Media Center

Press Release


  September 23, 2008

The Organization of American States (OAS) has launched an inter-American program to promote a culture of peace in the hemisphere, and has also announced plans to establish an inter-American peace prize.

Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias headlined the launch of the Inter-American Peace Forum at OAS headquarters on Tuesday. The OAS Forum was established to promote a culture of peace in the Americas among broad segments of the society throughout the Americas.

During the launch of the Forum, the Secretary General announced a series of measures among which are initiatives related to the Peace Forum, notably the establishment of a program of “peace messengers” and for instituting an inter-American peace prize to recognize individuals who have made outstanding, selfless contributions to the promotion and building of peace.

Insulza surveyed OAS peace efforts including recent undertakings in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Suriname, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize, and urged the hemisphere’s nations to “prevent conflicts unfolding elsewhere or involving superpowers from spreading to our region.” He added: “If we want to remain in peace, our territories should not permit conflicts originating in other parts of the world; nor should we open our doors to power play or conflicts of others.”

He asserted, furthermore, that as the global outlook is seemingly consolidated, I hope we can resist the temptation of shifting strategic elements from that hardened stance to our shores. “Make no mistake about it: let us not get involved in power conflicts simply to become pawns in confrontations that are not ours,” he said.

President Arias, who is also a Nobel Peace prize laureate, praised the OAS for establishing the Forum, and urged the member state representatives to work towards consolidating a culture of peace in the Americas. “There is no sacred formula nor any particular philosophical underpinning to this initiative that we have decided to call Peace in the Americas. There are just indications. There are efforts to weaken our peace, and efforts to strengthen it. Human development and democracy are a boon to peace; whereas arms build-up and insecurity among citizens weaken peace,” said President Arias.

He explained that 42 per cent of homicides worldwide involving firearms are committed in Latin America, “which is home to only eight per cent of the world’s population. It is in our interest, more than in anyone else’s interest, to support a project that Costa Rica is pursuing in the United Nations—an Arms Transfer Treaty banning individuals from transferring weapons to states, groups or individuals where there is reason enough to believe they will be used to violate human rights or international law.”

Expressing his hope for a successful Inter-American Peace Forum, President Arias said the initiative would benefit the hemisphere. “I trust we have gathered here confident that organizations like the OAS are already evidence of the triumph of hope over fear; of tolerance winning against fanaticism; of reason being victorious over force”.

“The utopia of the Americas, of which this Organization is a tangible expression, has been enriched by the lessons drawn from our history, based on experiences that have taught us that in the long run peace comes not by weapons nor by war; not by death nor by hate; not by disregard nor by indifference. Peace is achieved by putting human beings at the center. Peace is achieved by defending life. Peace is achieved by investing in our people and not in armies; exchanging ideas and not weapons; and by preserving forests, not prejudices,” said the Costa Rican leader.

Elaborating on the Inter-American Peace Forum, the OAS Secretary General explained that it will feature conferences and seminars on the topic of peace and conflict management. “We are also proposing to prepare specialized reports, pull statistics together, conduct surveys and publish on those topics. The Forum will also produce a comprehensive data base of institutions and NGOs engaged in promoting and researching peace, with a view to fostering the sharing of information, experiences and best practices,” Secretary General Insulza said.

“We are confident that this initiative will directly help to strengthen capacity in OAS member states as they tackle conflict situations or seek to manage post-conflict processes to achieve lasting peace within their borders and in their external relations,” Insulza went on to state.

The OAS Secretary General noted as well that “despite this being a continent of peace, our violent death rates are unfortunately comparable to those of other regions. On average, homicide rates in Latin America and the Caribbean rank among the highest in the world. Our region has the highest number of kidnappings, and the human and material damage effect of crime deals a very serious setback to our development.

The Inter-American Peace Forum is underwritten through the OAS’ Peace Fund that the hemisphere’s Foreign Ministers established at the OAS General Assembly held in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in June 2000. The Peace Fund was set up as a mechanism to underwrite costs incurred in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

As Insulza explained it, the OAS Peace Fund provides the organization’s member countries “a set of negotiation and mediation mechanisms mentioned in the OAS Charter,” among them “access to OAS conflict-resolution expertise that includes experience in diplomacy as well as international and inter-American law.”

Following the Forum’s launch, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin inaugurated the First Seminar of the Peace Forum, which was held in the hall of the Americas.

Reference: E-357/08