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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the 50th Anniversary of the Organization of American States
Conference on the Americas
Washington, D.C., March 5, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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As Delivered

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. It is a great pleasure to be here. I would also like to say how very pleased I am that the Assistant Secretary General Christopher Thomas is here; the Dean of the OAS Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Lawrence Chewning; and the President of the Permanent Council, Albert Ramdin.

I am very pleased to be here with all of you, Mr. Presidents, Madame Vice Presidents and Ministers. I am also very glad that my very good friend, Ambassador Marrero, is now our nation’s Ambassador to the OAS; Mack McLarty, the President’s special envoy for the Americas, and Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Davidow, and distinguished guests:

There is a remarkable assemblage of knowledge and talent gathered in this room, and I’m delighted to be here as representative of the host country to join with you in marking the 50th Anniversary of the Organization of American States. The OAS is a living example of the determination and foresight of our predecessors. In fact, its roots go back as far as independence itself.

Simon Bolivar wanted the Americas to be measured not by her vast area and wealth, but "by her freedom and her glory." Today, that vision is closer to reality than it has ever been. For as we meet, with one exception, every government in the hemisphere is freely elected; every economy has liberalized its system for investment and trade. For the first time in decades, Central America is wholly at peace and we see progress towards a non-violent settlement of the border dispute between Ecuador and Peru.

Moreover, as Latin America and the Caribbean have learned to make peace at home, they have begun to do so abroad. Nations here have been among the leading participants in international peacekeeping operations. They have been in the forefront of efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And no region has been more resolute in insisting that Iraq comply with UN Security Council resolutions and the unfettered inspections and monitoring they require.

Despite all this, huge challenges remain. The greatest of these is to bring the benefits of economic and political freedom to all our citizens. For today, too many in our hemisphere remain, in the words of former President Franklin Roosevelt, "ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished." Too many remain cut off from the benefits of the new global economy. In a few weeks, at the Second Summit of the Americas, in Santiago, our leaders will seek to build on the vision of the true hemispheric community put forward in Miami three years ago.

On that occasion, President Clinton said that the true test of our cooperation would be to turn words into deeds. In the years since, we have worked hard and have much progress to report, including the world’s first regional pact against corruption, forged here at the OAS; greatly improved cooperation on counter-narcotics; and new programs to combat disease, promote micro-enterprise, curb domestic violence, increase energy efficiency and assist in humanitarian relief.

Education will be a principal focus at the second summit, because of its intrinsic importance and because it is the single best tool for combating poverty and for narrowing the socially destructive divide between rich and poor. In Santiago, leaders will take concrete steps to improve primary and secondary schooling by developing education standards and by making the tools of knowledge -- from textbooks to cutting edge technology -- more available.

They will also seek to launch negotiations to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or the FTAA, by the year 2005. Let me stress that the FTAA remains a keystone of President Clinton’s policy of cooperation in this hemisphere. The FTAA would build on the trend embodied in NAFTA, MERCOSUR and CARICOM, the Andean Pact and the Central American Common Market. This family of regional pacts differs from earlier attempts at integration because it is rooted in market reforms and designed to create jobs and raise living standards through the removal of barriers to investment and trade.

Although the trend towards integration has produced healthier economies than the region has seen in two decades, it has also generated friction. There are critics in my country and, I suspect, in each of yours. Some simply fear the future and yearn for the past they view through rose-colored glasses. But others demand and deserve a serious response; for they want to know that the benefits of globalization will be shared by the hardworking many, not reserved for the lucky few. They want to be sure that profits will come from perspiration and inspiration, not exploitation of workers or the environment.

Together in Santiago, we should reaffirm our conviction that the path to increased prosperity for the greatest number resides not in a retreat from reform, but in its refinement – in more openness coupled with more accountability and high standards. That is why we will be seeking to negotiate a balanced and comprehensive FTAA that addresses the impact of trade liberalization on labor and the environment in a responsible way.

The discussions in Santiago will also review so-called second generation economic reforms that extend accountability and the rule of law to the financial world, thereby promoting prosperity that is broad-based and less vulnerable to the kinds of disruptions we see now in East Asia.

We must also maintain our leadership in this hemisphere as advocates and practitioners of sustainable development. In Santiago, we should agree on the next steps to improve water quality, expand the use of renewable energy technologies and move closer to consensus on global climate change. Democracy will also be on the agenda in Chile, supported by an increasingly active champion of freedom, the OAS.

Jose Marti once wrote that "the will of all citizens, peacefully expressed, is a source that leads to all true republics." It is with these words in mind that OAS election observers have helped facilitate difficult political transitions and provided technical advice on the nuts and bolts of building democratic institutions. Concrete OAS measures to promote freedom of the press should be endorsed in Santiago next month. And the Washington Protocol has sent a message heard round the world by making OAS the first regional political body to permit a member’s suspension if its democratic government is overthrown.

Finally, we must use the summit in Santiago to restate our commitment to the war against international narcotics trafficking and crime. There are hopeful trends. Together, we applaud the steps taken to cut coca production, criminalize money laundering and permit extradition in the service of justice. Together, we honor the memory of law enforcement and judicial officers struck down by these criminals; and together, we are encouraged by the rise throughout the hemisphere of vigorous civil societies of community leaders, journalists and just plain citizens demanding that public institutions serve public interests and taking responsibility for making sure they do.

This progress is welcome. But we know that in the struggle between law and outlaw, between democratic integrity and corrupt expediency, we remain in the hottest stages of the battle. We must move ahead together on all fronts and unite in emphasizing to the people throughout the region that, as President Clinton has said, "Drugs are wrong; drugs are illegal; drugs will kill you."

The United States is looking forward to the Santiago Summit, and to achieving an outcome there notable not only for its goals, but for the concrete plans to achieve them. In this connection, the OAS will be vital. For as the embodiment of the inter-American system, the OAS will take the lead in much of what the hemisphere’s leaders decide. As the OAS host country, the United States is committed to its future. We want to work with you to enhance its role as the deliberative and normative forum of this hemisphere. We will do all we can through our Congress to help place the organization on a sound financial footing, and to see that its equipment and facilities are adequate and up to date.

Much has changed since April of 1948, when 21 foreign ministers met in Bogota to sign the OAS charter. Amid the progress and the triumphs since have been periods of misunderstanding, incidents of arrogance and tragedy, out of which grew a mistrust between North and South that has not yet fully dissipated. But trust, like mistrust, is the product of deeds not words.

The accomplishments of this organization, the spirit not only of Miami, but of the summits in San Jose and Bridgetown and the promise of Santiago provide a basis for enduring trust. They bring alive the prospect of creating in the new world a truly new world in which our hemispheric community will grow progressively more peaceful, prosperous and democratic.

Simon Bolivar spoke of freedom and glory. If we are to fulfill that vision, we must each accept not only the privileges of freedom, but its responsibilities. We must find glory in the degree to which we have made the American promise come real for all our people, rich and poor, of every race, creed and gender, from the northern most reaches of Alaska to the lighthouse at the end of the world.

Our shared hope is that a half a century from now, when our children and grandchildren look back in their time at our strivings in our time, they will say that we were doers; that we combined compassion with determination; that we loved justice; that we met the test of liberty; and that we bequeathed to them a hemisphere rich in accomplishment and united in building the future.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

[End of Document]

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