Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


March 18, 2015 - Washington, DC

America has been divided for a long time... Too long. My travels in the Americas in these past few months have transformed me. I am now less local and more American, and that I owe to you.

I think the time has come to put an end to unnecessary fragmentations. As of May 26 and as Secretary General of the OAS I will strive to make the OAS a tool that is useful for all Americans, be they from the center, south, north, or the Caribbean.

I will be guided, first and foremost, by solidarity.

Mr. President of the Forty-Ninth Special Session of the General Assembly,
Distinguished Ministers of Foreign Affairs ,
Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Permanent representatives and members of the OAS missions present here today,
Permanent Observers,
OAS staff,
My friends:

It is to you, as the representatives of the peoples of the Americas, that I owe this vote of confidence, for which I thank you. In me, you will find a tireless fighter for American unity, more interested in finding lasting practical solutions to the problems of our region than in rhetoric or shrill declarations based on one ideology or another.

I am convinced that the era of a wordy, bureaucratic OAS, detached from the concerns of the peoples of the Americas, rooted in the paradigms of the past, is giving way, definitively, to an OAS of the Twenty-First Century.

And that has come about because of the realities of a multipolar world and Hemisphere.

We need to inject a little realism into the OAS and do as best we can what this Organization can do better than any other: political dialogue with tangible results in key areas for Democracy, Human Rights, Security, and the Integral Development of the Americas.

It is a unique forum. It is not UNASUR, or CELAC, or CARICOM, or SICA, or MERCOSUR, or NAFTA, or the Pacific Alliance. Rather it encompasses all of that, whereby the sum must be greater than the parts.

I am not interested in administering the crisis in the OAS. I am bent on facilitating the emergence of a revitalized OAS.

I have spent much of the past eight months talking with governments, civil society, and the private sector, and I found, when I was with them, that they still have hopes that the OAS can get a hold on new developments in the Hemisphere and thereby help ensure more democracy, more rights, more security, and more prosperity for all.

To achieve that, we will tailor priorities to those strategic objectives, keep all that serves those goals, and see what needs to be shed as obsolete or incidental.

I will keep the initiatives I announced last month as part of the work program, because they were not just an electoral platform. Far from it.

Citizen Security, one of the two or three top concerns in all the countries of the Hemisphere. We will work together with multilateral organizations on a hemispheric initiative, adopting a comprehensive approach to the problem.
School of Governance. We will help train civil servants and civil society by endowing them with tools for good governance, transparency, accountability, and for forging consensus.
Preventing social conflicts. We will facilitate dialogue between regional and international investors and the states and communities in key productive sectors that generate wealth and conflicts about how that wealth is distributed.
Natural disaster prevention and management in the Caribbean and Central America. We will develop a coordinated network of best practices with the United Nations and multilateral organizations.
Interconnectivity in the Caribbean. This will be an initiative to overcome digital connectivity divides, and develop more even commercial use of rivers and air traffic, so as to attract investment to the region and boost progress and jobs for young people.
Pan American Network on the Quality of Education. This initiative will enable us to move on from achievements in enhancing access to education to achievements in enhancing the impact of education at higher levels.
To pursue this agenda, we will have to realign the budget to match these goals and embark on a restructuring and modernization of the Organization.

Accordingly, I have instructed those who will make up my transition team to begin the tasks of preparing the actions needed to implement that agenda, including the installation of an international committee of experts to come up with recommendations as to how to fine-tune the results-based budget and thereby inject a new culture into the Organization.

Over the coming two months of transition, my collaborators and I will focus mainly on listening to and learning from everyone, from ambassadors to directors, to the General Secretariat, as well as to professional and administrative staff, civil society, and other organizations. Everyone.

I want to pay tribute to the work of all the staff of this Organization who help demonstrate that professionalism and results are fully compatible with the political nature of an organization like the OAS.

Distinguished Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
My friends:

In the short run, I will be looking at the Summit of the Americas, an historic opportunity to move ahead toward a Hemisphere free of exclusions, starting with the presence of Cuba in the inter-American setting for the first time in decades.

I wish to thank Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and his team for having facilitated our work when we visited OAS headquarters and I am sure they will continue to do so during the transition toward the end of May.


My deepest thanks go to Senator and former President of Uruguay, José Mujica, who actually was the person who first prompted me to run for this position and then encouraged me to stay the course; to the current President of my country, Tabaré Vázquez; to Foreign Minister Nin Novoa, and to my colleagues, who have been many and whom I would mention, if only time permitted.

Once again, thank you for depositing your trust in me.

I accept this responsibility with the humility of one who realizes that the success of my endeavors will only be tangible if, by the end of my mandate, we can say with certainty that the OAS made a positive contribution to ensuring that more Americans live in peace, with more democracy, more observance of human rights, more security, and greater prosperity.

Thank you.