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Secretary General Insulza assures in his Farewell that he leaves the OAS “Much Stronger than it was when I Arrived”

  May 22, 2015

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) bid farewell today to Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who expressed pride in the work that has been done in the decade that he has led the hemispheric institution. “The Organization is much stronger now than when I arrived,” he said.

In his last appearance before the Council, Secretary General Insulza reiterated the need for the Organization to adapt to the challenges of the present day, and recalled the essence of his proposal on the Strategic Vision that he presented three years ago, and that the Organization approved last year: the OAS must be “an inclusive Organization, of sovereign and diverse countries, legitimized by democracy, acting on the same hemispheric agenda, in full condition of equality. That is what is demanded of the OAS of the 21st century, far from what was demanded of it during the Cold War.”

Secretary General Insulza said that his main points of focus, since he took office in May 26, 2005, were inclusion, democracy, sovereignty and equality. "These are four values that sometimes do not coexist comfortably. But they are, like it or not, our challenge and we must be able to include them in our hemispheric agenda."

In the final review of his mandate, and before the full Permanent Council, the OAS leader recalled that he was pioneering in taking up the issue of Cuba’s exclusion from the Inter-American System for more than half a century. He recalled that beginning with the first General Assemblies and the Summit of Mar del Plata in 2005 - when no one spoke about Cuba- to the lifting of sanctions at the Assembly of San Pedro Sula in 2009, "we spent four years arguing that a marginalization stemming from the Cold War could not be maintained, based on obsolete situations, in that it was expelled for being part of the Sino-Soviet alliance, and while all member countries but one had normal relations” with Havana. "We feel it as our own, therefore, the return of Cuba to the Inter-American System at the Summit in Panama, and I hope the moment will arrive when Cuba comes even closer," he added.

The hemispheric leader recalled that during his mandate the “democratic clause” of the Inter-American Democratic Charter was applied only once, in Honduras, in June 2009, when the General Assembly “determined that a serious break of the democratic order had taken place.” “We carried out a scrupulous application of the Charter, to the degree that no member country requested, in any case, the application of the CDI to any other situation in a member country. The OAS is a multilateral organization, not a supranational and must scrupulously respect the sovereignty of its member states," he stressed.

At another point in his speech, Secretary General Insulza mentioned some of the major achievements of his administration: "105 election observation missions to defend the precept of the democratic generation of authorities; ten thousand judicial facilitators to promote access to justice: the Convention against Corruption and the MESICIC; programs on Civil Registry and Effective Public Management - these are positive applications of our Democratic Charter, seeking to improve it through cooperation.”

Secretary General Insulza also praised the transition process with the new administration and said it was taking place in a "calm and normal" manner. "That is how it should be in a democracy: the institutions remain, the people change, according to rules that we all respect," he said.

The leader of the OAS during the last ten years also referred to the work of defending the Inter-American System of Human Rights, "especially the issue of dialogue with the states;” and in terms of gender equality, because "democracy without gender equality is only half democracy."

Leadership and Knowledge

For his part, the Chair of the Permanent Council and Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago, Neil Parsan, recalled that Secretary General insulza was elected “because these rapidly evolving times needed a leader who had a strong academic background, first-hand knowledge of the realities of our diverse hemisphere, and robust political experience in dealing with difficult and sometimes unforeseen situations.”

“Secretary Insulza, during the two terms that you have served as the head of the OAS General Secretariat you have undoubtedly been a protagonist of the political changes throughout the Hemisphere,” said the Chair of the Council, and emphasized that “you responded to many weighty challenges where there were no easy solutions but you had courage in your soul, compassion in your heart, and steel in your spine.”

For his part, the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, recalled that “the past decade has been a time of many interesting and sometimes surprising changes that have altered hemispheric inter-state relations. We entered an era where democracy has created space for new voices, new leaders with new ideas, a civil society much more engaged and recognized than ever before.”

In the conclusion of his address, Ambassador Ramdin thanked Secretary General Insulza for “his trust and his friendship.” “As you finish your term on Monday at midnight, I am sure you will continue to serve the peoples and nations of the Americas in other meaningful ways. I wish you all the best and success in this new chapter of your life. I am sure our paths will cross again as we continue to work for the people of the Americas to continue to live in peace and prosperity,” concluded Ambassador Ramdin.

The Permanent Representative of The Bahamas, Elliston Rahming, on behalf of the CARICOM countries said that in the last decade a myriad of challenges have threatened the well-being of the hemisphere and the Organization. Secretary General Insulza “inherited an OAS that would have to navigate uncertain times with unprecedented threats such as insecurity and the economic recession," he recalled, noting that despite the challenges, throughout his stewardship "the OAS maintained and enhanced its function as the political forum par excellence, which helped the region to emerge as a more secure, more united and more cooperative continent.” He also noted that during the recent period, the Organization has been strengthened "in areas of clear competitive advantage with other institutions," such as scholarships, knowledge exchange opportunities, electoral observation, and facilitating technical cooperation among countries, among others.

"Secretary General Insulza, your decade of public service to the hemisphere has proved testament to the mettle required for 21st century leadership in the global forum," he said.

The interim Representative of Canada, Jennifer May Loten, expressed her country’s wish to pay tribute to the "valuable work done by Secretary General Insulza through difficult and challenging times that have reinforced stability, peace and transparency in the hemisphere, as well as respect for democracy and human rights." "All these are values that Canada considers of the outmost importance for the OAS, for the Americas and the world," she added.

The Permanent Representative of Colombia, Andrés Gonzalez, on behalf of the regional group ALADI, recalled the political life of the Chilean diplomat and politician, as well as the progress that has taken place in the region in recent times in terms of security and economic and social growth. In this regard he said that "today it is true that there is no issue that cannot be addressed at the OAS" and, proof of this, he continued, "is that it has successfully promoted a new analysis of the complex problem of drugs and that since a couple months ago there is a new atmosphere of unity with the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States."

In addition, the Counselor of the U.S. Department of State and former Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon, recalled some of the challenges that Secretary General Insulza faced during his tenure, noting that his work “was historic and important." "You've managed and helped guide this Organization during a period of enormous ambition; the Americas is a tireless region, a region of determination, persistence and resilience, where we believe that our job is not only to provide citizens a voice in determining national destiny, but to provide the resources and opportunities so that they can have control over their own individual destiny," he said on behalf of his government.

The Permanent Representative of Guatemala, Jose Maria Argueta, highlighted on behalf of the countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the leadership of Secretary General Insulza on the issues of conflict resolution, human rights and the search for alternative mechanisms in the fight against drugs in the Americas. These recent efforts, he continued, "opened the doors for an open, frank and unprecedented discussion on the alternatives in the search for more effective policies to address the problem in the Hemisphere." He also thanked the leader of the institution for his role in the process of negotiation of his country with Belize, and his support for the confidence building measures between the two countries.

On behalf of the Government of Chile, the Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Edgardo Riveros, conveyed the greetings and gratitude of President Michelle Bachelet and Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz to the outgoing Secretary General. After a brief summary of the political career of Secretary General Insulza in his country, he highlighted different aspects of the work of the OAS in the past decade and expressed the pride of his country for the role played by the Secretary General on the international stage.

Deputy Secretary Riveros said that "it is a fact that the OAS is not the only political body used by the States of the hemisphere to solve political conflicts, and that several regional forums have emerged strongly in the past ten years; however, this has not deprived the OAS or the figure of the Secretary General of a crucial role in reaching solutions, respecting the principle of nonintervention and applying a pioneering instrument, such as the Inter-American Democratic Charter".

During the ceremony held in the Hall of the Americas at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, the delegations of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Brazil, El Salvador, Uruguay, Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Grenada, Paraguay, Panama, Suriname, Jamaica, Venezuela, Saint Lucia, Ecuador, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Belize, Nicaragua, Barbados, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Costa Rica, and Haiti; and the observation missions from France, Italy and Spain all took the floor.

A gallery of photos of the event will be available here.

The video news of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-186/15