Ambassador Luis J. Lauredo
Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the Organization of American States
Remarks to the 30th OAS General Assembly
Windsor, Canada, June 4-6
Reshaping the Intern-American System in Light of the Summits
of the Americas: Strengthening and Modernization of the OAS
Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development
Last year at this Assembly we approved the establishment of the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD). The creation of the Agency is an important accomplishment. It demonstrates that restructuring the Organization and improving its effectiveness can be achieved. With the common goal of promoting hemispheric development, we all worked together taking into consideration each country's concerns.
I would like to thank the countries that will be contributing to the development of the IACD through their membership on the IACD Board. To my colleagues from Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis (Nee' vus), and Venezuela, as well as to Canada, the Chair of the Board, I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations and support. I also would like to welcome a true statesman of the Americas, Ronald Scheman, as the new Director of the IACD.
Restructuring and Improving the Effectiveness of the OAS
Since our Heads of State and Government instructed us in Santiago to "examine the strengthening and modernization" of hemispheric institutions, and particularly of the OAS, we all have been struggling with the issue of how to accommodate Summit mandates within the existing resources of the Organization. We have made some important progress, but there is still a long way to go.
One crucial issue that we must address soon is exactly how the Organization will support the policy dialogue among governments, both in policy-making bodies of the OAS itself and in meetings of Ministers and technical authorities which take place under the auspices of the OAS. Many of these, such as meetings of Justice, Labor, Education, and Sustainable Development Ministers, have been formally charged with carrying out Summit mandates. At the same time, committees within the OAS convene these meetings, provide input to them, and receive reports on their results. No matter where the OAS support to these meetings is located on an organizational chart, we must ensure that there is a seamless connection between the entities providing support to these different meetings.
Regarding the suggestion made by our distinguished host, the Government of Canada, that the OAS be formally designated the Summit Secretariat: it may well be that in the future, the OAS could fulfill this role. However, at present we do not even know how the OAS will fulfill its existing Summit mandates. For that reason, we believe that we must focus on restructuring the OAS and making it a more effective institution before we can think of giving it that additional responsibility. We must keep in mind that we are fast approaching the point at which there will be no more fat to trim from the OAS budget; at that point, any decision to reallocate resources to new mandates will mean reducing activities in other priority areas.
Review of Hemispheric Security Architecture
As we discuss reform of the Inter-American system, let us keep in mind the importance of hemispheric security. Our commitment to democracy must be reinforced by a security architecture that reflects our common values and principles -- commitment to democracy, freedom, justice, and the protection of human rights.
In Santiago, and in Miami at the Summit of the Americas, our Presidents and leaders envisioned a hemisphere in which our democracies are consolidated, our economies are integrated, and our security is indivisibly enhanced through dialogue, mutual confidence, and transparency. The Santiago Action Plan called for the Organization of American States to identify means to "revitalize and strengthen" the Inter-American security institutions, culminating in a Special Conference on Security.
The U.S. recognizes the importance of the mandate our leaders gave us. We are pleased with the careful and deliberate steps the OAS has taken with regard to this mandate and look forward to the OAS eventually convening the special conference to consider hemispheric security. We believe an essential part of this work for the OAS and its member states will be a common expression of principles on hemispheric security based on existing Inter-American institutions and processes. This system needs to be inclusive of all states, new and old, large and small. This system needs to employ all existing institutions so that they can contribute more effectively to democracy and security.
Dispute Resolution and Strengthening Democracy
After extensive consultations, the Permanent Council approved a resolution that would strengthen the OAS' capabilities to respond effectively when democratic systems are in trouble. We regard this as a significant evolutionary step for the OAS's increasing role in defending democracy, a core mission of the Organization.
In recent years, the OAS has undertaken various missions to strengthen democratic institutions in member states, often in response to situations of domestic confrontation, incipient violence, or potential conflict. With increasingly scarce resources, there is no guarantee that funds will be available to provide these essential support activities on a timely basis. The voluntary fund established by this resolution, now before the GA, would provide a more agile mechanism for responding to member states' requests for assistance when they are concerned that situations of internal conflict could spiral out of control. It will enable the OAS to play an active role in the development of regional and subregional models, at a time when other regional organizations are looking to the OAS as a pace-setter in this field.
Once the fund is established, the U.S. Government intends to contribute $l00,000 as seed money. We encourage other member governments and observers to consider supporting this important initiative as well.
Trade and Regional Economic Integration
As we focus on how best to re-shape the inter-American system in order to achieve the common goals we have adopted in the Summits of the Americas, we must not forget that increased trade and economic integration are the motor behind economic growth in the modern economy. It is economic growth, in turn, which gives us the resources to pursue all of our other objectives. Trade and economic integration, along with democracy, are thus at the core of the Summit process.
The OAS has greatly helped our governments' efforts to reach agreement on the rules under which our increasingly integrated economies will operate. The Trade Unit and the Foreign Trade Information System provide key support to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations, which have involved more than 900 participants in each round, and which produced more than 1,500 documents from fall 1998 to fall 1999 alone. The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission and the Inter-American Committee on Ports promote the sort of practical cooperation that makes integration possible on the ground. Finally, through its role as the preeminent forum for dialogue in the hemisphere, the OAS promotes common action in areas such as labor and the environment, where the links to trade are becoming increasingly important.
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm that we are still determined to meet the goal we set at the Miami Summit, of achieving a free trade agreement no later than December 31, 2004, that will include every country represented at this Assembly. The Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which President Clinton signed into law on May 18, is an important step toward this goal. We believe that the opportunities provided by these trade agreements will encourage the development of strong, democratic governments and revitalized economies throughout the hemisphere. We look forward to working with our neighbors to achieve these common goals.
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