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Parliamentary Representatives of the Americas Praise the Virtues of Regional Cooperation at the OAS ahead of Cartagena Summit

  March 28, 2012

of four national parliaments of the Americas spoke today at the Organization of American States (OAS) about the benefits of cooperation in seeking solutions to common challenges in the region, during a special session of the Permanent Council of the hemispheric organization focused on issues set to be debated in the next Summit of the Americas.

At the invitation of the Duly Brutus, President of the Permanent Council and Representative of Haiti to the OAS, four legislators took part in the session: Juan Orlando Hernández, President of the National Congress of Honduras; Jennifer Simons-Geerlings, President of the National Assembly of Suriname; Randy Hoback, Canadian Member of Parliament; and Eliot Engel, member of the United States House of Representatives.

The Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, welcomed the participants to what he called a “relevant and important” session, particularly as it comes ahead of the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) April 14th and 15th.

Ambassador Ramdin assured those present that the challenges facing the hemisphere “can be tackled effectively if we work together within the countries as well as between the countries in the western hemisphere, focusing on what unites us, rather than what divides us. That should be the sentiment going to the Summit of the Americas, to make a positive agenda and to create more connections between the people of the Americas, because there is need for us to know each other better, to understand each other better, and to learn from each other”.

The President of the Honduran Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez, focused his presentation on the importance of combating insecurity in the region, with special emphasis on the "human tragedy" organized crime and drug trafficking has caused in Central America. "The scourges of crime and insecurity have caused more deaths than all the civil wars together," he said, recalling that in his country, "two thirds of homicides are linked to organized crime activity."

In his presentation to the Council, Congressman Hernández, member of the Honduras National Party, called for a joint action, and to harmonize national laws between the countries of the region to address insecurity. "This is a transnational problem, and as such it should be attacked from all sides. It is crucial to reduce drug demand and to have the financial resources for the air and sea detection and interception. If we do not act in a timely manner, democracies could not only be infiltrated, but also destabilized," he said.

Jennifer Simons-Geerlings, President of the National Assembly of Suriname, highlighted the opportunity presented by the special session of the Permanent Council, saying parliaments are striving “to have their voices heard in international decision making processes,” and that meeting parliamentarians from other nations was an “important step in the right direction”. Additionally, she said, “The strengthening of parliaments is, in my opinion, a very important part of supporting democracy, which the OAS is doing throughout the region”.

Simons-Geerlings pointed to the importance of “real participation” to democracies, and added, “Democracy cannot exist without the equal participation of women in decision making bodies and processes”. The legislator from Suriname said parliamentarians in the region had come to agreement on several priorities, among them improvements in education, health care, citizen security, and “overall reduction of violence in our societies”.

For his part, Canadian Member of Parliament Randy Hoback explained the work toward hemispheric collaboration being carried out by ParlAmericas, a network of hemispheric national legislatures he leads as President. Regional integration should be the goal, said the member of Canada’s Conservative Party, and the challenges to that integration can be overcome as long as that is “the will of the people”.

The Canadian legislator linked regional cooperation with greater economic integration, and called for “the removal of barriers that hold back the development of jobs and the economy”. The focus, he added “should be on creating a region of partnerships, not competition”. “The creation of a standard and predictable investment climate can ensure stability transparency and accountability for all players”.

Eliot Engel, Democratic Party Congressman from New York, called on the countries of the Americas to increase multilateral cooperation because “our strength is in our diversity”. “We can do many things as individual sovereign nations, for ourselves and to help our neighbors as well, but when we get together we are stronger than the simple sum of our numbers,” he said, and cited as an example the joint hemispheric action to meet the immediate needs of Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010.

The former Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives defended the importance of the OAS, because “this organization is the best hope to make this hemisphere better”. “It is not a perfect institution, but it’s key to our regional commitment to freedom, democracy and human dignity,” added the Congressman, who called for a renewed commitment to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, “one of the most important documents that the world has ever seen”.

Representatives to the OAS from the following countries spoke during the session: Ecuador, the United States, Chile, Canada, Honduras, Suriname (representing CARICOM), Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama and Haiti.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-109/12