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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op-Ed: Advancing Hemispheric Cooperation: The Summit of the Americas
for Diario Las Americas, Miami, Florida, April 5, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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A new era of cooperation among the democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere began in December 1994 at the historic Summit of the Americas in Miami. The first meeting of its kind in twenty-seven years, the Miami Summit--attended by thirty-four leaders--was the largest Inter-American summit in history and the first in which all the participants were democratically elected. The Miami Plan of Action for development into the 21st Century became the blueprint for implementing significant, democratic reforms. The plan produced tangible results and created a foundation upon which to continue building a better future for all citizens in the Americas.

On April 18 and 19 the Government of Chile will host the second Summit of the Americas in Santiago to adopt the next generation of reforms, achievable in the next three years. The themes of the summit are Education, Preserving and Strengthening Democracy and Human Rights, Economic Integration and Free Trade, and Eradication of Poverty and Discrimination.

The Summit of the Americas brings together freely elected leaders united in their commitment to democracy, human rights, and economic freedom. Cuba is the sole dictatorship in the region and, as a result, will not be present in Santiago. It is our hope that Cuba continues to be left out of any democratic forum until it has undertaken fundamental democratic changes.

When the leaders of those nations meet in Santiago, they will adopt a new Plan of Action designed to spread equality and opportunity to all localities and to people at all levels of the social scale. The goal of the plan is to extend to every citizen the tools needed to advance and prosper in a safe, secure, and clean environment of free people.

Education will be a central focus of the summit. Democratic nations understand the intrinsic importance of educating their citizens. An educated populace produces a vibrant society and enables the country to prosper. Education is the single best tool for combating poverty and for narrowing the socially destructive divide between rich and poor. In Santiago, leaders will endorse allocating more funds for primary and secondary education to improve teacher training, elevate educational standards, increase textbook availability, and institute distance-learning programs. They will advocate curricula reform to teach democratic values, to meet the needs of a changing global marketplace, and to devise adult educational programs for lifelong learning, particularly for women and displaced workers.

Education is closely tied to another major theme of the summit--reducing poverty and ending discrimination. Leaders will focus their efforts on enhancing the role of women and vulnerable groups in society, improving general health, attacking hunger and malnutrition, and serving the needs of mothers and infants, the aged, and the physically disabled. The participants will advocate extending increased economic opportunities to the microentrepreneur by opening new lines of credit and providing training and technologies to enable small businesses to compete and succeed. They will also endorse bettering the position of manual and migrant workers by strengthening labor ministries, enhancing worker rights, improving working conditions, and eliminating exploitation, particularly destructive child-labor practices.

The leaders are committed to bolstering fundamental democratic freedoms and advancing human dignity at all levels. Their focus will be on improving local governments and judicial systems to insure a just, fair, and equitable society for all. Democracy and justice also demand a safe and secure environment. The leaders are resolved to attack corruption, terrorism, international organized crime, and drug trafficking. On a larger scale they seek cooperative actions that will build trust between neighbors, resolve problems before they escalate into conflicts, and promote the peaceful resolution of existing international conflicts.

Actions taken at the summit will help advance economic integration and trade. The hemispheric community is committed to creating the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by 2005. FTAA would be a step beyond agreements already in place, such as NAFTA and the Central American Common Market. FTAA, coupled with the regional pacts and rooted in liberal market reforms, would not only expand economic integration, but also create jobs and raise living standards by removing barriers to investment and trade within the Western Hemisphere. Economic integration and growth also depend on other factors to be addressed at Santiago, including improving water quality, expanding the use of renewable energy technologies, and working toward consensus on global climate change.

The Santiago Summit will move beyond the reforms begun in Miami in 1994 by strengthening democracy at the grass-roots level, spreading the benefits of equality throughout society, enhancing the well-being of all citizens, and fostering international peace and prosperity. The Santiago Plan of Action will represent the second generation of reforms for the next generation of Americans.

[End of Document]

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