Media Center

Press Release


  September 24, 2008

A historic Organization of American States (OAS) seminar on peace has highlighted poverty among factors that affect peace, democracy and development in the Americas. The seminar also heard a call for an annual conference “to analyze and learn from successful engagements of regional and sub-regional institutions in countries experiencing conflict.”

In opening remarks at the First Seminar of the Inter-American Peace Forum, on Tuesday, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin told participants that an annual conference on peace would “allow for more systematic and effective follow-up on peace-building actions.”

The seminar followed the Forum’s formal launch by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oscar Arias. The seminar consisted of two panels of experts seeking to establish an understanding of what constitutes a conflict and offering analyses on conditions that may be conducive to conflicts in the Americas. A second panel focused on the question, “What is Peace in the Americas in the Twenty First Century? Towards a hemispheric Peace Agenda.”

Ambassador Ramdin challenged the member country ambassadors, officials, international experts, academics and university students to rethink the traditional concept of peace, which “does not happen automatically.” Rather, he offered, it must be “facilitated and established by a complex system of education, attitudes, intentions and interests from individuals and from society as a whole. Maintaining peace requires “continuous investment in building trust and confidence among groups and nations with often competing interests for the resources and power bases,” Ambassador Ramdin insisted.

On the hemispheric organization’s role, the Assistant Secretary General cited tangible OAS contributions to crisis prevention, crisis management and resolution, which he described as essential for strengthening peaceful relations and creating prosperity in our hemisphere. He argued that in a 21st century context with the multiplicity of actors that impact policy and matters of peace and conflict, the Organization must create long-term initiatives to identify and monitor potential sources of conflict, and develop a quick response mitigation mechanism to help preserve peace and stability within and among Member States.

“Our peace and conflict-resolution efforts must be holistic and seek an integral approach that also includes security and socio-economic development,” Ramdin stressed. He noted that these require combining the peace agenda with a strong social and economic development focus including the fight against poverty.

The first panel, moderated by OAS Secretary for Integral Development Alfonso Quiñónez, focused on how the concept of conflict has evolved. Former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Sir Marrack Guolding participated in the first panel discussion, in which journalist, author and human rights expert Ana María Romero de Campero offered statistics pointing that over the last decades of the twentieth century, some 120 armed conflicts involving 80 states have claimed 6 million civilian lives. She said those were not conflicts between regular armies but involving civilians against other civilians.

Political scientist and hemispheric security expert Ivelaw Griffith—who is also Provost and Senior Vice President of York College in New York City—accentuated the importance of peace as “a value and principle in itself,” based on democracy, justice, respect for human rights, solidarity, security and respect for international law,” among other key components articulated in the Declaration on Security in the Americas.

John Biehl, the OAS Representative in Uruguay, underscored the enormous challenges but stressed the need for stronger confidence-building through dialogue. He also cited important OAS peace-building initiatives, including the Organization’s role as mediator and in facilitating dialogue.

Panel 2, meanwhile, was chaired by Alexandre Addor-Neto, OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security. The panelists focused on a variety of factors affecting peace, including poverty, lack of access to health care and to human rights protection. Jaime Aparicio, Chairman of the Inter-American Juridical Committee, called for new paradigms for peace, to address the region’s new realities in terms of peace, democracy, social justice and development.

Ambassador Aristides Royo, Panama’s Permanent Representative to OAS, focused on tolerance as a necessary ingredient to be exercised not only by those who govern, but also by citizens and by countries as well. He also called for ways to be found to settle the problems of the Americas as a hemisphere.

Rosario Green, Chair of the Mexican Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that no country should feel safe from any threat to security. According to the former Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary, a peace agenda requires the eradication of poverty and inequality. It also calls for a collective response to common threats so as not to lose progress already achieved in peace and democracy.

Alvaro Tirado Mejía, former Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, gave an overview of the evolution of the inter-American collective security mechanisms, including the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. He noted how economic factors have influenced certain types of conflicts in recent years, including as regards threats to citizen security by youth gangs and other phenomena.

In closing remarks, the Chairman of the Committee of Hemispheric Security, Mexico’s Ambassador to the OAS Gustavo Albin, reiterated Ramdin’s call for a more holistic strategy to respond to traditional and emerging threats. He stated that the response must be holistic and multidimensional. Stronger mechanisms for conflict-resolution and for cooperation are also necessary, Ambassador Albin stressed.

Reference: E-362/08