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42nd OAS General Assembly Concludes with Adoption of the Declaration of Cochabamba

  June 6, 2012

The Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), meeting in Cochabamba for the forty-second regular session of the OAS General Assembly, issued an appeal today “to promote agriculture development with the goal of strengthening food security,” in what constituted the first message of the Declaration of Cochabamba, a document resulting from an exchange of views among the countries on “Food Security with Sovereignty,” the central theme of this meeting.

The final declaration of the Assembly recognizes that approximately 53 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (about nine percent of the region’s population) suffer from malnutrition or chronic hunger. It is therefore important, according to the text, to strengthen food access, ensure its quality, and increase and improve production as well as investment in food research and production, in order to achieve food and nutrition security for all.

The complete text of the Declaration of Cochabamba is available here.

In the text, the countries recognize that “demand for food is growing,” that the region is affected by crises of diverse nature, and that in recent years there has been “excessive volatility of commodity prices.” They also express their willingness to further public policies to support family agriculture, foster regional humanitarian cooperation, promote public-private investment in the agriculture sector, establish strategies and mechanisms to respond to food crises, and foster an open and transparent international trade system.

The need for programs in food education, strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers, expanding access to safe drinking water, and protecting biodiversity are also highlighted in the Declaration, as is the importance of modernization and technical innovation. In this regard, the supreme organ of the OAS declared its commitment to “eradicating hunger and malnutrition in the Americas.”

Question of the Malvinas Islands

During the fourth and final plenary session of the Assembly, a discussion took place on the Malvinas Islands, in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, Hector Timerman, reiterated Argentina’s claim over the archipelago and explained the historical reasons behind it.

The Argentine Foreign Minister also applauded the fact that a delegation from the United Kingdom had asked to take the floor at the Assembly session. He stated that “this demonstrates the strength of the OAS; it demonstrates the importance of our Organization. After 19 resolutions adopted by this Assembly, we have managed to have the United Kingdom come and ask to speak on the matter.” He urged the member countries to continue supporting his country’s claim, in the quest for dialogue. “This forum has been calling for dialogue between Great Britain and my country for more than three decades. I want to engage in dialogue with Great Britain; I want to negotiate with Great Britain. I want to resolve this colonial conflict peacefully.”

On taking the floor, the representative of the United Kingdom, Fiona Clouder, Acting Director for the Americas of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, said that she was “honored” by the Argentine Minister’s offer to meet with her but cautioned that she would need authorization from her ministers to do so. She then stated that “Argentina’s recent actions in respect of the islands have not been constructive” and, in conclusion, she asked the Assembly to “take note of the right to self-determination” of the islanders.

Following the statement by the Argentine Foreign Minister, the member country delegates supported the resumption of negotiations between the two countries involved in the protracted dispute. Foreign Minister Timerman and Director Clouder then shook hands and talked for a few minutes.

Maritime Access of Bolivia

The Bolivian Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca, gave a brief historical account of the agreements and events surrounding his country’s maritime claim and stated that “a people cannot be condemned, in the midst of the twenty-first century, to live in inequality and under a stranglehold, with the world at a different level of cultural development.” He called for support from the member states, affirming that Bolivia’s present situation isolates the country “from international navigation and trade, affecting Bolivian industry and commerce and thus, clearly, our economy.” In conclusion, he said the “Bolivia is a peaceful country and the solution to its just demand entails measures negotiated on the basis of international legal norms and the principle of good faith. Our country will therefore continue to seek a solution to its century-old claim bilaterally and through international courts—one that may, through justice and law, return to it what is its due.”

In response, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Alfredo Moreno, said that “throughout its history, Chile has been open to seeking solutions to improve Bolivia’s access to the sea and that several diplomatic talks and negotiations have taken place over the past century.” He added that, in the same spirit, “we cannot ignore a reality: our two countries need one another and have developed an agenda that identifies areas on which we want to work and especially engage in dialogue and where we have already seen significant progress.” He concluded with a reference to the importance of working together: “Chile will pursue its commitment, in the best and most sincere spirit, to develop closer ties with Bolivia, because it is convinced that cooperation is of benefit to both peoples.”

After hearing the statements by the foreign ministers of both nations, the heads of delegation took the floor to express support for dialogue, bilateral talks, a peaceful approach, and the search for a consensus on this question.

Human Rights

The General Assembly resolved to accept the report of the Special Working Group—chaired by Mexico—to Reflect on the Workings of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a view to Strengthening the Inter-American Human Rights System. Said report was approved by the Permanent Council on January 25, 2012. The General Assembly resolved to instruct the Permanent Council to formulate, on the basis of the report and in concert with all interested parties, proposals for its implementation. Within six months, or during the first quarter of 2013 at the latest, those proposals will be submitted to a special session of the General Assembly for consideration.

In his report to the General Assembly, José de Jesús Orozco, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said that the Commission’s functions were based on “its autonomy and independence.” The Mexican commissioner was of the view that “we are at a critical moment for the inter-American system” and that “what is at stake—and have no doubt about it—is the patrimony that the member states, civil society, and the inter-American organs have built to enable future generations in the Hemisphere to enjoy their rights.” “The Commission is an effective tool for the protection of human rights,” Commissioner Orozco affirmed.

The President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Diego García Sayan, presented the report to the General Assembly on the activities of his institution in the past year and emphasized its relevance today. “It is a living organ that has a dynamic presence in societies, including over 500 million people in the process. The societies are drawing increasingly close to the dynamics of the Court and, in turn, the Court is taking steps to move closer to the essential needs of the peoples of the Americas.”

The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, spoke during the session to state that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Court are “some of the Organization’s most brilliant institutions.” “If I did not think this was so, I certainly would not talk about strengthening them. We have had some differences, I myself have had them, but I believe that we really have an inter-American human rights system in the absence of which the OAS could not exist,” he affirmed.

The OAS Secretary General added that the IACHR “has acquired well deserved prestige over the years and, hopefully, the heat of discussion will not result in harm to this institution, which is so important to us.” The head of the OAS concluded his statement with an express acknowledgment of the work of the outgoing Executive Secretary of the IACHR: “I have never questioned his good faith and his desire to serve the cause of human rights in this region. And it would not be just, at the moment at which he leaves his post, to fail to express to Santiago Canton all of the recognition he deserves.”

Election of Members of Committees and Commissions

Officers of the organs, agencies, and entities of the Organization were elected at the fourth plenary session. The following were elected to serve on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor Poisot (Mexico), Humberto Sierra Porto (Colombia), and Roberto de Figueredo Caldas (Brazil).

The following were elected to the Inter-American Juridical Committee: Fabián Novak Talavera (Peru), David Steward (United States), and Gélin Imanès Collot (Haiti).
Elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Justice Studies Center of the Americas were Manuel Arturo Montesino (El Salvador) and Douglass Cassel (United States).

Héctor Enrique Arce Zaconeta (Bolivia) was elected to fill the vacancy on the Administrative Tribunal of the OAS.
The election of a member of the Board of External Auditors to Examine the Accounts of the General Secretariat remained pending and would be held by the OAS Permanent Council on August 31, 2012.

The photos of the General Assembly are available here.

The videos of the General Assembly are available here and here

The audios of the General Assembly are available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-212/12