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Press Release


  March 27, 2006

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States OAS, José Miguel Insulza, said today that to bring about social cohesion in the Americas, it is necessary to move beyond the diagnostic stage and implement effective public policies. He spoke in Brussels at a forum that brought together high-level authorities of the European Commission and international organizations of the Americas to discuss social issues.

Insulza said that inequality, poverty and exclusion should be confronted with measures that foster good governance and social cohesion. He pointed to two elements that have characterized the region in recent decades: the regularization of democratic processes, leading to the change of authorities; and economic growth. He referred to the monitoring of presidential elections in twelve countries from December 2005 to December 2006, which he said reflects a tendency towards democratic consolidation. He added that in the last two years, the region has registered its largest average economic growth in the last two and a half decades.

Nevertheless, Insulza warned that two questions temper the optimism of this analysis: how long this growth will last, and whether its benefits this time will be distributed more fairly than in the past. “Social cohesion is such a central issue,” he said, “because it spotlights the main problem: In Latin America and the Caribbean there are nearly 200 million people living in poverty and some 40 percent in extreme poverty. This creates difficulties and influences the social and political life and the democratic life of our countries.” Insulza said it must be acknowledged that “in countries with widespread poverty and limited resources, such as the majority in our continent, the practice of the democratic system is more difficult under these conditions.”

The Secretary General explained that the concept of social cohesion goes beyond poverty and inequality and touches on ethnic and other aspects. “The indigenous populations are often mentioned as a sector included in the poverty statistics, yet people of African descent, who constitute a quarter of the continent’s population, are not always alluded to. In today’s forum we spoke of women; we should add the phenomena of drugs, economic migration and those displaced by violence. All these are factors that affect social cohesion and have important effects on the region’s social fabric,” Insulza added.

This analysis, he said, underscores the need to activate a cooperation agenda with Europe “in which the main point is how to transform diagnoses into effective public policies. The strengthening of governments and states, good governance, best practices, surely have an important role to play. We have to discuss all of these issues in this forum, and I hope they will also illuminate the debate we will have at the European Union/Latin America and Caribbean Summit next May in Vienna.”

During the morning, Secretary General Insulza held a working meeting with the EU Commissioner for International Relations, Benita Ferero-Waldner, to discuss the sociopolitical and economic situation of the OAS member countries. The OAS Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs, Dante Caputo, and the Director of External Relations, Irene Klinger, also participated in the meeting.

Insulza will speak tomorrow at the forum, which focuses on “The Promotion of Social Cohesion: Experiences of the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Reference: E-069/06