Heads of Delegations, Secretary General Insulza, Permanent Representatives, Permanent Observers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by expressing a heartfelt thank you to everyone - the speakers, government representatives, authorities of the Dominican Republic, civil society, and permanent observers - for your presence and participation in this event. Such broad involvement has no doubt added value and has significantly contributed to the success of this event.
For us at the OAS, this experience has been an important and effective step forward in showing the active role of the OAS in preserving and strengthening democratic stability in our region during this past year.
In addition, I would like to thank the Government of Canada for its financial support and also the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development for providing the facilities.
I believe that we all should be satisfied that this event has fulfilled its objectives of presenting and discussing the experiences and the joint efforts of the OAS and its member states to strengthen democratic institutions. Let me therefore take this opportunity to also recognize the good work of the Department of Democratic and Political Affairs led by Mr. Dante Caputo and also congratulate Mr. Victor Rico with this initiative.
In my view there is no doubt that the OAS as the prime multilateral vehicle in the Western Hemisphere contribute tangibly to crisis prevention, crisis management and crisis resolution. We anticipate that member states will take the opportunity of the 36th Regular General Assembly to further discuss some of the issues addressed in the course of this afternoon.
Promoting peace and democracy, fostering integral development and ensuring security remain at the heart of OAS priorities and institutional mandates. As we have seen from the presentations in this Forum, the OAS has played a decisive role in addressing political and institutional crises in the hemisphere, and is widely perceived as an honest broker in the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts. This is a tradition of which we can all be proud.
Although our focus during this forum has been on democratic stability, it is important to note that while democratic stability is ideal, it cannot and should not be an end in itself. All of our initiatives and actions in his area of strengthening democracy and promoting peace are geared towards creating a positive climate for social and economic growth and development, because in the end it is about how we concretely improve the life of the people of the Americas. And in this sense, I must observe that we have still a long way to go, so clearly we need to increase our efforts and initiatives to facilitate peace, justice and solidarity in the Hemisphere.
In a knowledge-based society, this implies strategic management of information; the adaptability and appropriate application of information and technologies to encourage knowledge growth; and the marshalling of such knowledge to improve human capacity and improve opportunities for a society to develop.
The theme of this year’s General Assembly, “good governance and development in the knowledge-based society,” is a reminder of the critical link between stable democratic governments and development. When democracy and flourishes and good governance practices are applied, the citizenry is empowered to build its human capacity through education, innovation and the appropriation of skill-sets that contribute to the economic and social development of the country. Democratic governments are also more likely to embrace their affirmative responsibility to improve the social, economic and political conditions of their citizens, and to uphold the principles of good governance such as accountability and efficiency, transparency and an inclusive approach, and the rule of law, coupled with sound economic and financial policies.
I wish to share with you the suggestion that Latin America suffers from serious income distribution inequity, growing tension and reform fatigue. One report indicates that economic reforms are being held back not so much by the absence of political will but by institutional deficiencies which make it difficult to transform ideas into successful policies.
Likewise, Latin America and the Caribbean are said to be at risk and appear to be falling further behind in the global marketplace. Without an effective strategy to increase innovation through technology, reform traditional structures of education, promote investment in information and communication technology, encourage greater public and private sector partnership geared towards enhanced productivity and innovation these economies which today are unprepared for the future of increased global competition will find themselves tomorrow still dealing with rules and technologies that are relics of the past.
Our Hemisphere must be ready to seize the opportunity to better manage the information age, maximize its massive potential, and transform it into the necessary knowledge-base tools that better enable our region to compete in a global environment dominated by competitive economies and new technology.
Just one year ago, Secretary General Insulza and I initiated efforts to reorient the focus of the OAS and to pay greater attention to the emerging challenges to democracy in our region. As we have heard this afternoon, the OAS has been very actively engaged in solving different problems that affect or threaten to affect democratic stability and good governance. In all these processes, the Organization’s actions have been determined within the framework of the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and General Assembly, and Permanent Council resolutions, as well as the mandates from the Summits of the Americas.
In my view, the OAS is in a unique position to address political and other issues that affect the region because of the Organization’s legitimacy, credibility and mandates that bring together the collective influence of the Hemisphere to resolve disputes, build consensus and foster compromise among governments, and to encourage member states to change course when they violate hemispheric norms.
Through active engagement, its growing expertise and experience developed in this area, the OAS is critical to the maintenance of democratic stability and governance in the region. For instance, in Haiti and Ecuador, our proactive cooperation with other institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, the Andean Community among others, was essential in achieving success. We believe that it is important to strengthen regional cooperation by addressing and resolving priority issues of conflict in the Hemisphere. In this regard, we will continue to work to strengthen cooperation between the OAS and other regional and sub-regional institutions.
We are mindful also of the importance of the participation of all actors such as civil society, the media, academia, among others, in the process to arrive at a peaceful consensus.
I am sure you will agree that we sometimes take democratic governments and the far-reaching benefits of these administrations for granted. Within the OAS, however, our priorities include the promotion and consolidation of representative democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere and we will do everything in our power to ensure that democracy flourishes in our region.
I do not need to reaffirm that the OAS leadership stands firm in its resolve to support efforts of the democratic governments of our Hemisphere. Our commitment to democracy does not stop at the creation of democratic institutions. We also want to see the essence of stable democratic institutions realized – the advancement of our countries and more importantly our peoples. As I said earlier, democratic stability is also a catalyst for development. It must therefore become the engine for growth, knowledge-generation, creativity and competitiveness in a knowledge-based society.