OAS Secretary General Welcomes the Birth of a New Era of Inter-American Relations Based on “Dialogue, Respect for Freedom, Inclusion and Cooperation”
-Expresses his “joy” at the “historic moment” of seeing the 35 independent nations of the Hemisphere together. -At the opening of the Seventh Summit of the Americas, he wished for the region “a future of peace, democracy, freedom and justice”
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today welcomed during the inauguration of the Seventh Summit of the Americas the new era of “dialogue, respect for freedom, inclusion and cooperation” that has begun with the meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Hemisphere taking place today and tomorrow in Panama, a “historic moment” in which for the first time the 35 independent nations of the Hemisphere are represented.
“Sometimes, in real life, our simultaneous commitments toward respecting sovereign equality, full inclusion, and respect for democracy and human rights pose dilemmas that are difficult to resolve. But intervention, exclusion, political repression, and confrontation are no longer acceptable or useful in inter-American relations,” said the OAS leader at the Anayansi Theater of the Atlapa Convention Center in Panama City, where the Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela inaugurated the Summit.
Addressing the majority of the Heads of State and Government of the region, Secretary General Insulza said “our hemisphere has, in recent years, undergone major changes that make it impossible to sustain the policies of the past. In the 21st century, the inter-American system can only function as an inclusive system made up of diverse, sovereign countries that are legitimized by democracy and act on a single hemispheric agenda in conditions of full equality.” This inclusiveness was reflected in the presence today in Panama of the 35 member states of the OAS, an achievement that Secretary General Insulza attributed to President Varela, whom he compared therefore to the Liberator Simon Bolivar.
In that context, he highlighted, the foundation for the future could not be better, because in the Americas, “We have a commitment to peace. It has been almost a century since the nations of the Americas waged war among themselves: longer than any other part of the world.” “These are achievements that we must protect. Our region may have many problems and even more than a few differences, but we all agree that they must never be resolved through conflict,” he added.
As an example of this, the Secretary General of the OAS cited some of the processes of dialogue open in the region that are supported by the countries of the Americas, such as the peace negotiations in Colombia, the conversations between Cuba and the United States to resume their diplomatic relations, the electoral process beginning in Haiti and the agreements reached between Belize and Guatemala last December to move toward overcoming the territorial dispute. All these cases, he said, show us that “dialogue is the best way to resolve our differences, both internal and external.”
That constructive spirit, continued the OAS leader, is the same that governments must use to respond to the demands of “prosperity with equality,” the theme chosen by Panama for the Summit. “The peoples of the Americas expect our governments to meet their commitments of peace, economic growth, creation of decent jobs, adequate public services, security, and better distribution of wealth,” he said.
These demands, he added, have their origins in that “The Americas is not a poor region but poverty still affects one in every four citizens, and half of the Hemisphere’s people still suffer from insufficient incomes and vulnerabilities that are incompatible with democracy. We still have shortcomings in our infrastructure, in our education, in our health systems, in our competitiveness, in how we manage our energy.”
“Our agricultural output registers a surplus, but many people across the Americas still suffer malnutrition. Corruption remains a threat to our democracies. The level violence in some of our countries is unacceptable; drug trafficking, money laundering, the proliferation of weapons, and human trafficking create growing feelings of insecurity in our societies. Fulfillment of the precepts of our Inter-American Democratic Charter and our commitments toward human rights, freedom of expression, gender equality, and nondiscrimination is still inadequate,” he added.
He continued by adding that these challenges become even more urgent because “in the climate of democracy that prevails in the region, demands are becoming increasingly specific and urgent” and “while citizens do not expect their governments to resolve everything overnight, they do expect concrete, tangible steps forward.”
In that sense, he praised the fact that the preparatory work for the Summit was focused on “concrete solutions to known problems,” and that the agreements reached, collected in the document titled “Commitments for Action,” have already been sent to the organs of the Inter-American System for the implementation and follow-up.
In his speech the Secretary General recalled that his mandate will conclude on May 25, and thanked the member states for “the trust and support you have given me over the past decade. That time has not been without its difficulties, but I would say that it has been much fuller of accomplishments and promise for the nations of the Americas.”
“I would have liked the opportunity to visit each one of you personally. Since I was unable to do so, there can be no better occasion than this great meeting of the Americas for me to express my appreciation and recognition, and to wish all of you and the peoples you represent a future of peace, democracy, liberty, and justice,” he concluded, and wished his elected successor, Luis Almagro “the greatest of success in his administration.”
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.