Media Center

Press Release


  June 5, 2005

“We in the OAS cannot rest, we must not rest…. And we can never declare victory until freedom and prosperity and security enrich the lives of all of our people,” United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared in Fort Lauderdale Sunday evening as she inaugurated the General Assembly of the Washington-based Organization of American States.

This 35th regular session of the General Assembly—the OAS’ highest decision-making forum that brings together the 34 member states’ foreign ministers—is billed under the theme of “Delivering the benefits of democracy.” The Secretary of State underscored the hemispheric organization’s essential role in this mission that she said is set forth in and defined by the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Rice told her colleague foreign ministers that the democracy benefit is “the great calling of our democratic nations…the legacy that we must fulfill and leave to posterity.” Further calling for “excessive talk” to be replaced with focused action, she asserted, “We must never, never accept that democracy is merely an ideal to be admired instead of a purpose to be realized.” She noted too a strong consensus now shared by all the nations of the Americas that political and economic liberty is the only road to lasting success.

“The divide in the Americas today is not between governments from the left or from the right—it is between those governments that are elected and governed democratically and those that are not,” she stressed, acknowledging the immense hurdles of poverty, inequality and weak democratic institutions. “Our challenge today is one of inclusion—the inclusion of all democratic citizens in the solace of safe communities; in the fruits of economic growth; and in the promise of social mobility.”

Addressing his first General Assembly as OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza urged member states to agree on mechanisms needed for full compliance with their obligations under the Democratic Charter. He said the OAS much move beyond merely establishing standards. “Rather, in the face of the persistent dangers of backsliding, the cooperation it extends to its members must be broadened so as to reinforce democracy in the region.”

Insulza emphasized the challenge in talking about full democracy “in a region with high rates of poverty and inequality.” Poverty could be conquered more meaningfully if growth were accompanied by better distribution of wealth, argued Insulza. He said the organization cannot remain indifferent to such problems as restricted market access and fluctuations the global economy inflicts on especially the smaller economies.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi, the OAS Assistant Secretary General who concludes his 5-year term shortly, lamented that the member states have yet to complete the design of the regional cooperation architecture they have agreed should be based on democracy. He called for a system of solidarity “to assist members when, or even before, they stumble—not by intervening but by strengthening the rule of law or by helping to improve public education.”

Florida’s Governor Jeb Bush welcomed the General Assembly delegates, recalling his state’s hemispheric outreach as a “vital link between the North American continent, Latin America and the Caribbean” that among other historic developments, hosted the first Summit of the Americas in 1994. He praised Secretary General Insulza and lauded the OAS for being a leading protector of democratic principles in the Americas, but stressed, “We must continue to ensure that the benefits of democracy are realized for the over 800 million citizens that make up our part of the world.”

The three-day General Assembly ends on Tuesday.

Reference: E-112/05