Media Center



March 2, 2007 - Washington, DC

Mr. Chair,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in the Bolivar Room at the heart of the Organization of American States.

As we celebrate our 17th anniversary of membership in this body, Canada's commitment to the Organization, to its principles and to the democratic values it embodies remains strong. Today, more than ever, Canada’s New Government values the critical role that the OAS plays in forging a hemispheric consensus on issues fundamental for the achievement of a better life for all in our hemisphere.

Canada has enjoyed an enduring connection with the Americas. Last June, when I attended the General Assembly of the OAS in Santo Domingo, I spoke of the historical ties that have linked the Atlantic region of Canada B where I come from B with the Hemisphere, particularly the Caribbean Region. For hundreds of years we exported cod and lumber, and received spices and rum in return.

These initial commercial exchanges led to important people-to-people links and closer political ties, and fostered a sense of community with the region which is tangible to this day. Ties of immigration and shared experience have woven us ever more closely into the fabric of the Americas, a fact that will not be lost by anyone who has attended Toronto's Caribana street carnival.

Plus de Canadiens se rendent maintenant en Amérique latine et dans les Caraïbes que dans toute autre région du monde, en dehors des États-Unis. Le climat froid les y pousse probablement, mais nul ne peut nier les relations importantes et durables qui sont nouées par là même. Et le flux n’est pas unilatéral. Quand je suis allé voir dernièrement mon ami, le ministre Celso Amorim, au Brésil on m’a rappelé que le Canada est devenu la première destination à l’étranger des Brésiliens qui veulent étudier en anglais et en français.

Nous avons parlé de moyens de soutenir et de renforcer ces échanges de jeunes afin de maintenir le lien avec les dirigeants de demain.

Our engagement with the Americas has grown, fuelled by the winds of democratic transition and globalization, of commercial and investment opportunities, and the movement of people. We are at the point where our economies, our societies and the health and security of our citizens are inextricably intertwined.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged the importance of our relationship with the Hemisphere in a speech last month when he outlined the Government's domestic and international priorities. The Prime Minister said, AOur neighbourhood doesn't end at the 49th parallel, and neither do our interests. That's why we will seek to reengage relationships throughout the Americas, with our partners in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.@

AOur interests@ are not just about our trade and investment balance sheets. They include the importance which Canada attaches to being part of a community of states committed to working together to ensure the freedom, security and prosperity of our peoples.

It means ensuring a predictable and transparent regulatory and judicial environment where the private sector can contribute to strengthening our economies. It means effective and accountable governance at all levels to ensure the benefits of prosperity for our societies and our citizens. It also means shouldering our responsibilities to help other members of our community when they are having difficulties in achieving these goals.

Nous avons, dans les efforts collectifs que nous déployons pour aider la population haïtienne, un exemple édifiant de ce type de solidarité dans notre hémisphère. Haïti se trouve à un moment critique de son histoire. Mon gouvernement est fier de travailler en collaboration avec ses partenaires hémisphériques et avec l’OEA pour aider Haïti à rompre avec la violence, la pauvreté et leurs effets déstabilisants. Le système onusien apporte certes une contribution immédiate importante, mais c’est l’OEA qui sera essentielle pour Haïti à long terme. Je félicite le Secrétaire général adjoint Ramdin du leadership dont il fait preuve dans ce dossier.

Nous avons promis pour Haïti plus d’un demi milliard de dollars en aide au développement sur les cinq prochaines années. De concert avec les partenaires représentés dans cette salle, nous aiderons Haïti à bâtir un avenir meilleur pour sa population.

Within the community of the Americas represented by the OAS, there are several sub-regional groups, from CARICOM to Mercosur, which contribute to the stability, prosperity and security of the Hemisphere. Just last week, I hosted my counterparts Minister Espinosa and Secretary Rice in Ottawa for a meeting of the North American Security and Prosperity Partnership.

The goals of the Partnership are to promote cooperation on security, economic and commercial issues within the North American context B but what it is really about is improving the quality of life for our people. We all know from our own experiences, even within regions, there can be important differences in perspectives. Working through these differences toward a consensus view, as we do here at the OAS, is no small achievement, but we do so for the betterment of our societies.

As I have learned more about the work of the OAS, I have been struck by the high degree of consensus among 34 diverse nations on the critical issues of democracy, security and sustainable development. In terms of a consensus on democratic values, our Inter-American Democratic Charter is a landmark document, unique among all regions of the world. We must preserve and uphold this singular achievement by ensuring its full application.

On security, the OAS has adopted the Declaration on Security in the Americas which recognizes that security threats, concerns and challenges affect us in different ways, and include political, economic, health and environmental aspects. We have come a long way from a narrow definition of traditional security threats. As we share challenges to our security, we must share the responsibilities in dealing with them.

Dans quelques semaines, l’OEA se réunira pour évaluer les progrès accomplis dans la mise en œuvre de la Déclaration sur la sécurité dans les Amériques. Par ailleurs, le Canada se réjouit d’accueillir l’an prochain les ministres de la Défense de l’hémisphère pour la Conférence des ministres de la Défense des Amériques. Ces deux rencontres seront l’occasion de dresser le bilan de nos efforts individuels et collectifs face à nos problèmes de sécurité.

Nous examinerons notamment le rôle important joué par l’OEA et ses divers organes spécialisés, comme le Comité interaméricain contre le terrorisme, dont la réunion annuelle se termine au Panama, et la Commission interaméricaine de lutte contre l’abus des drogues, et d’autres, dans la promotion d’une coopération accrue face aux problèmes de sécurité.

Partnerships with the private sector are also important. A good example of this was seen last week as our government announced a $111-million contribution to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the development of an HIV vaccine.

As we have seen in Haiti and in other countries recovering from conflict, there is an integral relationship between security, development, democracy and freedom.

The Inter-American Democratic Charter recognizes that democracy and social and economic development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Work is underway on a social charter which will seek to establish a framework for national and hemispheric efforts to promote social equity and inclusion. Given the ongoing challenge of promoting equitable and inclusive societies in all of our nations, this is extremely relevant work. It should be seen within the context of a balanced hemispheric agenda anchored in the promotion of equitable development, expanded prosperity and the full respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

I would like to turn to what I see as the central mandate of the OAS: the promotion and preservation of representative democracy in our hemisphere. You will recall that in this very same hall last September a special session of the Permanent Council was held to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Democratic Charter marks a key achievement of our collective efforts to uphold the principles and values of democracy in our region. It is also a pledge for mutual support when democracy is faltering. It has served us well over the past years in guiding the actions of the Organization in support of democracy, and in addressing challenges to democracy when they have emerged.

I am pleased to tell you today that the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, will continue to sustain the efforts of the Organization in this crucial area by providing a $1.2m grant to build on the notable progress made and success achieved in terms of electoral democracy, and to strengthen the social and civil dimensions of democracy beyond the holding of elections. This support will enable the OAS to continue to contribute substantially to democratic governance in the hemisphere. Canada will maintain its support of the work of the OAS in following up on the Summit process and mandates in line with the ongoing reforms of the OAS.

But support for the electoral agenda is just one aspect of the pledges to reinforce representative democracy enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We have also entrusted the Secretary General of the Organization with the responsibility to draw to the attention of this council any concerns that he may have about challenges to democracy in the region. This is a sensitive, yet critical function which we have asked the office to exercise, and when it is upheld, we must support the Secretary General and listen carefully to what he is telling us.

I look forward to discussing further with my counterparts in Panama in June on how we might enhance our efforts to uphold these and other democratic principles as expressed in the Charter of our organization and the

Inter-American Democratic Charter.

On the issue of energy, Canada further believes, from long experience, that open, transparent and predictable markets are the most effective means of ensuring energy security and encouraging much-needed investment over the long term.

When I was in Mexico, I discussed with Minister Espinosa the Plan Puebla Panama, whose innovative agenda to connect energy grids in Meso-America was in part formulated on a Canadian feasibility study sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency.

We must also recognize the role that the international financial institutions have to play in tackling energy challenges, and encourage the multilateral development banks to promote greater investment in energy infrastructure, alternative energy sources, and increased energy efficiency. Finally, we must never forget that the increasing demand for energy can have an impact on environmentally, socially, or culturally sensitive areas. To address those impacts, we need to develop and implement effective mechanisms for dialogue and stakeholder engagement in the energy sector as it continues to grow in the region, and we need to promote the concept of corporate social responsibility.

As the Organization advances in its dialogue on energy, Canada believes it is crucial to bear in mind the overarching need to seek sustainable growth that balances economic, social and environmental objectives, while promoting access to safe, reliable and affordable energy.

Il est rassurant de savoir, tandis que nous cherchons des moyens de progresser à l’Organisation dans ce secteur et dans d’autres secteurs clés, que nous pouvons compter sur un réseau impressionnant d’autres institutions régionales pour nous aider à atteindre nos objectifs collectifs. En encourageant une plus étroite coordination avec la Banque interaméricaine de développement et d’autres institutions, comme l’Organisation panaméricaine de la santé et l’Institut interaméricain de coopération pour l’agriculture, nous pouvons former les véritables partenariats nécessaires pour réaliser nos objectifs.

This is particularly important in the context of the Summit of the Americas Process, in which the OAS has a key coordinating role. As a former host of the Summit of the Americas, Canada is fully committed to ensuring that the Summit Process continues to deliver a balanced agenda built on the fundamental pillars of democracy, prosperity and equity. I wish to assure you that we will continue to work with all our partners in the region and member states, as well as with Trinidad and Tobago, to ensure the success of the Summit Process.

As you can see, Canada's agenda for the OAS is ambitious, and we have high aspirations for strengthening its contributions to democracy, development and security in our Hemisphere. I am confident that under the capable leadership of Secretary General Insulza and Assistant Secretary General Ramdin and their team, the OAS will continue its evolution into a more effective and modern institution, which will play a critical role in our collective efforts to make the Americas a better home for us all.

Thank you, merci beaucoup, muchas gracias, muito obrigado.