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Secretary General Insulza Highlights the “Force and Vitality” of the OAS in the Prosperous, Democratic, and Stable Americas of the 21st Century and Calls Upon Member States to Continue Fighting Inequality and Seeking Consensus

  June 4, 2014

- “Consensus-building is a complex, sometimes thankless pursuit, but let us not give up on it. Ultimately, consensus solutions are more solid and lasting,” Insulza said at the inauguration of the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly.

- President Cartes: “We will reaffirm Paraguay as a country of guarantees and opportunities that achieves development with social inclusion,” he concluded.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today stressed the “force and vitality” of the Organization in the context of the Hemisphere's “exceptional” past decade, which has resulted in a more prosperous, democratic, and stable region. But he noted that "if our region wants to progress in its democratic development and achieve healthy, comprehensive growth, it must take up four pressing policy challenges now: social inclusion, public security, defense of human rights, and the spread of democracy and the rule of law.”

Secretary General Insulza focused his speech, at the inauguration of the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly of the hemispheric institution, on “Development with Social Inclusion,” the theme of the event, which brings together all the foreign ministers of the Hemisphere. He also reviewed the Hemisphere's major political issues, highlighted the Organization's contributions to the well-being and progress of its citizens, and called upon governments to seek consensus because, although that path is “complex, consensus solutions are more solid and lasting.”

The hemispheric event was opened by the President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, in the presence of foreign ministers and vice foreign ministers of the region, government authorities at the highest level, and the accredited diplomatic corps. In his speech, the Paraguayan leader said “this General Assembly session will accomplish its task if it serves as a turning point with the political will and programmatic measures to change the face of the Americas in a historic way.” “I trust that the governments and states so eminently represented here will bring to fruition the pressing and vast commitments we are undertaking,” added President Cartes. “For our part, we will reaffirm Paraguay as a country of guarantees and opportunities that achieves development with social inclusion,” he said.

The OAS, policy forum of the countries of the Americas

In his speech, Secretary General Insulza said "our region has changed greatly, and for the better, in its economy, its society, and its politics," but "the question we face today is whether, under somewhat different economic circumstances, we will be able to deal effectively with the major problems that still beset our democracies, to make them more stable, more just, and more effective in responding to citizens' demands."

The top OAS official said the “force and vitality” of the Organization is expressed in the “continuity and relevance” of the annual General Assembly session. He said the event reflects its continual pursuit of “its principal aim: to serve as the policy forum of the countries of the Americas, where everything is said, where there is genuine dialogue, where everyone can participate on an equal footing and express his or her views on any topic pertinent to the region and be treated with dignity and respect.”

The multilateral institution, he went on to say, “has been an essential political actor in our Hemisphere over the past decade. Ideological differences expressed within its halls have not hindered the pursuit of its mission of unity and cooperation--far from it, they have strengthened it as a forum for debate, which is the best antidote to conflict.” He recalled that it is also the depository of the law and institutions of the Americas, promoter of a set of action programs, carried out day after day, that yield results directly affecting the lives of its citizens.

In that context, Secretary General Insulza called upon the member states “to conduct the debate in a positive spirit, one that opens the door to understanding and agreement, to solutions that will benefit our Hemisphere's society as a whole. That is the spirit that has motivated my efforts over the past nine years as Secretary General of the OAS." He went on to say "consensus-building is a complex, sometimes thankless pursuit, but let us not give up on it. Ultimately, consensus solutions are more solid and lasting.”

Consensus, he stressed, begins with redefining “our hemispheric agenda and the priorities of the Organization,” set forth in the resolution on a strategic vision the Assembly is asked to approve in Asunción. This is the culmination of a process launched two years ago by Secretary General Insulza himself, broadened by him a year later, and discussed within the Permanent Council by all the member states over the past 12 months.

Secretary General José Miguel Insulza thanked Paraguay for its hospitality in hosting the highest OAS body for the second time. He compared the situation at that 1990 Assembly session with circumstances in 2014. “In 1990, this beloved country had just restored its democracy and was joining the new democratic Hemisphere then being born. It was an era of uncertainty, but also of many convictions and hopes. We return here today to again show its President, all the political parties, and the Paraguayan people our respect and support for its efforts to build an ever more prosperous, democratic, and just country,” he said.

“An exceptional period in the history of the Americas”

Between 2002 and 2012, said the highest OAS official, the region “enjoyed for the first time in its history a virtuous combination of growth and macroeconomic stability, poverty reduction, and even a marginal improvement in income distribution.” On the political front, it underwent a “consolidation of democracy,” examples of which are the signature of the Inter-American Democratic Charter; the series of democratic elections, 93 of which were observed by the OAS in the past nine years; and the growth in governability, manifested in the fact that almost all the nations' leaders served their full terms in this period.

However, Insulza called for recognition that, "although the spread of democracy and improved economic growth have made it possible to reduce poverty and broaden prospects of a better life for many citizens, these achievements have not made our countries more egalitarian societies. On the contrary, the prevailing injustice in wealth distribution and access to social goods has reached levels that threaten to harm our democratic fabric."

Fighting inequality

The leader of the regional body said inequality is not a problem only for a few countries but a “hemispheric problem: inequality has not lessened sufficiently in the developing world and has increased in the developed world."

Continuing along this line, he said “inequality is not expressed solely in the enormous income disparity among persons, but also stems from discrimination based on class, race, gender, sexual choice, geographic origin, and physical capacity, translating into a situation of social inequity that is incompatible with our democratic ideals.” He invited the foreign ministers to study the book “Inequality and Social Exclusion in the Americas,” produced and published by the OAS General Secretariat.

Continuing his analysis, Secretary General Insulza said this situation has caused discontent that has already broken out in some countries of the Hemisphere. “And that is why the debate about inequality and exclusion should no longer be purely economic but move to the public policy arena. It is the job of politics and politicians to attain responsibly, in keeping with the rule of law, an appropriate balance between growth and policies of social inclusion and income redistribution. The search for broad agreements among social and political actors is probably the least costly way to confront inequality,” he said.

Human rights, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic

In the auditorium of Paraguay's Central Bank, Secretary General Insulza also touched on some of the main topics on the hemispheric policy agenda. On human rights, he invited countries who wish to see new changes in the inter-American system to return to the aim that guided the “successful” process of strengthening that system between 2011 and 2013, “setting aside parallel, non-inclusive efforts that only served to weaken one of the main OAS bodies.” The most recent reform process, he said, “has clearly taken paths other than those originally imagined.”

As for Venezuela, the head of the hemispheric institution said he sees “with concern” that the dialogue between government and opposition “is not moving forward.” “Dialogue presupposes willingness, not only to speak but to listen, to set aside prejudices and be ready to yield, so as to find common ground. We don't see that happening, but we still think there is no other solution, and again we appeal to the Government and the opposition in Venezuela to seek the understanding its entire populace longs for,” he said. He also asked the international community "to express its support for the internal Venezuelan process, in a positive manner, without pressure or sanctions."

Lastly, the Secretary General recognized the efforts by the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, to seek solutions to the difficulties arising from the recent judgment of the Constitutional Court. “We believe it is indispensable that this law open the door for all those affected to find a place of dignity in Dominican society,” he said.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The B-Roll of the event is available here.

The full video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-229/14