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At the OAS, Kerry Urges Region to Strengthen Democracies, Invest in Education and Combat Climate Change

  November 18, 2013

The Organization of American States (OAS) today received the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, who spoke in favor of cooperation among the countries of the Western Hemisphere based on a relationship between equals, with the aim of strengthening democracy, investing in education, and combating climate change.

The event, co-organized by the OAS and the Inter-American Dialogue, was opened by the Secretary General of the hemispheric Organization, José Miguel Insulza, who recalled the positive changes that have taken place in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last decade, both in economic and political terms, and urged the government of President Barack Obama and the other OAS member states to continue working to advance key issues on the hemispheric agenda. “This is certainly the best place to discuss the common challenges our region faces today and in the near future,” he said.

In his address, entitled "The United States and Latin America: The Power of Partnership," the Secretary of State expressly rejected the policies pursued by his country in the past in Latin America and the Caribbean through the "Monroe Doctrine," and opened the door to a relationship of equals between Washington and the other countries of the Hemisphere. “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.”

Secretary Kerry called on the countries of the Americas to work toward the same goals because, "as the old proverb says, La union hace la fuerza. The union – in unity, there is strength.” In this regard, he raised three questions crucial to the future of the region. The first question, he said, is whether the countries of the Hemisphere are able to work together "in the promotion and protection of democracy, security and peace that all the peoples of the Americas deserve.” The second question raised by the chief U.S. diplomat referred to whether "we will be able to advance prosperity in the Western Hemisphere and educate our youth to lead the economies of the future." And the third question was whether together we will be able “to address the threat posed by climate change?”

Achieving positive responses to these questions, he continued, will mark the future of the Hemisphere. “The real challenge of the 21st century in the Americas will be how we use our democratic governments to deliver development, overcome poverty, and improve social inclusion,” said Secretary Kerry, who recalled that 50 years ago, then-President John F. Kennedy called for a similar vision in the region, in which each country is secure and acts independently and freely.

Regarding the protection of democracy, Secretary Kerry said, “we can be immensely proud, I think, of this hemisphere’s democratic trajectory and of the institutions that we built in order to hold ourselves to the future and to be accountable.” “Successful democracies depend on all citizens having a voice and on respecting those voices, and all governments having the courage and the capacity to listen to those voices,” the U.S. diplomat stressed, who noted the importance of members holding themselves to the mandates of OAS Charter.

In terms of education, Secretary Kerry argued that investment in the area must be a priority in order to advance the economic development of the Hemisphere. “To start with, educational opportunity, above all, must be a priority. It is only with widely available, high-quality education that our workforce, the workforce of the hemisphere, will be equipped for the jobs of the future. Education, as we all know, opens up other doors as well,” he said.

Efforts to improve education, however, must be accompanied by other measures to provide the desired benefits. “Education, as we know, is only the first step. We must also press even harder to help create jobs and economic opportunity for our young people,” he said.

On climate change, Kerry indicated that the region must join together to address climate change warming, which, he said, is the "the challenge of life itself on the planet." “The Americas have become the new center of our global energy map. Our hemisphere supplies now one-fourth of the world’s crude oil and nearly one-fourth of its coal. We support over a third of global electricity. And what that means is that we have the ability and the great responsibility to influence the way that the entire world is powered.”

OAS Secretary General

Secretary General Insulza began by highlighting the economic progress made in the region. Latin America, he said, currently has a 6 trillion dollar economy, and since 2003 has increased its share of the world economy to 8 percent. “Over 70 million people escaped poverty during the last 10 years. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), poverty in the region fell significantly, from 43.9% in 2002 to 28.8% in 2012. Several countries recorded substantial declines in poverty and indigence and, for the first time, the number of people in poverty in Latin America is now equal to the size of the middle class,” he said.

The OAS leader said that in parallel with the economy, democracy in the region is experiencing its greatest moment in the history of the Hemisphere. “Two decades of democratic transition have also led to the strengthening of our democracies. We have more democratically elected governments than at any time in our independent history,” he said and added that the “unanimous adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001 by OAS member states represented a significant milestone on the path toward democratic consolidation in our Hemisphere.”

The Secretary General stressed in his address the values ​​shared by the United States and the rest of the region, and the important role of Washington in the Hemisphere. “We have a strong hemispheric agenda, based on common interests and predicated on common values. Indeed, it would be impossible to have a sensible conversation about some of the Hemisphere’s most crucial issues –democracy, human rights, migration, energy, trade, climate change, citizen security, drugs, to name but a few - without the United States actively engaged at the table. On those issues, a conversation that excludes the voice of the United States would be an impoverished and futile exercise.”

At the same time, said the OAS leader, it is necessary to begin with a common understanding that "driving this agenda also means recognizing that the world and our Hemisphere have changed." Latin America and the Caribbean, he said, “are also looking for a balanced participation in world affairs, eager to partner with many regions of the world to help shape international relations.”

The event was closed by the honorary co-Chair of the Inter-American Dialogue, Carla Hills, who highlighted the unifying message sent to the region by Secretary Kerry. "His message that unity is strength is something we take to heart," she said.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The B-Roll 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-441/13