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June 5, 2005 - FORT LAUDERDALE

Distinguished Ministers, Mr. Secretary General, Heads of delegation, Ambassadors, Observers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Norway would like to congratulate the OAS with the election of a new Secretary General. We feel confident that the member states have elected an outstanding leader that will be able to safeguard and promote the respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in all countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Norway very much appreciate the opportunity to observe on a permanent basis the activities and processes in the OAS, and furthermore this dialogue where we can exchange views with the heads of delegations.

The protection of democratic values is a never-ending process in all countries of the world. The willingness to submit to international commitments is important to guarantee people their democratic rights and optimize legitimacy. Therefore, Norway has, as a member of the OSCE, invited a corps of international observers to attend our parliamentary elections in September this year.

Equally, like the OSCE in Europe and North America, the OAS has great responsibility in observing elections in its member states.

During the next two years, many presidential and parliamentary elections will be held the hemisphere. We have sent Norwegian observers and contributed financially to various OAS observer missions. International observation based upon international rules and procedures contribute to guarantee free and fair elections. The OAS should have a standing invitation from all its member states to observe their electoral processes.

In this regard, we would like to the underline the importance of OAS' electoral assistance for Haiti. Norway has contributed financially to the electoral preparation work and we intend to maintain our commitment to Haiti. We will persist in our reconciliation efforts.

OAS has on several occasions provided us with a useful vehicle for engagement in the region. At the core of this are some really support worthy projects and programmes that the organisation has run in some of its member states. Programmes that have made a huge difference for people who has benefited from them. A good example is the mine-clearing programme, which has successfully cleared vast areas of anti-personnel mines.

Support for the de-mining programme constituted Norway’s single largest contribution to the OAS by more than 1.3 million dollar last year. In co-operation with donors like Norway the organisation has turned areas and even states that previously had a mine problem into mine-free zones. This is a substantial and lasting achievement we are proud to have contributed to. Norway is eager to support this kind of efforts, and the OAS in this case provided a useful, comprehensive and cost-effective multinational framework for engagement.

Many of our embassies in the region have also had a fruitful co-operation with the OAS both nationally and regionally. This is particularly the case in Guatemala, where the positive experiences with the national programmes have led to co-operation on programmes on the regional level. The co-operation with the OAS administered through our Embassy in Guatemala has mainly been on democracy, party-building and conflict resolution. We may in the period 2002-2008 have contributed to the OAS projects in Guatemala in excess of USD 6.000.000, even though at the present time some contracts are under negotiation.

Following the discussions in the various forums during the General Assembly of the OAS provides the observer states with a good insight into the trends and winds that are blowing across the continent. I look very much forward to following the debates inside as well as outside the conference rooms in the days to come here in Fort Lauderdale.

Thank you for your attention.