Media Center



June 7, 2005 - Fort Lauderdale, FLORIDA

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General.
Mr. Assistant Secretary General
Distinguished Members of the Head Table
Fellow Ministers and Heads of Delegation
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me commence by congratulating Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza on his ascendancy to the top post of the OAS.

The Antigua and Barbuda delegation thanks the officials of the United States Department of State and of the City of Fort Lauderdale for their warm reception and fine hospitality.

Article one of the Inter-American Democratic Charter says that “The Peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” “That same article also states that “Democracy is essential for the social, political, and economic development of the peoples of the Americas.” As my delegation engages in this dialogue today, it does so with the full understanding that the thirty-four governments, comprising this hemispheric organization, are not only in one accord on the importance of democracy to the citizens in our countries but are also ful1y committed to democracy's preservation trough the delivery of the benefits that it offers.

Mr. President, Antigua and Barbuda shares with our sister countries of CARICOM a rich history of democracy. Our respect for human rights and individual freedoms is well established. Our unwavering support for the rule of law is well documented. And our continued practice of holding elections at regular intervals has now become routine within our political system. These are among the fundamental values that are enshrined in our constitution, fully integrated in our legal framework and form part and parcel of our political, economic~ social and cultural way of life.

Mr. President, Antigua and Barbuda believes in a democracy that allows for meaningful participation of the citizenry in the governing institutions~ where decisions affecting their lives are made. That is why -the Untied Progressive Party (UPP) Government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, was expeditious in passing the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) Act 2004. This act is designed to promote the goals of economic growth and development while fostering citizens' participation in economic decision-making and social equity. It also promotes consensus within the population and encourages internal agreements by actors from all segments of the society on matters pertaining to social policy.

In Antigua and Barbuda, we are already beginning to see the positive effects of this piece of legislation, in helping to further strengthen our democracy and in building a more equitable economic and social partnership. This is especially the case in the determined will of the Government to ensure that both genders participate equally in the process of nation building and benefit fully from the gains that accrue there from. Mr. President, my Government is confident that citizen’s participation in the democratic processes will lead to improving their standard of living and the quality of their lives. This is the democracy we promote.

Mr. President, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda also maintains that we should fight corruption at every level of society as one way of ensuring that the benefits of democracy reach to all the people. It is for this reason that the Government, within seven months of taking office, passed a trilogy of laws, namely the Freedom of Information Act, the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Integrity in Public Life Act. This legislative package represents the most comprehensive and ambitious effort undertaken by any Government in our sub-region. The Government embarked on this path because it was determined to make good governance one of the hallmarks of its terms in office and to bring about fundamental changes in the way Government conducted its business on behalf of the people whom it was elected to serve.

Mr. President, we should be clear. The survival of democracy hinges entirely on the nature of its results and the value of its outcomes. Moreover, the sustainability of democracy depends, to a large extent, on the degree of .its integration with the social and economic development of the people. Article 11 of the Inter- American Democratic Charter is in full support of this position by declaring that "Democracy and social and economic development are interdependent and ate mutually reinforcing." Mr. President, it is the passionate belief of Antigua and Barbuda that the countries of this hemisphere should endeavor to create an enabling environment that will spur economic growth, increase development and build an entrepreneurial spirit, where the energies of our people can be unleashed and low levels of development will become a distant memory.

It therefore follows that democracy will only have meaning to the citizens of our hemisphere when there is committed action to addressing the existing socio-economic ills that daily threaten the very survival of ordinary people. The goal of consolidating democracy in the States of this hemisphere will never be achieved until our countries take joint action to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. Democracy will continue to ring hollow in the ears of our people unless we deal with the issue of low wages, poor health, epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and dilapidated housing. Strategies aimed at strengthening democracy will never take hold unless we tackle unemployment, underemployment and rising crime rates.
Mr. President, Antigua and Barbuda calls for greater corporate social responsibility in our hemisphere. We would like to see more emphasis being placed on promoting the OAS's democracy agenda that should be linked to the development agenda. We believe that it will be necessary to place special emphasis on the fight against poverty and the recommendations stemming from the Monterrey Consensus. While we applaud the Summit of the Americas process as indispensable to promoting the political, economic, social and cultural problems in our hemisphere at the highest political level of our governments, the time is right for us to design a more effective implementation mechanism for the recommendations !hat emanate there from. It is imperative, Mr. President that the benefits we talk about in for a such as the Summit and even here at this General Assembly are expeditiously implemented to improve the lives of ordinary people in our countries. Moreover, we wish to call for broad-based discussions, by all relevant actors within the Inter-American System, on the negotiation of an Inter-American Special Charter that will promote social development within the hemisphere.

Mr. President, in closing, there is no lack of ideas as to what should be done to improve the welfare of our peoples. There is no shortage of mandates from our political bodies. There is no lacking in policy prescriptions for addressing the low and often deteriorating levels of human development. But Mr. President, there is much lacking in our actions. Antigua and Barbuda believes that it is time to take action on behalf of so many in our hemisphere who live .in despair and for whom hope is quickly fading. Let us work together to improve their lives so that democracy can have meaning for them as well.

Thank you Mr. President.