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San Salvador: OAS General Assembly Calls for Coordinated Efforts to Improve Citizen Security in the Americas

  June 6, 2011

The member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) appealed today for intensified international and multilateral cooperation to improve citizen security in the Americas and applauded the Organization’s initiative of discussing this topic during the second plenary session of the forty-first regular session of the OAS General Assembly. During the second meeting of the day, all the delegations who spoke referred to national and regional policies they had adopted to address this matter in its various manifestations and reaffirmed their commitment to seek dialogue and collaboration to improve the quality of life of the Hemisphere’s inhabitants.

During the event, held at the International Fair and Convention Center (CIFCO) in the Salvadoran capital, theforeign ministers andrepresentatives of El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Guatemala, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bolivia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Honduras, Argentina, Haiti, Colombia, the United States, and Suriname spoke on the main security challenges in their countries and in theregion, such as drug trafficking, trafficking in arms and persons, violence against women, and crime.

At the session, the Government of the Republic of Honduras was welcomed back to the Organization, greetings were extended to the new president-elect of the Republic of Peru, and the normal electoral process that took place in that South American country was welcomed.

El Salvador

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez, said the concept of citizen security should be based on at least three pillars: human security, “to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law”; community security, “to ensure that communities and their members are free from the threat of violence, promoting a multisectoral approach”; and proper social cohesion “to strengthen tolerance and respect for diversity in all its manifestations.” The head of Salvadoran diplomacy, who serves as president of the forty-first regular session of the General Assembly, affirmed that “the hemispheric security efforts of the OAS have been important insofar as they have addressed traditional threats and new threats and challenges from a shared view point and through mutual cooperation.”


The Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the OAS, Ambassador Denis Moncada, referred to the priorities his government has set in terms of citizen security. He shared some of the content of the Human Development Plan, explaining how measures in the social arena, such as fighting hunger, access to health services and education,and social reintegration, contribute to citizen security. “The problem of poverty, product of an unjust redistribution of wealth, unequal opportunity, social exclusion,and the insufficient role played by the state, contributes to citizen insecurity,” he said.

Dominican Republic

The foreign minister of the Dominican Republic, Carlos Morales Troncoso, noted that his country participates in the Central American Security Strategy and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, among other regional cooperation arrangements in the area of citizen security and fighting transnational organized crime; it has adopted the concept of citizen security “as an essential right and a public service for the benefit of the population”; it has under way its own comprehensive democratic security program, “which was declared a national priority”; it is executing a strategic national plan on drugs, in line with the Anti-drug Strategy in the Hemisphere; it is implementing a new prisons model; and its judicial system “is undergoing a full reform and an advanced modernization process.”

On this subject, foreign minister Morales Troncoso said his government “wishes to take a step forward here to demonstrate its willingness, once again, to join in a hemispheric effort to follow up on this declaration and provide what our peoples are demanding: effective citizen security and the strengthening of peaceful coexistence among their communities.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, summarized the measures his government has taken to ensure security, including local development projects, border protection, regional cooperation, and the establishment of a security perimeter around the country to prevent drug trafficking in Panama. The foreign minister of Panama said that ”in order for the success of Panama not to become the failure of others, this security perimeter cannot be limited to our country;so we believe the security response has to be regional, and that makes international cooperation essential.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Haroldo Rodas Melgar, noted that the OAS “is the historic forum in which the states of the Hemisphere meet to seek solutionsto common challenges andoffer the human being a land of liberty and a favorable environment for the development of his personality and the realization of his aspirations.” Ambassador Rodas Melgar called the Organization, therefore, “a privileged forum which fosters decisions on measures and programs that seek to strengthen peace and security in its member states” and called for application of the multilateral security perspective that was established in the Declaration on Security in the Americas, adopted in 2003.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS, Ambassador La Celia A. Prince, noted that her country’s government fully recognizes its responsibility to coordinate, ensure, and manage the security of the state and of everyone within its borders, both citizens and visitors, and that there are four clear points in this effort: citizen security is at the heart of all state security initiatives; the overall responsibility for citizen security resides with the state; the state cannot achieve citizen security without citizen support; and development and security are inextricably linked. “Citizen security requires a holistic approach in order to be successful,” she said. “It must contain strategies to detect crime efficiently and punish the criminals, prevent crime, rehabilitate offenders, and reintegrate them into society,” she added.


The Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the OAS, Ambassador María Isabel Salvador, said her country has taken steps to firm up state policies on citizen security, such as the creation in 2007 of the Ministry for the Coordination of Internal and External Security, charged with implementing a long-term policy on the matter. She also said its National Development Plan is geared toward a policy of good living, ensures broad citizen participation, and includes citizen security among its main objectives. “Ecuador considers citizen security a right, and believes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure it. Our vision is founded on human rights, the rule of law, the democratic order, and a comprehensive approach toward development,” she said.

Trinidad and Tobago

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Surujrattan Rambachan, noted the topic of fighting violence against women and the importance it is accorded by the government of his country. “Trinidad and Tobago is so keen on the topic of women in the Americas that our country will host the Regional Colloquium for Female Leaders on June 29 and 30, 2011, in Port of Spain.” He said one of the “pillars” of building development in his country is national and personal security. “We argue that sustainable economic progress and meaningful democracy are not possible unless crime is controlled and a guarantee of human security exists.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said that in addressing the problem of criminal violence one must identify the causative factors, such as the effects of drug trafficking, poverty, unemployment, lack of education,andsocial alienation. For example, she said, “one must recognize the link between phenomena such as the lack of education, substance abuse, and cases of insecurity such as domestic violence.” Therefore, she went on to say, it is imperative that the countries of the region “step up cooperation initiatives to improve economic and social conditions and to address social issues” that have an impact on insecurity.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, David Choquehuanca, referred to the concepts of insecurity, crime, and a culture of peace, emphasizing that “in order to make progress in this area, we must formulate policies that preserve the well-being and security of persons so as to protect the enjoyment of all their rights. In Bolivia we advocate the social concept of “good living” as a philosophy of life that precisely encompasses the essential aspects ofs ociety in my country,” he said.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sam Condor, applauded the initiative of giving the topic of citizen security priority at the Assembly session. He commented on the vulnerabilities of the region as it faces the challenges of security and crime, and noted their link with the protection of human rights, especially the rights of women. "We applaud the OAS for its commitment to fighting this battle with all its might, recognizing the scope of this reality, and for establishing protocols to address the question, as provided in the Convention of Belém do Pará," he said.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica, Kenneth Baugh, noted the problem of illegal trafficking in firearms and its impacton Jamaican society, citing statistics indicating that 75 percent of all homicides committed in that Caribbean country involve the use of a firearm. “The predominance of illegal firearms, resulting from ‘drugs-for-weapons trafficking,”is perpetuating crime and violence and has brought loss of life, human suffering, and the propagation of fear and insecurity in our society,” he said. He went on to say that therefore “the Government of Jamaica continues to intensify its efforts to confront and prevent crime and violence in Jamaican society and has adopted a holistic approach” in search of solutions to these scourges.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Honduras, Mario Miguel Canahuati, began his remarks by thanking the member states for their expressions of welcome upon his country’s recent readmission to the OAS. “We Hondurans have always felt the OAS to be a part of us, an inherent expression of our institutional life, and therefore our full participation in the Organization brings profound satisfaction,” he said. Foreign minister Canahuati referred to his country’s “Comprehensive Human Security Plan” and recalled that “the Government of Honduras has committed to increasing its spending on security, strengthening the budgets of the institutions responsible, despite the international economic and financial crisis.” The Honduran foreign minister appealed for collaboration from other sectors of society, such as private enterprise, the communications media, and civil society, “to achieve tangible success against these scourges.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Worship, Héctor Timerman, emphasized the relationship between citizen security and the defense of human rights. “This concept allows us to address the problems of crime and violence and their impacton citizen security by strengthening democratic citizen participation and through policies focusing on the protection of the human being,” he said. Foreign minister Timerman explained that “to achieve effective domestic security policy we must ensure citizen participation, coordination among the various agencies, professionalization and modernization of equipment, and the provision of the necessary resources.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Haiti, Daniel Supplice, recalled the recent presidential elections in his country and thanked the OAS and the UN for their support and the important role they played in maintaining peace and stability. He also reported that Haitian President Michel Martelly “has already mobilized the appropriate Haitian institutions with the objective, among others, of creating a modern, democratic security system capable of handling security in all its complexity.” Finally, he recalled that his country has been devastated repeatedly by natural disasters and appealed to the countries of the region to reach a consensus on this topic of such great importance to peace, security,and the well-being of peoples.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Maria Ángela Holguín Cuéllar, spoke on the challenges citizen security issues pose to the stability and well-being of peoples, and explained how her country has been able to reduce the rates of murder, abduction, and overall violence through focused policies, including the purging and restructuring of the National Police. “With a decisive commitment to the security and well-being of the region, Colombia has executed a Security Cooperation Strategy that has allowed 14 countries of the region to strengthen their national capabilities and to face possible threats to their security with better tools,” she explained. She also reflected on the urgent need to convert policy into action and “move from rhetoric to action.”

United States

The Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, William J. Burns, said the countries of the region should continue to work together on matters of security to strengthen their democracies. “To the extent that we work in solidarity to strengthen our institutions,confront transnational crime, and build resilient communities, we know our common cause does not jeopardize sovereignty but protects it. That is why we must step up our efforts to strengthen the foundations of our democratic societies.”He also called the “very important” role the OAS has played in resolving conflictsamong countries, and the electoral observer missions, peacemaking activities that have defined its track record. “We should feel proud of this record and continue to build upon it,” he said.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Suriname, Winston G. Lackin, noted the security problems faced by the population of his country, such as violent crimes committed by youth, sexual, physical, and psychological violence against children, and matters that have an impact on insecurity, such as the need to generate new jobs, provide better housing and education, etc. He said that his government “has formed a working group to coordinate all the government institutions dealing with children and to counsel the President on specific measures for implementing in their entirety the provisions of the Conventionon the Rights of the Child, especially measures to prevent violence against children.” However, he said, his country’s government does not have sufficient resources to implement its programs and “we anticipate a show of solidarity” from the international community.

A gallery of photos of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-716/11