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OAS Secretary General: “Developing a Far-Reaching, Modern and Inclusive Multilateralism is a Priority”

  June 6, 2010

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said today in a speech during the inauguration of the 40th General Assembly of the Organization he heads, that one of the great tasks ahead for him in the next five years of his term, is to work for the development of “a far-reaching, modern and inclusive multilateralism that uses dialogue and agreements, not sanctions, exclusions or divisions, as its main tool.”

During the inaugural ceremony of the 40th General Assembly, being held in Lima, and in the presence of the President of Peru, Alan Garcia, the Secretary General undertook the commitment to work also “to strengthen democratic governance”; “strengthen our system of human rights”; “seek greater balance between our democracy-building tasks and fostering integral development”; “contributing to multidimensional security placing emphasis on the grave crisis in public security”; and “giving new momentum at the OAS to the issue of gender.”

The top representative of the hemispheric organization expressed his conviction that “these achievements are possible” and asserted being “optimist with respect to the direction of our region.” “I am convinced that our continent is on the way to establishing itself as one of the two democratic regions in the world,” he insisted.

He said that in that immediate future, the OAS has a key role to play. “The way to move forward in these matters is the framework of cooperation, and the conviction that we have a common future with solidarity to share. It is up to the OAS to continue contributing to solve situations of tension and contributing to the solution of crises, and supporting the efforts, agreements and bilateral, sub-regional and international mechanisms that prevent conflicts and peacefully solve controversies,” he said.

Secretary General Insulza highlighted the idea that “our collective work of cooperation, solidarity and peace is huge and grows year after year,” and recalled that the OAS “is the headquarters of the hemispheric legal order and the place where the principles that guide all the States of the region, from the richest and most powerful to the weakest and most vulnerable, are generated and sustained."

The OAS Secretary General, whose speech came just before that of the President García, included words of thanks to Peru for its role as host country of the 40th General Assembly of the organization, and for the historic efforts of the South American country in support of democracy.

“Peru has always been a firm supporter of hemispheric multilateralism and especially in recent years, in which it has played a transcendental role in the elaboration of some of our main instruments, first among them, our Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

Insulza said the document, signed in Lima in 2001, holds that “the ideal of a democratic republic not only supposes the democratic origin of power but also the development of stable institutions, the respect for human rights and freedom of expression, and the presence of continuing legitimate authority not only in its origin but also in the quality of its performance.”

With respect to the theme chosen by Peru for the Assembly—“Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Americas”—Secretary General Insulza called on the Member States to join hands and respect the international agreements on the matter, which would “facilitate the follow-up work that is our duty and give greater transparency to military spending.”

In his speech, the head of the OAS recalled the issues that are of greatest concern to the citizens of the continent, beginning with the economic crisis, which though Latin America was better able to face than in the past, nevertheless caused an increase of poverty in the region. “It’s time for politics as collective construction, rational dialogue and a search for consensus,” he said, adding that “the OAS has much to contribute in that direction.”

Regarding Honduras, the Secretary General remarked that “we all agree on the desirability of a prompt return of Honduras to the OAS. The only difference is that some consider it must take place without further delay and others believe it is necessary to demand additional conditions first. Among these, the situation of exile in which former President Zelaya still finds himself, against norms of human rights and the Constitution of Honduras itself.”

“Personally,” he continued, “I have said that a return of Honduras is a positive thing for that country and for the OAS, because it would be a way to support the efforts of those who wish a full normalization, without exclusions or prosecutions, and because it would allow us to better address the problems of human rights and other problems that are pending.” He also said that in the current context, “I understand the reticence of President Zelaya.”

With respect to the limits of multilateralism, Insulza said the lesson of the case of Honduras is that legal instruments must lead to preventive rather than reactive measures. To achieve this, he said, “rather than modifying the Inter-American Democratic Charter, something I believe is dangerous and not very practical, we must focus on measures to improve and expand its application.”

The Secretary General also referred to the natural disasters that have affected the continent in recent months, and especially the case of Haiti, in which the OAS carried out and will continue to conduct a key role in reconstruction efforts. “The OAS will exercise its capacity for leadership in areas where it has a comparative advantage,” particularly in the “strengthening of the electoral process, the modernization and integration of its civil registry, and the modernization of the cadastre system and land ownership infrastructure.”

The situation of millions of immigrants in the continent also was addressed in his speech. It is “clearly a hemispheric subject” that “enormously preoccupies” the OAS, he said, mentioning specifically the Return Policy of the European Union, and the law SB 1070 of the US state of Arizona. “I am committed to promoting a constructive dialogue” on this subject, “to support controlled, orderly and safe migrations” that at the same time confirms migrants to be “political, economic, cultural and scientific actors” in their host countries.

Similarly, the Secretary General highlighted the work accomplished by the OAS in recent years on Public Security, leading numerous efforts of cooperation in the hemisphere that resulted in agreements such as the new Hemispheric Strategy on Drugs, strongly advanced by Insulza himself.

Among the new concepts in the new Strategy he highlighted three: “Respect for Human Rights in the implementation of policies on drugs,” “that scientific evidence be the basis for the establishment of public policies on drugs” and that “drug addiction be recognized as a chronic and recurrent disease that must be treated as a public health issue.”

Photos of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-229/10