Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


April 16, 2018 - Miami, Florida

Dear Friends, thank you, it is great to be here you this morning at the 8th World Strategic Forum.

I would also like to thank Nicholas and the team at the International Economic Forum for inviting me back.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Leading an Era of Change”. And this is truly an era of change.

Globalization and technology have transformed the shape of the world we live in dramatically in a very short period of time. We are now living in a world that is defined by its networks and its interconnectivity; economically, socially and culturally.

Today’s world is moving at a faster pace and with it our economies, our democracy and the demands of citizens are changing quickly. This is a moment of global uncertainty and our institutions, governments and political parties are all struggling to keep up.

With so much unknown around us, there is an inclination to retreat into what is familiar.

As a result, we have seen the resurgence of nationalism and along with it a greater appetite for an exclusionary approach in what only a short time ago, we would have considered the most unlikely of places- the very place that gave rise to this new era of globalization.

The world around us is modernizing. New and rapid development of technologies combined with better-educated and more connected citizens has changed civic engagement. It has forced an opening, engaging a much broader segment of society.

It has also changed the way we interact with the world around us because it has changed the way we interact with one another.

The impressive level of interconnectivity and volume of information that flows in social networks can be equated to power, or a dispersion of power. This has shifted center of power and governments’ do not have the same monopoly on-ideas and decision-making they once did.

On the one hand, it has given power for technology giants such as Google and Facebook who have built a new economy off big data - knowing who we are and what we want - and ideas have been monetized in a way that we have not seen before.

On the other hand, it has also diffused power to the people who use these tools daily, including individuals, the private sector, political actors, public organizations, and others.

Today, online platforms can give every private citizen a global platform to share their thoughts, their ideas, to build campaign, or a business. They can be used by anyone, in any way.

They can be the engines of any “fake news” campaign.

New technology-based economies offer the region an opportunity to bypass some the tangible limits of geography and our commodity-based economies.

Diversifying our economies is not an option; it is a necessary condition to generate a viable path to shared prosperity. How Latin American economies and businesses adapt to new technologies and other new developing industries, will determine our long-term economic success.

Innovation, entrepreneurship and technology can be powerful tools to foster shared prosperity when combined with quality education and a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

We must be prepared to invest in our citizens and provide accessible and quality education so that we can create equality of opportunity and ensure that our future generations are ready to seize the opportunities that are laid out before us.

New technologies and inter connectivity are also changing the shape of our politics, and along with it, our democracies.

Over the past year, the headlines have been inundated with discussions about foreign interference in elections. The concept of “fake news” has become a mainstream talking point and the very definition of “truth” has been called into question.

This past week, as the founder of Facebook testified before the American Congress, we are reminded that even those at the forefront – those driving this change - have trouble keeping pace with all of its implications.

The tools have been created but we don’t get to determine who gets to use them, or how -they are out there for the good guys just as they are for the bad guys.

A decade ago, those who had a large enough platform to sway public opinion, determined what was newsworthy, or decided the “truth” was limited to high profile public figures – politicians, governments, media personalities, celebrities.

Becoming a part of these so-called elites had a high barrier of entry that generally involved conformity to some notion of a cultural status-quo. Today, readily accessible smart phones and internet access gives any individual a global platform to share any idea with anyone.

These platforms create a space to bring people together. We have seen this bring out the best, where freedom fighters and human rights defenders found a space to connect and make their voice heard.

We have also seen this used to fuel negative and hateful ideas, undermining legitimate institution and processes with misinformation and conspiracy theories. “Truth” has become our acceptance of the readily available ideas we can choose to believe.

While it contributes to greater pluralism and citizen empowerment, it also creates a space where a single person now possesses the ability to influence the perception and the nature of reality around us has shifted. Anyone can publish their opinions online, and those views can serve to encourage peaceful protests or violence and intolerance.

This is why today, just as much as 10 or 20 year ago, the question must come back to our values. Our truths remain – there are two clear issues that will either unite or divide our people; inclusion and equality. By inclusion, I mean our identity – be it our choice to identify with our nationality, our ethnic origin, ideology, sexual orientation or otherwise.

And by equality, this is wealth versus everybody else. Inequality, the lack of social inclusion and opportunities, and poverty, has a marked impact on welfare, political stability and democratic governance.

Globalization has improved economic prosperity around the world and helped reduce global inequality. However, within many of our borders it has had the reverse effect and our Hemisphere remains one of the most unequal. As long as this remains a reality, it hurts all of us.

We still face many longstanding structural problems. Growing demands from citizens aggravate weak institutions that offer poor social services.

Corruption, weak rule of law, and political polarization fuels the erosion of economic, political, social and human rights. All of these efforts undermine the trusts of citizens in their governments.

For too long, this continent was ready to overlook these bad practices, considering them exceptions, or not wanting to disrupt the status quo, choosing to hide behind a misguided definition of regional solidarity.

In that time, these bad practices kept growing and corruption became rampant. All this has accomplished is to grow a more polarized and divided hemisphere.

We have just concluded the eight Summit of the Americas in Lima under the theme of “Democratic Governance against Corruption”. Leaders of this hemisphere stand united in taking a bold step forward in addressing these bad practices and rebuild the confidence of our citizens in our institutions and governments.

The recent cases of Odebrecht and the Panama papers are unsettling, to be sure. But we must remember that the first step to address the problem, to healing this disease is to shine light on the problem.

We must be prepared to judge corruption and hold its perpetrators accountable. These are positive steps forward. They are a step towards cutting out the infection and letting political systems heal themselves.

These difficult steps that are being taken to hold individuals accountable for their corrupt practices must be applauded and recognized for what they are. These are efforts to create stronger institutions that will rebuild the confidence of citizens in the processes that guide our societies. We must proudly and boldly continue down this path.

Over the course of your next few days here, there will be a lot of conversations about economic growth and how to build greater prosperity. The idea that I will leave you with today: to achieve prosperity, we must come back to a well functioning democracy.

In the Americas, we have proven that stronger democracies have better and more vibrant economies with greater social protections.

Inclusive societies with strong institutions that facilitate social mobility and that can be adaptable and respond to citizens growing and changing demands will ensure that we have more stable and prosperous societies.

When institutions are focused on the greater good, they will prioritize addressing the structural factors that condition economic and social inequalities, exclusion, poverty and extreme poverty.

By working to achieve more democratic, just and equitable societies, they will consolidate democracy for future generations.

It is in strengthening our institutions that we strengthen the resilience of our democracies. This is how we will truly achieve greater opportunity and prosperity for us all.

Thank you