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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Kenneth H. "Buddy" MacKay
White House Special Envoy to the Americas and Head of the U.S. Delegation

Remarks to the 30th OAS General Assembly
Windsor, Canada, June 4-6

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Human Security in the Americas

I welcome this opportunity to present my government's views on the "Human Security" concept introduced by our hosts.

Although the term itself is new, human security describes an idea upon which the foundations of the United States are built -- the inherent dignity and worth of the individual. From this principle we derive the freedoms and rights which are established in our Constitution, among those democracy, human rights, and the responsibility of the State to protect its citizens. So in the broadest sense, we have always been supporters of "human security."

This commitment, of course, is a shared one. The 34 democracies in this hemisphere are working together to strengthen the pillars that support the complex architecture of human security. Many of those efforts, we are pleased to note, occur with the support of the OAS.

Regional Security

We should not forget that human security requires hemispheric security -- that is, the elimination of threats to peace and continued strengthening of conflict prevention and resolution measures. The OAS is developing a strong record of success in fostering regional security through the adoption of a broad range of cooperative security measures. These concrete actions further buttress the environment of trust, confidence, and mutual restraint that increasingly characterizes Western Hemispheric security relations. More importantly, they contribute to the security of each citizen of the Americas.

Special Security Concerns of Small Island States

Before moving on to discuss the human security concept in detail, we must remember that the security concerns of small island states in the Caribbean occur in an entirely different context. For these states, size and location create vulnerabilities different in nature or degree from traditional security threats. These vulnerabilities -- from economic shocks, to natural disasters, to narcotics trafficking -- call for responses tailored to the circumstances. The OAS has been effective in highlighting these issues and can play an important role in promoting action to address these special concerns.


Where do we begin in defining human security? In a word: democracy. Strong democratic institutions provide the only sure foundation for the complex architecture of human security. By fortifying the institutions of justice and democracy and improving good governance, we protect human rights, improve public safety, and make possible achievement of a better life for all of our citizens.

The OAS has become increasingly effective in supporting efforts to protect and perfect democratic institutions. In recent months, OAS election observation missions, often conducted under difficult circumstances, have won deserved respect throughout the hemisphere, while swift and forthright steps in defense of democratic institutions have had positive effects in such cases as Ecuador and Paraguay. We welcome this year's Resolution to create the Democracy Fund; it will give the OAS another important instrument to assist member states when democracy is under stress.

Plan Colombia

One unfortunate exception to the pattern of reduced strife in the Americas is occurring in Colombia. The violence in Colombia, fueled by the huge profits of illegal drugs, affects Colombia's immediate neighbors while the increased flow of drugs and refugees from that country threatens all countries in this hemisphere. We must all help the Colombian Government in its efforts to end this violence and restore the rule of law. President Pastrana's Plan Colombia merits support from all of our governments.

Crime and Illicit Drugs

The OAS is also working to address the second aspect of human security, that is, crime and illicit drugs.

On the crime front, the OAS is addressing the culture of bribery and corruption that corrodes institutions and transactions. Corruption insidiously impedes the ability of governments to deliver basic services to their citizens, it undermines the confidence of people in democracy, and it is often linked with transborder criminal activity. In other words, it poses a real threat to human security. The OAS has taken a strong lead in addressing this issue, notably in developing the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. We look forward to joining others who have ratified this important convention and to continue supporting the commendable and effective efforts within the OAS to promote vigorous implementation of the convention.

To combat the scourge of narcotics trafficking, the OAS established the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism to Assess the Reduction in Cultivation, Trafficking, and Consumption of Illicit Drugs. We must all contribute our best efforts to conclude a first round of reports this year so that we can present baseline data and a functioning system to our Heads of State when they convene next year in Quebec City for the Third Summit of the Americas.

Corporate Social Responsibility

A new element of the human security concept is the idea of corporate social responsibility. While there is no one clear definition or code that defines corporate responsibility, there is a growing recognition among companies that there are principles to work by, best practices to consider, and new partners with whom to cooperate. Governments -- including Canada and the U.S. -- have recognized that they have a role in encouraging corporate responsibility. In that context, we welcome the call in one of this year's draft resolutions that instructs the Permanent Council to define the scope and content of corporate social responsibility and to promote the exchange of information between member states, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society.

Involving Other Actors

Let me elaborate on the role of civil society in contributing to corporate social responsibility. One important step which the OAS has already taken is the adoption in April of the Inter-American Strategy for the Promotion of Public Participation in Decision-making for Sustainable Development (ISP). The single most effective way of ensuring that our businesses are good environmental stewards is to encourage informed dialogue between them and the people who live nearby. By taking the sort of actions recommended by the ISP, such as ensuring the public "right-to-know" about air- and water-borne emissions, and establishing clear mechanisms for public input in the environmental impact assessment process, we can significantly advance corporate social responsibility in the environmental area.


Let me conclude with a caveat. My government welcomes this discussion on human security and how it relates to the security needs of member states. Yet, despite the clear consensus that our concept of security must be changed and updated, there is still room for honest disagreement between the governments and experts of the hemisphere on precisely how security threats should be defined and how best to counter them. Too narrow a definition of security will leave us unprepared to deal with the unique concerns of smaller countries. Too broad a definition, however, runs the risk of assigning false priorities and inappropriate resources to fundamentally different types of problems. My government and I, however, are confident that we in the Western Hemisphere have an unparalleled opportunity to address these difficult questions in a time of relative peace and prosperity. The path will not always be easy or obvious, but the potential rewards will be great.

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