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The OAS is ready to confront the challenges facing the Hemisphere

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OEA), Mr. José Miguel Insulza, affirmed today that the “the OAS is prepared to confront the challenges facing the Hemisphere.” He singled out, as chief among them, organized crime and inequality, and said that if they were tackled collectively and effectively and under today’s favorable economic policies, with current policies, then this would indeed be “the decade of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

At the inauguration of the Forty-First Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, which is being held in El Salvador between now and Tuesday, the highest authority in the Organization commended the government of President Mauricio Funes on its contributions to organizing the Assembly, which, he said, “clearly showed the Salvadorans’ commitment to the Hemisphere.” He also praised the choice of leitmotiv for the Assembly – “Citizen Security in the Americas”. Expected to attend are all the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas.

“Crime, drug trafficking, and violence pose a threat to stability, the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law, and economic development in the Americas, and, especially, in Latin America and the Caribbean. We can no longer ignore the crucial impact that the increase in violence and transnational organized crime, in particular, will have on our future,” he said.

In his speech, Insulza stressed that insecurity hit youth, children and women hardest, and added that not just people were affected by it. Insecurity also “threatens efforts to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, and the development of all the countries in the Americas.”

The “political challenge” posed by crime, Mr. Insulza went on to say, “calls for clear responses on our part” from “the whole of society, from social and political organizations, and from active citizens.” They, in turn, should lead to “clear public policies and the political and budgetary decisions needed to implement them.”

In that context, he asserted, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Hemisphere were called upon here at this General Assembly in San Salvador and in the framework of the OAS to “adopt measures to boost international cooperation aimed at preventing and combating the threats posed by crime and violence.” He noted that such initiatives should include an analysis of the role of the State and its interaction with civil society, the media, the private sector, and academia.

Addressing the Heads of Delegation of the member states attending the Assembly, he said that “We, working from the OAS, are ready to tackle those challenges.” “All we are waiting for are clear decisions, which I am sure you will adopt at this Assembly and in the months to follow. If we do take those decisions, I believe we will act without hesitation and then we will be able to say with certainty that, yes, the decade we have embarked on will be the decade of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the context of a Hemisphere that is experiencing progress, security and peace,” Mr. Insulza said.

As a starting point for the discussions, the Secretary General mentioned the role that the Organization has played in recent years, giving priority to work in the area of security. In particular, he mentioned the efforts of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE), the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, and the hemispheric meetings of ministers of justice and ministers responsible for public security.

In his speech, the head of the hemispheric organization said that the Assembly in El Salvador came “at a time that bodes well” for the OAS, following the reinstatement of Honduras and the election and formation of a new Government in Haiti. Regarding the former, the Secretary General underscored the Organization’s defense of democratic institutions; as for the latter, he stressed the fundamental part played by the OAS-CARICOM Joint Electoral Mission.

“Those achievements,” he said, “establish an appropriate setting in which to celebrate, this coming September, the 10th Anniversary of our Inter-American Democratic Charter.” In addition to noting that the comprehensive nature and legitimacy of the Charter adopted on September 11, 2001, the Secretary General praised the debate currently under way, saying that it was “not geared to amending the Charter but to making it more effective, by better defining the acts that constitute grave violations of the democratic institutional order, putting forward mechanisms for preventing crises before they erupt, and allowing for non-invasive alternative ways of gauging progress in each of the areas the Charter refers to.”

This debate comes at an auspicious time for Latin America and the Caribbean in an economic sense, according to Secretary General Insulza, who urged governments to take advantage of the resources yielded by growth to fight that other great challenge in the region: inequality.

“If these resources are invested mainly in improving our social protection systems, in education, health, in developing our own infrastructure, in eradicating extreme poverty and narrowing the divide between the few and the vast majority in our societies, if we enhance the quality of our public administration and forge genuine national pacts for our own advancement, without wasting time on useless diatribes, our response to shifting global trends may prove a blessing,” he said.

President Funes hails return of Honduras to OAS

The President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, began his speech by welcoming Honduras “as a rightfully reinstated member of this regional forum,” and said that “it required a great deal of effort but the main thing is that Honduras is now back in the OAS fold.” He also said that the lesson to be learned from this should be that “the problems of democracy are resolved with more democracy. No one and nothing can usurp the will of the people.”

The Salvadoran head of state also called for the Inter-American Democratic Charter to be strengthened and transformed “into an effective tool for averting situations such as the one that occurred in our sister Central American nation.” He said he welcomed the Secretary General’s support for that initiative.

Regarding security in the Americas, the leitmotiv of the Assembly, the Salvadoran president stressed the need to “coordinate strategies that will allow us throughout the region to confront one of the most powerful enemies of stability and development”: a reference to organized crime and drug trafficking. The president ended his remarks with a reaffirmation of his trust that “the decisions we take in this Assembly will help consolidate our joint efforts and bring us closer to finding solutions to this global complex problem.”

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