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  September 22, 2009

The former Primer Minister of New Zealand Jennifer Mary Shipley defended Tuesday the capacity of leaders in modern societies to generate changes and promote social inclusion, at a conference within the Lecture of the Americas Series, hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS).

In the XXXVII Lecture, under the title “Peace, Security and Participation: The Case for Shared Societies”, Prime Minister Shipley said that “strategies are important, but leadership matters” when trying to include all persons in the working mechanisms of one given society. “Leadership action is required if we are to achieve social cohesion,” she insisted.

“Strategy is helpful, and there are many strategies within our work that are now available. And you will have within this Organization and in other groups access to many strategies that might be worth your consideration. But in my view, inclusion is not achieved through the imposition of a set of ideas, but rather cohesion”, she added.

Primer Minister Shipley, who spoke on behalf of the Club de Madrid, specified in her speech that it is particularly important for world leaders to be aware of these principles in situations such as the current one, when the planet is trying to recover from a strong economic crisis.

“Today we find ourselves at a time when we do have headwind in global economic terms. And the Club of Madrid would argue that it is all the more important for us to be prepared, as we distribute scarce resources, that we consider ways in which, in deploying those resources, we see that diversity is acknowledged, and that those investments are dispersed in a way where those who are currently not included, will feel included,” she said.

Primer Minister Shipley mentioned in her speech several examples of her own experiences as a political and social leader in New Zealand, and particularly described the process of integration Maori people into the society of the Oceanic country.

The keynote speaker at the Lecture was introduced by the President of the OAS Permanent Council and Representative of Chile, Ambassador Pedro Oyarce, who described as “an honor” the presence of Primer Minister Shipley who, he said, “is a figure whose career shows a permanent commitment to the ideals of social development, inclusion and cultural changes required in a modern society, all of them issues the OAS is very focused on”.

The Lecture was moderated by the OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert R. Ramdin, who highlighted the “particular importance” that the issue of social inclusion has for OAS Member States in a continent with an enormous diversity. “The key is for us to focus on the common elements, to focus on the elements that unite us, rather than the ones that divide us,” he said.

Jennifer Mary Shipley was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1997 to 1999. She chaired the APEC Summit (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in 1999 and was Leader of the Opposition (1999-2001). She was previously Member of Parliament, and held several senior posts in the national government, such as Minister of State Services, Transport, State Owned Enterprises and Accident Compensation (1996-97), Minister of Health (1993-96), Minister of Social Welfare (1990-93) and Minister of Women’s Affairs (1990-97).

Primer Minister Shipley retired from politics in 2002 and has since worked in the private sector. Primer Minister Shipley is a member of the prestigious Club of Madrid of former democratic leaders, where she co-chairs the Shared Societies Project and of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Reference: E-306/09