation mechanisms for the Summit mandates. The Ministers of Culture have created an Inter-American Committee to carry out their collective programs. In August, the Ministers of Education will move ahead in three main areas, which include financing for the sector by international agencies. The Ministers of Labor have continued addressing the effects of globalization and integration on labor issues, as well as the modernization of human resource management. The Inter-American Conference will be held in Brazil in October. The Ministers of Transportation met in Ixtapa just a few days ago and adopted the Program of Action, in which they undertook to implement a regional policy geared to developing the infrastructure required for economic integration in the Americas. This year I would like to draw attention to the effort made by member states to incorporate into their domestic law the internal provisions of the inter-American human rights system and to make that system universal by ratifying the American Convention and accepting the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This process is a key part of bolstering the scope and effectiveness of the protection afforded by the system to the inhabitants of the Hemisphere.

Here it is worth underscoring the role of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. I would also like to point out how, year after year, we have progressed in our efforts to endow the Court and the Commission with as much institutional autonomy as possible. This year, special attention was paid to the subject of racism and to the rights of migrant workers and their families. We are also pleased at the progress made toward the declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

On the subject of corruption, we would like to record the success of the follow-up mechanism, which enabled us to produce a report on Argentina and which will lead by July to reports on Colombia, Paraguay, and Nicaragua, all of which volunteered to undergo this analysis.

Undoubtedly the best example of comprehensive application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter has been in connection with Venezuela, where, with the support of the Carter Center and the UNDP, we have acted as facilitators in a Forum for Negotiation and Agreement.

Resolution 833 of our Permanent Council established our mandate. In pursuing it, we strove to prevent political turbulence, social unrest, and huge demonstrations in a highly polarized environment translating into violence and disregard for the rule of law and the constitutional order. There were some unfortunate incidents and some lives were lost, but, generally speaking, no large-scale loss of life occurred, thanks, in part, to Venezuelans’ immense respect for human life.

One of the major achievements of the Forum for Negotiation and Agreement was to provide a means of communication, open to all, especially at critical moments, as well as a reminder of the need for moderation and the containment of political passions, however tense the circumstances.

The parties reached an agreement that they signed on May 29. The application of Article 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution, if the National Electoral Council certifies that the constitutional requirements regarding signatures have been met, undoubtedly constitutes the peaceful, democratic, electoral, and constitutional solution that we strove so hard to find in the Forum and that Permanent Council resolution 833 refers to.

The agreement contemplates the willingness of the Government of President Chávez to fulfill its obligation to provide the funds and security required for that solution, by means of referenda convened by the CNE. All sides have undertaken to abide by the Constitution and to respect the decisions of the new National Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Justice. The agreement was crafted in such a way as to strengthen the democratic institutions of the country and the constitutional powers of the authorities. Our thanks go to the Group of Friends of the Secretary General, which comprises Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Chile, Spain, and Portugal, for their support in these endeavors.

At this point, I should like to mention freedom of expression. As we stated in Caracas, it is very important for citizens to be informed, objectively and impartially, about political options. In processing the laws that the Assembly will examine, it is essential that, following a dialogue with the media and journalists, freedom of expression emerge unscathed so that Venezuela may get through this tumultuous period of institutional change with full respect for democratic values. The OAS attaches particular importance to the fact that, in the agreement, both the Government and the opposition acknowledge the Inter-American Democratic Charter and make express and detailed reference to all the principles and standards enshrined therein.

In the Secretariat, as the agreement points out, we consider the Forum for Negotiation and Agreement closed. The facilitator will remain at the disposal of the parties in the event of any major hurdle during implementation. We trust that the institutions, the Government, and the opposition will solve any impasse within the terms of the agreement and using the liaison mechanism that both parties have agreed to set up. We are prepared to keep monitoring developments, as both parties have instructed us to do.

On behalf of our Organization, I wish to thank the Government of President Chávez, the Vice President, the Foreign Minister, and all representatives in the Forum of both the Government and Coordinadora Democrática, for their extraordinary dedication and commitment; President Jimmy Carter for his constant concern and support; UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his team; Ambassador Valero; and my Chief of Staff, Fernando Jaramillo, for his hard work and skill throughout these months.

Our work in Haiti also involved applying a mechanism contemplated in the Democratic Charter. Since the last General Assembly session, the member states, including CARICOM, and some observer countries, have supported our quest for a solution to the crisis derived from the elections in 2000. Nevertheless, despite some progress in international aspects, the situation has barely changed since July 2002.

In September, the Permanent Council adopted resolution 822, which included important provisions for normalization of economic cooperation between the Government of Haiti and the international financial institutions; reaffirmation of the mandates of the OAS Special Mission to Strengthen Democracy in Haiti; and a call for the “formation of an autonomous, independent, credible and neutral CEP” no later than November 4, 2002. The process of normalization with the financial institutions is under way; thanks to significant support from several countries, we have given continuity to the work of the Mission, but it has not been possible to form the Electoral Council in accordance with the previously agreed terms.

The Permanent Council sent a Mission to Port-au-Prince in March of 2003. It was headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saint Lucia and the Assistant Secretary General and included representatives of multilateral financial institutions. The Assistant Secretary General and I, as well as the Groups of Friends and the Director of our Special Mission, believe that the Government of Haiti must take the necessary steps to ensure that free, fair, and transparent elections are held, under the terms established in the Council resolutions. Also, if those conditions are met, it will be necessary for the opposition to participate both in the Electoral Council and in the elections.

I believe that despite the difficulty in surmounting the political crisis, we must persevere with CARICOM and with the observer countries that support us in our efforts to strengthen democratic values in Haiti. We cannot allow our member country most afflicted by social problems and underdevelopment to gradually lose its democratic way, nor must we accept it. I trust that this is the mandate of this Assembly and that we will work with renewed vigor. Certainly, both President Aristide and his opponents will accompany us in this new negotiation effort and in maintaining the major role of the Special Mission. We are encouraged that, just the day before yesterday, President Aristide chose a head of police who is eminently qualified professionally, which could lead us along the democratic path that we have been seeking.

We wish to emphasize how Argentina is emerging from its crisis with its democratic institutions unharmed. The Government of President Kirchner is ushering in an era of hope, with an enormous economic, political, and social task ahead. Of interest to all Americans are the success of his administration as well as the fact that the multilateral system of financial institutions and, especially, the IMF, are assuming decisively and realistically their share of responsibility in ensuring that Argentina is fully reintegrated into the international financial system. This is of vital importance for all Americans, and not only for Argentina.

We wish to mention the significant success achieved by the new administration of Brazilian President Lula in his economic policy. His leadership has restored a good dose of trust not only in Brazil, but also in the entire region. His actions have put an end to a wave of volatility that has had a severe effect on our growth over the last two years. I should also like to make mention of the economic stability that President Gutiérrez of Ecuador has managed to achieve. In Colombia, thanks to growing support from the community of nations, President Uribe has made significant strides in his policy of democratic security designed to face up to the problems of narcoterrorism that have affected my country so badly. It is a source of satisfaction to all that fully democratic elections were held in Paraguay.

We all hope that the negotiations under way on the formation of the FTAA will conclude by the established deadlines and yield equitable, balanced results that take into account the interests of all the subregions. As we have already seen, the conclusion of bilateral agreements and the further development of subregional agreements are helpful to hemispheric integration. We celebrate the signing of the Chile-United States treaty. It is part of a broad policy of agreements with countries and groups within and beyond the region. As President of Colombia, I had the opportunity to conclude an agreement with Chile nearly a decade ago. We must not forget, however, the importance of attaining a general, comprehensive agreement that increases market access among all countries of the inter-American system and links their economies with common disciplines.

Fulfillment of the Doha Ministerial Declaration is important to all, especially as regards multilateral trade system rules. In bringing the FTAA into being, the negotiators face the challenge of remaining very realistic in this final phase. Consensus is urgently needed on which aspects will be negotiated at the Doha multilateral round and which will remain at the FTAA level. The adoption at the Quito ministerial meeting of a program of hemispheric cooperation to strengthen trade-negotiation capabilities has allowed us to support the negotiating process even further, especially in connection with the smaller and more vulnerable economies.

Thanks to the efforts of our main contributor, the United States, the Organization’s liquidity improved substantially in 2002, which allowed it to reduce payments arrears and ensure its long-term financial health. At the same time, its budgetary decline continued, since the figures have been frozen in nominal terms for the past eight years. Increasing Regular Fund constraints have prompted the areas within the Organization to draw upon the specific funds. These funds represented 15% of budgetary execution in 1997, and 46% in 2002. For some areas, the use of specific funds is even more pronounced. In 2002, they financed 81% of initiatives in the democracy area and 77% in the CICAD area.

In some ways this trend is positive, but the level of administrative and technical resources devoted to administering specific funds is climbing, and our resources for hemispheric summit and Assembly mandates are shrinking. When they look to the future of the Organization, the member countries should revisit these funding questions. We cannot indefinitely meet constantly growing demands for activities and resources with a constantly shrinking Regular Fund. That is not consistent with the role assigned to the OAS in hemispheric affairs.

I want to offer a few closing thoughts on ways to bring about enhanced democratic governance.

It would be advisable to convene a Special Summit of Heads of State and Government. Clearly, we live at a time when not only has our economic growth been seriously hampered but also more and more questions are raised about how our governments should act to overcome such obstacles. It has surely been a mistake to somewhat underestimate the importance of political variables in the 1990s and to have believed that development is determined solely by economic factors. Therefore, what was once a question of economic models has become an eminently political issue.

We Latin Americans, in particular, need to let go of oversimplifications. Whenever one of those single-focus models becomes obsolete, we move on to the next one. Statism and protectionism, markets, free trade, liberalization, globalization--these are formulas or recipes that never explain either our transitory successes or our frequent failures.

We have also learned that some of the policies we applied in the 1990s to lead us to prosperity were not an end-point but a starting point--merely a precondition. What were touted as high aims in the 1990s became simple prerequisites, without the gloss, the novelty, the appearance of infallibility. We must strike a better balance between what the previous model yielded and what the achievements and limitations of the new model have meant for us. Perhaps all we know for certain is that neither model has proved successful in reducing poverty or inequality.

Structural adjustment and economic modernization programs assigned social policy a merely marginal, residual role, limited to mitigating the inevitable impact of those measures. We should therefore not be surprised at our states’ ineffectiveness in fighting poverty.

We trust that the Special Summit will prompt our leaders, acting collectively and far more categorically, to give social policy and social investment pride of place in our countries, in the actions of our governments. As President Lagos has said, there will be no winners without social justice.

And we urgently need, with the guidance of our leaders, to shape a new shared agenda that transcends the paradigms of the past decade, paradigms which have been superseded by recent events and which have seriously impaired democratic governance. We need a plan to address globalization and strengthen our competitive position. We urgently need to build educational systems that will help us close the income gap between those who have most and those who have less. I want to mention the potentially important role of the Education Portal of the Americas, an initiative of our cooperation agency. We also need a set of policies to strengthen social harmony, respect for the rule of law, and public safety.

Shaping and developing this agenda at the beginning of the millennium will allow us to realize our dreams of integration and social justice. Our leaders must change course drastically to ensure that in coming years we reach our destination. Only with more reforms, more democracy, and better state institutions and policies will we successfully address the tasks of growth, social equity, inclusion, and well-being for all people of the Americas. Many thanks to the people of Chile, who have generously provided this stimulating environment for our General Assembly session.

Thank you very much.