Media Center



  June 6, 2004

Ecuador’s President, Lucio Gutiérrez, opened the 34th regular session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly on Sunday evening, saying that new twenty first century development models can only succeed by placing human beings at “the center of any comprehensive human development initiative.”

The Ecuadorian leader told the hemisphere’s foreign ministers that everyone should have access to stable jobs and reasonable pay to afford a decent standard of living and live in safety. He stressed that this would help people become “active, rather than passive, players in a truly progressive and supportive society.”

President Gutierrez said corruption, which he described as “a social pathology,” undermines social development and democracy by diverting much-needed resources from development. He argued further: “We must devote our best efforts to strengthening hemispheric tools to fight this scourge and create new mechanisms, so that all nations can commit themselves to prosecuting corruption beyond borders.”

He renewed Ecuador’s full support for OAS efforts to bolster and defend democracy in the region, and pointed to such OAS successes as the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Declaration on Security in the Americas, the hemispheric summits follow-up process, the strengthening of the Inter-American Council for Social Development, increased civil society involvement in OAS activities, and the Inter-American Convention against Corruption and its Follow-up Mechanism.

The Ecuadorian President also praised OAS Secretary General César Gaviria for his ten-year leadership of the premier hemispheric body, expressing appreciation for Gaviria’s “important work and invaluable efforts that have helped strengthen the inter-American system.”

Gaviria meanwhile, addressing the inauguration of his final General Assembly as head of the OAS, declared that he was leaving an Organization that had become more relevant and more universal in its political objectives. “Without question, the OAS has become an institution that ensures balanced inter-American relations.”

Reviewing his decade-long leadership of the OAS, Gaviria said “events have surpassed our greatest expectations. At the same time, the problems and challenges our peoples faced increased exponentially, particularly as a result of greater interdependence and globalization.” He said we must focus our energies “not on examining the present but on looking toward the future.”

Gaviria, whose term ends in September, reaffirmed his view that we have overcome isolationism, rivalry and misunderstanding as well as “many of the ties that had bound the OAS in the past.” He said that when he first became Secretary General—in 1994—there were encouraging signs of the possibilities of a new multilateralism within the OAS and of the Organization’s ability to adapt to a world evolving at prodigious speed.

He pointed to OAS initiatives to encourage greater civil society and private sector involvement in the hemispheric organization’s activities, and cited among OAS diplomatic successes the settlement of disputes between Peru and Ecuador and between Argentina and Chile. He noted as well the coming into force of the Panama Canal agreement and the decision by Nicaragua and Honduras to take their dispute to the International Court of Justice.

With respect to Venezuela, Gaviria said a fundamental step had been made “toward compliance with the agreements of May 2003, facilitated by the OAS, the Carter Center, and the Colombia to demobilize paramilitary groups and re-integrate them into society, and lamented the challenges encountered with regard to the political crisis in Haiti.

Hailing the government of Ecuador for proposing as the central topic of this General Assembly corruption as a challenge to social development and democracy, Gaviria argued that, “corruption undermines the allocation of resources for development.” He added: “Poverty, inequality, and social exclusion are therefore the most serious threats and the main challenges to democracy in the Hemisphere.”

During the inaugural session, a moment of silence was observed in memory of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday. The General Assembly also observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of recent floods that ravaged parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The General Assembly ends June 8 after an extensive agenda that includes the election of a new OAS Secretary General.

Reference: GA-006-04