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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement at the Afternoon 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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Mr. Chairman, all the topics on our agenda, from developing a common plan to fight drug trafficking to improving our cooperation for development, are important to the hemisphere’s future. But none is more central than improving the administration of justice.

Where justice is absent, the peace and stability of a nation -- and its neighbors -- come under threat;

Where justice is partial, citizens who do not have access to equal treatment lose faith in their government, and the forces of extremism grow strong; and

Where justice is unprofessional, crime flourishes, corruption grows and economies suffer.

Over the past decade, we have worked together to create a consensus in this hemisphere that the fair and effective administration of justice is fundamental to democracy and to our success as societies.

I am proud that the United States has played a leading role in helping to finance and provide technical assistance for the development of improved judicial and law enforcement structures. And I am pleased that the IDB and the World Bank are becoming increasingly active and involved.

As foreign ministers, our primary responsibility in this area is to manage the channels of international assistance. And with so many donors now in the field, the need for strategic planning by recipients is more important than ever.

The answer is to establish integrated strategic planning processes at the national level so that potential donors can go to the recipient country and see that the courts and prosecutors and public defenders and police and agencies for the protection of human rights are integrated into one system. And see, as well, that the nation’s priorities have been clearly identified by the nation, itself.

Strategic plans should extend across the full justice sector and should incorporate the thinking of civil society, such as law schools and professional organizations. For it is the interrelationship among institutions that, along with citizen participation, will make the entire system work.

Here at the OAS, our challenge is to complement the efforts of donors and of national governments. We can do that by ensuring that OAS resources are used wisely, and by encouraging all those involved in improving the administration of justice to coordinate effectively.

Currently, the OAS funds small, isolated projects in a variety of areas. Given the scope of the administration of justice challenge, and the number of others contributing to projects in this field, a change in the OAS approach is needed.

My government believes that the OAS should work with other donors to identify a unique niche that will allow its contributions to have a deeper and more enduring impact. While it would not be a large program in terms of financial resources, it could be important.

The United States stands ready to work with the Secretariat and other major donors to identify an area of possible specialization for the OAS. The development of commercial law, for example, may be just such an area. It is critical to success in the global economy. It is fundamental to our own plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas. And it has received relatively little attention from other donors.

Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in this discussion. There is no better description of the democratic challenge than to say it requires the creation of a society based on laws that are effectively and fairly administered. That will always be, for all nations, a work in progress. We may be proud, however, that so many nations in our own hemisphere are, at present, so deeply engaged in that vital task.

Thank you, and let me also add my thanks to Foreign Minister Burelli and our Venezuelan hosts for their magnificent hospitality here this week.

[End of Document]

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