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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement at Morning Plenary at the 28th General Assembly of the Organization of American States
Caracas, Venezuela, June 2, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman, distinguished Foreign Ministers, excellencies, I am delighted to join all of you here today. Maybe itís because of my years at the United Nations, but I believe very strongly in the value of international organizations.

And I also believe deeply in the spirit of democratic partnership that is developing here in the Americas and that was reinforced in Port-of-Spain in early April and in Santiago later that month.

My colleagues, we have a truly historic opportunity to bring our nations closer together around shared principles and common goals. As the U.S. Secretary of State, Iím determined to do all I can to seize that opportunity -- and I know you are, too.

Since the last General Assembly, this body has negotiated landmark agreements to fight corruption and to halt illicit trafficking in firearms. It has created a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. And it has become the first regional organization to explicitly permit the suspension of a nation whose democratically-elected government is overthrown by force.

Tomorrow, I hope we will take a strong and unified stand to condemn the destructive and destabilizing nuclear tests recently conducted by India and Pakistan. And I hope we will continue to work together to build confidence in one another -- so that we can dare to expect that the new century will be a century of peace in our hemisphere from pole to pole.

Through our common efforts, the OAS is well on the road to being not just a place where we establish goals, but a place where we do the hard work to make those goals a reality for our citizens.

To this end, the topics discussed yesterday under the heading "Renewal of the Inter-American System" are crucial.

The issues we discuss today, cooperation for development and the administration of justice, reflect two facets of a larger challenge, which is to bring the benefits of open societies and open markets within the reach not just of some, but of all our peoples.

This is a test we must meet if the democratic ideals we all cherish are to further deepen their hold within our region.

At Santiago, our leaders came together with an eye on the future and came away with fresh strategies for promoting education, fighting poverty, creating opportunity, improving health care and combating disease.

These strategies are designed to build on gains made since the summit process began in Miami four years ago.

For we know that, in many parts of our hemisphere, rural poverty has declined.

Children are staying in school longer.

Women are gaining more equitable access to education, health care and economic opportunity.

And programs are in place to extend micro-enterprise loans to one million new customers over the next several years.

Despite the progress, huge challenges of under-development remain. Here in Caracas, we must work to ensure that the institutions of the OAS provide as much help as possible in responding to these challenges.

The OAS has the potential to be a vital link in the development chain. Through its Inter-American Council for Integral Development, the OAS should be able to pool resources, coordinate efforts, and share expertise. In its local offices, there exists a wealth of information about development needs.

And thanks to its broad membership, the OAS provides the opportunity for more nations to support development, and for every nation to participate in designing policies that work.

But if we are to fulfill the potential to cooperate for development through the OAS, we need stronger institutions and more effective partnerships.

To that end, the United States has proposed reforming the governance and management of OAS technical cooperation activities through the creation of an entity that would better manage these programs.

The purpose is to provide one central source for expertise, information exchange, project development and fundraising. Political oversight would, of course, remain with OAS members in policy-making bodies; but OAS members and outside donors would be able to turn to a single office for all development programs.

We believe this is an important proposal. It would bring the OAS more into line with how UN development funds, and most national development programs, are managed. It would give the OAS a higher profile in technical cooperation. And it would help direct assistance to those countries and problems where it is most needed.

Moreover, this reform should help OAS programs to attract more resources from the private sector and from international organizations. It could also attract greater support from OAS observer states who play a critical role in assisting the work of our organization. We need their help to supplement our voluntary contributions, which are never sufficient to accomplish all of the work it would be useful to do.

In sum, this is a practical step which I hope we can discuss profitably during this session of the General Assembly. The United States is convinced that it will contribute to achieving the broad social and economic goals we all share. We offer it in the spirit of Santiago.

Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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