Media Center

Press Release

OAS Permanent Council Commemorates Tenth Anniversary of the Declaration on Security in the Americas

  October 28, 2013

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today commemorated the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the "Declaration on Security in the Americas" with a special meeting in which the Permanent Representatives of the Organization, officials and special guests highlighted the virtues of a document that changed the concept of security in the region.

The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza , said that the conceptual definitions of the Declaration on Security adopted a decade ago in the City of Mexico, substantively changed the content and priorities in this area, which has been one of the fundamental pillars of the OAS since its inception. "This Declaration is now our main guide on security matters. It is equivalent to other pillars, such as the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Social Charter and the Convention on Violence against Women," said Insulza upon opening the special meeting at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

The OAS leader said that the roots of the 2003 Declaration lie in the important changes that took place globally in previous decades. In this regard, he mentioned that the end of the Cold War and the democratization of Eastern Europe coincided with the return of democracy to the countries in South America and, soon after, with the peace achieved in Central America in the 80s and 90s. "In the midst of changes of this magnitude, it was clear that the Cold War strategic vision that had prevailed in the OAS since its foundation, was completely obsolete," he said.

He recalled that "the region was experiencing a totally new situation, in which the fundamental issues of the day were the defense of democracy, the protection of human rights, the pursuit of peace and upholding the rule of law. It was the convergence on these principles that gave rise to a process of hemispheric democratic affirmation, which began with Resolution 1080 of the General Assembly in Santiago de Chile in 1991 and culminated a decade later, with the signing in Lima of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, on September 11, 2001."

The Secretary General of the OAS said that the Declaration on Security in the Americas "formally sanctioned the interest of the American States in seeking their security not through conflict but through cooperation and collective action." "This is not to say, as the National Security doctrine did, that everything is security, but that security is everyone's job, each in his or her role, in the framework of democratic legality," he said.

In his address, the leader of the hemispheric Organization added that the new concept of multidimensional security is aimed at implementing measures to deal with natural disasters; combating transnational crime; to maintain in a transparent way the deterrence capabilities of the Armed Forces facing external aggression; and "finally to understand the importance of finally overcoming our economic backwardness, the restrictions on political freedoms, poverty, marginalization, discrimination and social inequality, where often major threats to public security get their start."

He explained that "the great merit and the guiding status of our concept lies in its ability to provide a coherent and comprehensive vision of the set of security threats that our nations must face. The concept of multidimensional security addresses not only traditional threats to security, but identifies a set of new threats that originate in different social environments and for which our states are also responsible. "

Secretary General Insulza cited cases in which, in his view, "our collective action shows a deficit compared with our needs for hemispheric coordination." On this point , he noted that "crime is organized and transnational," so that "our response in all fields, from prevention to control and not forgetting the rehabilitation and victim assistance, must therefore also be organized and transnational and, insofar as possible, be more flexible than that of our opponents."

He further noted that "it is essential to achieve the ratification by all member countries of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms (CIFTA), an essential tool to control the smuggling of weapons," adding that "the steps taken in the field of conventional arms marking are not sufficient if we don’t assume, in this area as well, the need for binding legal instruments for all."

The Secretary General also mentioned that in 2006, and in the context of the Declaration on Security in the Americas adopted three years earlier, the statutes of the Inter-American Defense Board were modified. He said that this change made the IADB an "entity" of the OAS, established more clearly the terms of political leadership of the body and effectively democratized the process of electing its officers. Nevertheless, he said, "since then we have not yet sufficiently generated mechanisms to adapt the IADB and IADC to the new realities."

Finally Insulza called on member countries to celebrate ten years of the Declaration on Security in the Americas "by promoting political decisions that take charge of the technical needs and allow for the practical materialization, at the multilateral level, of the principles contained in the Declaration."

The Permanent Representative of Peru and Chair of the Council, Walter Alban, stressed that the Declaration of 2003 marked "a new vision of democracy in the region in terms of security, which reflected the developments and strategic situation in the world at the end of the Cold War and the intra-or inter-state tensions derived from it."

Ambassador Alban highlighted how meaningful and useful the Declaration was, for example, in the United Nations debates on security. "In this hemispheric contribution of recognizing the links between security, development and democracy, we can find the antecedents to the acceptance of the United Nations in its Summit Declaration of 2005, in which the concepts of peace, security, development and human rights are mutually reinforcing."

Mexico's Under Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, Vanessa Rubio, whose country was the scene of the adoption of the Declaration of 2003 and played a central role in the realization of the special meeting of the Council, said that the tenth anniversary is an opportunity "to reflect on the contributions that the Declaration has generated in a decade, and to rethink this important issue in light of the national, regional and global challenges we face."

The Mexican official stressed that the Declaration helped create a regional vision on the multiple dimensions of security, noting that this view focuses on the importance of "contributing to the consolidation of peace, regional development and social justice, and is based on democratic values, the promotion and defense of human rights, solidarity, cooperation and respect for national sovereignty."

New Challenges to Security

The first panel discussed the "New challenges to security" and discussed different perspectives as to how best to face them, responding appropriately to the needs of the citizens of the region. The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of the United Nations, Alicia Barcena, presented an economic approach to security challenges, with particular emphasis on issues of inequality. "Security must go hand in hand with a basic stable income and secure social protection. Informality and low productivity generate inequality, insecurity and large gaps that segment society, "she said, while recalling the high levels of crime and violence that the region is experiencing.

"Insecurity, uncertainty and vulnerability are characteristic of the current development pattern" insisted the ECLAC Executive, who placed special emphasis on the need for a strong state presence capable of stopping the privatization of security, which, she said, "leads to higher levels of general insecurity, as security for the few is always insecurity for those who are excluded."

She also reiterated ECLAC’s perspective that those countries with high income inequality are more likely to be affected by violent crime than more equitable societies. "In Latin America and the Caribbean, when people demand more security, they are demanding more goods and public services, more civility, more tranquility," she said. "Recognizing that there are no magic formulas, the truth is that greater equality of rights, opportunities and welfare promotes a greater sense of belonging to society," she insisted.

The OAS Secretary for Political Affairs, Kevin Casas-Zamora, said that security challenges in the Hemisphere vary by region and country, but recognized that this does not imply that the multidimensional approach that the Declaration on Security encourages should be set aside. In the same line as Bárcena, Casas-Zamora said that some of the current challenges are based on inequality and impunity. "The evidence shows that societies that are unequal are more violent and more politically unstable societies," he added.

The OAS official stressed that the security challenges are intrinsically connected to the problem of rule of law. "The most powerful tool to create a safe community is the rule of law, without it there is no democracy, no development and no peace," he said, and insisted that the erosion of the state monopoly on the application of law and organized crime are the main issues pending to be confronted.

The Director of the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Program, Clark Ervin, presented the vision of the United States on security and the measures it has taken to manage and contribute to regional and international security. Ervin said that some of the obvious challenges are terrorism and cybercrime, but there are other issues that are more diffuse and threatening than they were ten years ago and "that make protection of citizens a more difficult job," such as widespread war tiredness; little appetite for undertaking another large-scale military intervention; negative reaction against the newly revealed surveillance measures; the international rejection of those measures; which "affect international support and collective action;" the financial crisis which will not allow the United States to continue acting as the “worlds’ policeman;” the high degree of partisan political dysfunction in the country which inhibits the government’s operational capacity; the change in perception of those who defended intervention; and international aid as central to U.S. politics; and the rise of a host of “nation/state" threats reflected in the political, economic and military rise of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Permanent Representative of Panama to the OAS, Ambassador Arturo Vallarino, referred specifically to the drug trade and its impact on the countries of Central America. In this regard he said that within the OAS, there is wide recognition of the scale of this security problem, due to "the many lives lost and truncated, and due to the great suffering caused by the drug problem." At the same time, he continued, the OAS is aware of the need to reduce crime and violence associated with the activities of criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking and its related activities.

Ambassador Vallarino said that Central American countries investment in security grew by 60 percent between 2006 and 2010, and it has caused the population of these countries to be deprived of other basic rights such as education, health and safety. In this regard, he insisted that "given the harsh reality of growing insecurity, it is important to take immediate action" on the issue, to be realistic and pragmatic," and to demand greater cooperation from the countries that generate the demand for drugs.

Multidimensional Approach to Security

The second panel, focused on "Multidimensional Approach to Security," began with a presentation by Arturo Valenzuela, Professor of Government at Georgetown University, who recalled that the Declaration on Security replaced the old security concept with one that is "multinational, integrated, and multidimensional." This new idea, he continued, "is focused on people and emphasizes the importance of privileging institutional, economic and social elements to strengthen our communities and ensure the fundamental rights of individuals in relation to global challenges." "At its core," said Professor Valenzuela, "security can only be achieved with development and social justice. At the same time, security is strengthened along with the rule of law in democracy, in which only the state as a whole, in the famous words of Max Weber, maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of force."

For his part, the Secretary for Multidimensional Security of the OAS, Adam Blackwell, explained how his area implements the concept of what he called "smart security," which identifies problems through objective evidence based diagnostics and observatories; develops program and project proposals that take into account the specific needs of member states as well as national and regional realities; builds on and adapts existing good practices or models; creates a multidimensional and integrated approach that ensures a systemic or systematic response; and evaluates the outcomes not just of projects but of laws tactics and strategies.

Secretary Blackwell emphasized he learned during his visits to Member States that "the solution to the problem of insecurity is not necessarily more security, more police, more troops, harsher anti-crime legislation; but rather intelligent investments and more efficient security - security that emphasizes strong transparent and collaborative institutions, and a culture of respect for the rule of law and the responsibility and rights of citizenship.”

The Permanent Representative of the United States the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, said her country is willing to work together " with anyone to combat both new and existing threats in order to create the security for all of our citizens that will allow for economic growth and prosperity." "As we celebrate the ten year anniversary of the Declaration," said Ambassador Lomellín, "now is the time to advance our dialogue and deepen our collective commitment to confront the pressing and evolving security issues of the Americas. Only through coordinated and cooperative efforts can we address the multidimensional threats of the 21st century and maintain the security of all of our citizens.”

Canada’s Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Haiti Division, Marianick Tremblay said that in her country "like the OAS, we believe in a multidimensional definition and approach to security as embodied in the Declaration on Security in the Americas." "The current dialogue on a broader strategic vision for the OAS presents a valuable opportunity for frank exchange on the priorities, the objectives and the institutional structures that will help establish a more efficient and effective international security framework, said Director Tremblay. The security challenges in the Americas require a strong commitment and collaborative efforts among member states, said the Canadian authority, who said that her country "is firmly committed to continuing its support of initiatives which enhance security in the region by building on lessons learned and working with you, our partners, to achieve the objectives set out in the Declaration."

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The 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-403/13