OAS Secretary General urges leaders "not to give in todivision or complacency" and calls for "dialogue,cooperation and tolerance" at the inauguration of the Summit of theAmericas
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Josť Miguel Insulza, called for the unity of the countries of the hemisphere at the inauguration of the Sixth Summit of the Americas, saying "a united Americas is an achievable reality" to achieve common objectives, overcome obstacles on the road to progress and prosperity, and to reach the solutions that the countries demand to the most urgent problems." He added that "democracy is advancing in the Americas and the best way to strengthen it is not through external pressure, imposition, or exclusion, but in dialogue, cooperation and tolerance."
The hemispheric meeting in Cartagena de Indias was officially inaugurated by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, who called on the leaders present to "build bridges" in key areas of regional policy such as the recovery of Haiti and the inclusion of Cuba. "It would be just as unthinkable to hold another hemispheric meeting with a prostrate Haiti, as it would be with Cuba absent," he said. In that context, he added "isolation, embargo and indifference have shown their ineffectiveness. It's an anachronism that keeps us anchored to a Cold War era that's been overcome for decades now."
In his speech before the heads of state and government of the hemisphere, Secretary General Insulza declared that "in a framework of tolerance and dialogue we should partner together to achieve the prosperity that is today within our reach." He later warned that the Americas "are now nearing a billion inhabitants" and said they "expect from their leaders, meeting today in Cartagena, a clear message of unity, to maximize our competitiveness and our interchanges, defeat poverty, discrimination and inequality, protect the human rights of all our citizens, defend their security and make possible the free and democratic society they demand."
The chief representative of the hemispheric organization stressed that "democracy is advancing in the Americas and the best way to strengthen it is not through external pressure, imposition, or exclusion, but in dialogue, cooperation and tolerance." The chief representative of the hemispheric organization pointed to the dilemma that, on one hand, the Charter of the OAS that proclaims the inclusion in the system of all the countries of the Americas, and on the other, the Inter-American Democratic Charter establishes the common commitment to democracy. He then stressed the solution to this dilemma "lies in dialogue, cooperation and tolerance."
Secretary General Insulza expressed his confidence that "a united Americas is a possible reality, with undeniable institutional strengths to achieve common goals." But he added that "the Americas are also a hemisphere of regions, and therefore hemispheric action will be more realistic if it takes account of regional realities." In that context, he reiterated that the OAS and the Inter-American System "are not in competition with the regional organizations or the forums which have emerged to express our growing desire for integration; on the contrary they welcome them."
The leader of the OAS praised "the constructive and positive tone" that President Santos had given the Summit's agenda, and highlighted his invitation "not to give in to division or complacency, but to look with objectivity and a constructive sense at the obstacles that still obstruct our progress," among which he mentioned deficiencies in infrastructure and technological backwardness; racial and gender discrimination; inequities and iniquities; drug trafficking and organized crime; and the effects of global warming.
"The basis for our common action is solid," emphasized Secretary General Insulza, who cited the many links that united the countries and societies of the hemisphere, like commercial links, migratory flows and shared values.
In his speech, the head of the multilateral agency urged the heads of state and government to reach agreements at Cartagena that would serve as a guide to the regional agencies that make up the Joint Summit Working Group. "They have all come to receive guidance from you that will allow us to better carry out our work in the next three years," he said.
President Santos, for his part, highlighted that "building bridges, everything is possible," and cited as an example the "excellent" current state of relations between Colombia and Venezuela, that not long ago showed a great distancing. With that example the Colombian leader called on his peers to "build bridges guided by our principles, respect for our differences, cooperation and solidarity."
Further, he assured that conciliation and the search for consensus will also help to face challenges like the problem of violence in Central America - "Central America is not alone," he said - and the war against drugs. On that point, he asked for "a pause in the road to understand where we are and where we're going." "Many countries in the region believe it is necessary to begin an analysis of this problem that, without prejudices or dogmas, contemplates the possible alternatives to deal with the problem," he added.
In conclusion, President Santos called on governments to focus their efforts on resolving the problems that most concern their citizens. "This Summit is not only about governments or political interests, it's about the people, with needs, emergencies, shortages, that demand our effective and coordinated action," he said. "Only by working together, by changing the paradigms can we build a better world for all. I invite you to build bridges, to be partners for prosperity, for our people. Being more united we will become a better Americas," he finished.
Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) also spoke at the ceremony, joining the call for regional cooperation. "The challenges of today and tomorrow go beyond borders. The progress and well-being of the peoples of the Americas are a shared responsibility," between all its countries, she said. Barcena said that "the value of hemispheric dialogue in the Americas is recognized by all," but that it could not be "strengthened and projected toward the future" if it does not include all the countries of the hemisphere.
In economic terms, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC highlighted that "the region has experienced an historic period of economic boom," with heightened and sustained growth, at the same time that poverty has been reduced, employment increased and the distribution of income improved. Now, she said "has come the time of equality. There are gaps to be closed and roads to be opened, but inequality conspires against development and security. Our region can grow more and better," she concluded.