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Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas


At the Second Summit of the Americas, the governments decided to implement the measures adopted in the declarations of Santiago (security) and San Salvador on confidence- and security-building measures. The governments also gave their full support to the mine-clearing efforts and decided to promote transparency in matters related to defense policy and the peaceful settlement of disputes in the Hemisphere.

Furthermore, the Heads of State and Government entrusted the OAS, through the Committee on Hemispheric Security, with the following tasks:

Conference of Defense Ministers

The Third Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas was held in Cartagena, Colombia, November 29 to December 3, 1998.  At the conference, Ministers of Defense signed the Declaration of Cartagena, in which they reaffirmed their support for confidence-building between States.   Ministers also agreed to strengthen hemispheric cooperation in the fight against terrorism.  By underlying the new relation between terrorism and natural disasters, the US Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen declared that "the role of the military is that military capabilities are indispensable in fighting both" (see Cohen's Speech).   Minister agreed that because the threat of terrorism is increasing, as advanced technologies become more accessible, armed services must cooperate more fully in order to provide effective protection to the citizenry.   (For a comprehensive background document please see the The US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's Reference Book of Hemispheric Documents, published in September 1998).

Coordinator for Hemispheric Security Affairs

Given the importance of the subject of hemispheric security at the Second Summit of the Americas and in light of the mandates assigned to the OAS, on October 2, 1998, the General Secretariat appointed a Coordinator for Hemispheric Security Affairs, with the following responsibilities:

Committee on Hemispheric Security --  Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions

The OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security established a working group on transparency in conventional weapons acquisitions.  This Group met on eight occasions, achieving important advances in the preparation of a draft document.  The objective of the Convention to contribute to the opening of regional transparency, by means of exchange of information on the arms system established in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  The register includes cars and armored vehicles, combat airplanes, war ships, missiles, and launch-missiles. 

During the XXIX OAS General Assembly held in Guatemala in June 1999, Foreign Ministers from the 34 member States decided to approve the draft Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions. The document includes 15 Articles and a list of conventional arms. The goal of the Convention is to diminish the risks of regional conflicts, to increase security among member States and to strengthen peace and international security.  The Convention was signed by the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominica, Ecuador,El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, and must be ratified by six countries in order to enter into force.

Review of the Measures adopted in Santiago and San Salvador

On February 25, 1999, the Committee on Hemispheric Security (CSH) reviewed implementation of the confidence- and security-building measures adopted in Santiago and San Salvador with the presence of the Chairman of both conferences.  On that occasion, the member States reported on measures already adopted by their respective countries with a view to implementing the confidence- and security-building measures; reiterated the importance of these measures in ensuring transparency in the region; and indicated that consideration of this issue within the OAS is an indication of the member states’ commitment to confidence- and security-building measures.

Subsequently, on April 20-21, 1999, the CSH held a special meeting with the participation of experts from the capitals to: a) perform an analysis on the significance, scope, and prospects of international security concepts in the hemisphere, for the purpose of developing the most appropriate common approaches to various matters, including disarmament and arms control; and b) identify ways to revitalize and strengthen the institutions of the Inter-American system concerned with the various aspects of hemispheric security.

On that occasion, the discussion included, inter alia, redefinition of the concept of security and the new threats to security; the role of the OAS, the OAS General Secretariat, and the Inter-American Defense Board; strengthening of the Committee on Hemispheric Security; cooperation between the member states in seeking an early solution to disputes and a response to threats to security; and the need for mechanisms to ensure long-term security. 

As a result of this initial exchange of ideas, the XXIX OAS General Assembly, at its session in Guatemala in June 1999, agreed on the following activities:

Education for Peace Program

With regards to the of Education for Peace Program as a confidence and security building measure, the Commission on Hemispheric Security took note of a proposal prepared by the UPD and approved an Experts meeting to design a draft of the Program for Peace. This meeting was held in October 1999, in Cartagena, Colombia.

Demining and the Ottawa Convention

The Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel land-mines and on their destruction came into force on March 1st, 1999. This measure has been an important step towards a free zone of antipersonnel land-mines.  However, participation in the OAS Register of Antipersonnel Land Mines, established by Permanent Counsel Resolution CP/RES. 724 (1162/98), of May 22, 1998, has been sparse: only seven countries have provided information.

Given the importance of an integrated and comprehensive response to the crisis caused by antipersonnel mines, as well as the need to provide real and lasting support to those who face ongoing risk, a new program area called "Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines" (AICMA) was created in the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy in 1998. This area is the focal point for the General Secretariat on this issue and covers the following topics, among others: (a) mine risk awareness education for the civilian population; (b) support for minefield surveying, mapping, marking, and clearance; (c) victim assistance, including physical and psychological rehabilitation and the socioeconomic reintegration of cleared zones; (d) support for a total ban on antipersonnel mines; and (e) establishment of databases on activities directed against antipersonnel mines.

Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (PADCA)

The Assistance Program for Demining in Central America was created by the Organization of American States in 1991, at the request of the Central American countries affected by antipersonnel mines. Since May 1995, responsibility for the general coordination and supervision of the Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (PADCA) has been assigned to the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, with the technical support of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). The distinctive feature of PADCA, which is integrated into the new AICMA program, is that it is largely a humanitarian project, since it seeks to restore safe conditions and the confidence of citizens, to reduce the threat and danger posed by explosive devices and antipersonnel mines, and to restore the use of the lands dedicated to agriculture and livestock in the affected zones.

The successful work done and progress achieved by PADCA is, in large measure, due to the invaluable and generous support of member states: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Venezuela, and the United States, and the contribution of big international donors: Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Spain, and Sweden, among others. Over the course of one year, these contributions have amounted to approximately $4.815 million.

The progress made in each PADCA-recipient country can be summarized as follows:

Costa Rica. Module VII operations are currently being carried out in the areas of Cutriz, Pocosol, and Las Tiricias, in Alajuela Province, on the northern border with Nicaragua. Demining and the removal of explosive devices have been carried out with the ongoing assistance of two international supervisors, forty-one sapper soldiers, and the support of canine techniques.

The Mine Risk Awareness Education Campaign for the Civilian Population has continued in the areas of Crucitas, Jocote, Las Tiricias, San Isidro, Pocosol, Medio Queso, and La Guar�a, in Alajuela province.

Guatemala. In keeping with the National Plan for Demining and Destruction of Explosive Devices, operations aimed at identifying and destroying explosive devices in the area of Ixc�n, Quich� Department were wrapped up, and because of this, demined lands were handed over for the first time by the local authorities to the community in January 2000.

At the moment, tracking and detection work in the area of the Ixil triangle is being carried out, which includes four municipalities in Quich� Department and covers 30 of the 129 suspicious zones included in the National Demining Plan.

Honduras. It is important to underscore the fact that antipersonnel mines have been cleared in the eastern area of Honduras, with these activities being concluded under module VII and covering the San Andr�s de Bocay sector, in the municipality of Olancho Department. At the moment, the activities are being conducted in the southern zone of the country in the municipality of San Marcos de Col�n in Choluteca Department, where 10 suspicious zones have been identified.

At the same time, assistance has been provided with the following activities: Clearance operations in a suspicious area in Naco, a municipality of Cort�s Department in the northern region of Honduras. Work has continued on the "Mine Risk Awareness Education for the Civilian Population" campaign among the populations close to the zones of operation.

Nicaragua. Using funds provided by the Government of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, a new operations front composed of 100 sapper soldiers will be established. It will be located in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) of the Republic of Nicaragua. At the moment, the sapper soldiers who will belong to the new platoons are being trained. It should be emphasized that they will supplement the other two fronts that are supported by the international community, through the OAS, in the areas of Ocotal and Juigalpa.

At the moment, module IV operations, in Operations Front No. 3, located in Juigalpa, and module VIII operations, in Operations Front No. 4, in the Ocotal area, are being carried out.

Furthermore, at the request of ENEL (the Nicaraguan Electricity Company), the certification and handing over of demined high-tension towers in the territories of Chontales and Matagalpa have begun, in order to begin maintenance of transmission lines.

During the course of the year, the Mine Clearance Assistance Mission in Central America (MARMINCA) was transferred from Honduras to Nicaragua.

Also, the "Program for Care to Victims of Mines and Explosive Devices," which has existed in Nicaragua since 1997, was continued and will be strengthened in the year 2000, with the assistance of the Government of Sweden, in order to ensure monitoring of the rehabilitation services provided under the program.

Lastly, during the period covered by this report, the Mine Risk Awareness Education for the Civilian Population campaign has been strengthened through community visits and through a variety of national radio messages. AICMA also received a large shipment of posters showing the dangers of mines, which have been used to mark suspicious areas.

Peru and Ecuador: On the occasion of the visit of the Presidents of Ecuador and Peru to the OAS headquarters, the Secretary General offered the assistance and expertise of the OAS in the area of humanitarian demining.

By means of a joint note of March 18, 1999, the Governments of Ecuador and Peru, through their Permanent Missions to the Organization of American States, asked the Organization to establish a specific fund to support demining related to the demarcation of the border between Ecuador and Peru, using the funds provided by Canada for that purpose.

In this regard, the Organization started activities in this area with the establishment of a specific fund for the "Program for Demining Assistance in Ecuador/Peru," (PADEP), using a contribution from the Government of Canada of CAN$300,000 (USD$198,800.45) in April 1999. This contribution, which was divided equally, has been used exclusively for the purchase of equipment and materials for activities to support humanitarian demining associated with the demarcation of the border between Ecuador and Peru.

The U.S. Department of State invited the Organization of American States to participate in a multi-disciplinary mission to Ecuador and Peru. This mission was conducted August 16-20, 1999, in order to evaluate the antipersonnel land mine situation in the border region of the two countries.

As a result of this mission, and based on the requests of both countries for the assistance of the OAS in humanitarian demining activities, the Organization submitted working documents for consideration by both governments containing a proposal to provide coordinated international assistance with the efforts of both countries in integrated action against antipersonnel mines in their respective territories.

A number of additional activities conducted within the framework of AICMA are indicated below:

With regard to the Rehabilitation Program for Victims of Antipersonnel Mines, a Framework Agreement was signed between the International Rehabilitation Center and the Organization of American States for the implementation of a Plan of Action to develop and prepare new technologies, educational material, and physical and labor-related employment programs for persons affected by antipersonnel mines and explosive devices in Central America.

Furthermore, during the course of the year, there was close coordination with the Pan American Health Organization with the aim of working cooperatively on activities related to assistance, rehabilitation, and integration of victims of mines, and on awareness education of the population on the danger of these devices. Also, contact was established with the Trust for the Americas in order to conduct joint work with the private, public, and academic sectors, and the different civil society institutions in the Hemisphere, with a view to promoting initiatives beneficial to mine victims.

In order to start a seed fund aimed at providing urgent medical assistance overseas to mine victims who cannot be treated in their countries, AICMA made arrangements, together with the Women of the Americas Foundation [Fundaci�n Mujeres de las Am�ricas] of Washington, to obtain funds from the cultural activity organized by this foundation annually, which, by means of a unanimous decision, contributed 80% of funds collected.

New Security Concepts

On April 19-20, 1999, a "Forum on the Future of International Security in the Hemisphere" was held at the headquarters of the Organization of American States as an academic-diplomatic meeting organized by the Permanent Mission of Chile to the OAS with the support of the Permanent Mission of the United States and the OAS General Secretariat.

The objective of the forum was to initiate dialogue between academics and specialists of the countries of the Americas on hemispheric security, with the aim of contributing to greater conceptual precision in definitions ranging from traditional notions of security with an emphasis on political and military aspects, to much broader conceptions, encompassing economic, social, environmental, and other fields.  The operation of Inter-American security institutions was assessed on a preliminary basis, and in particular the Inter-American Defense Board and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance.

In addition to this conceptual clarification, the dialogue permitted an analysis of hemispheric and subregional experiences, such as the process of implementing confidence- and security-building measures, progress toward democratic security in Central America, and the special security concerns of small island states in the Caribbean.

Analysis of Concepts of International Security

In order to stimulate regional dialogue and to promote an environment of confidence and security, a forum on the future of international security in the Hemisphere was held at OAS Headquarters in April 1999. The forum, organized by the Permanent Mission of Chile with support from the OAS General Secretariat and the Permanent Mission of the United States, brought together academics and diplomats and facilitated an exchange of ideas the objective of which was to unify the principal concepts and definitions of the security issue.

On March 20 and 21, 2000, the Committee held a special session, attended by experts and representatives of the member states, to examine the significance, scope and implications of the concepts of international security in the Hemisphere. This special session considered the common approaches best suited to address the different aspects of international security; studied the problems and risks for peace in the Hemisphere, and examined and evaluated the instruments bearing on peace and security, the institutions and processes of the Inter-American system, and the subregional security agreements, mechanisms, and processes.

To follow up on and further discussion of confidence and security building measures, the CSH held a meeting on March 31, 2000, of parliamentarians to monitor the agreements of the Second Regional Conference, held in San Salvador in 1998, and to review the extent to which confidence and security building measures, launched in 1995, have been implemented. In addition, on April 5, 2000, the Committee hosted a seminar for exchanges of experiences with other regional organizations, with the participation of the Disarmament Department of the United Nations, the OSCE and ASEAN. This seminar was followed on April 6, by a special session to evaluate and review the application of the confidence and security building measures adopted in the Declarations of Santiago and San Salvador with the participation of government experts.

To see the results from the third Special Meeting of the Committee on Hemispheric Security regarding concepts of international security, please click here.

Committee on Hemispheric Security

On the issue of cooperation in response to natural disasters and for humanitarian search and rescue operations, a significant achievement was also made at the Guatemala General Assembly when the member States adopted a resolution bringing the Organization’s response mechanisms up-to-date. Hurricanes George and Mitch, along with the earthquake in Colombia, made evident the need for this modernization, the result of which was the creation of an Inter-American Committee on Disasters.

By arranging meetings of this kind and preparing information documents the Committee on Hemispheric Security continues to move forward in its analysis of the different aspects of security in the Hemisphere and the reinforcement of confidence and security building measures in compliance with the mandates of the Plan of Action of the Santiago Summit.

Special Security Concerns of Small Island States in the Caribbean

The special security concerns of small island states have been discussed primarily in two fora: the high-level meeting held in San Salvador in February 1998 and the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security. In both fora, the following factors affecting the security of these states were identified:

At the hemispheric level, the OAS General Secretariat has adopted a number of measures in response to these special security concerns as they relate to economic matters, the environment and natural risks, the promotion of democracy, and cooperation for the eradication of illicit drug trafficking and abuse. These measures include the following:

i. Economic matters: technical assistance has been provided by the OAS Trade Unit to the FTAA negotiating and consultative groups of countries with small economies and the Organization of Regional Seminars on matters related to FTAA for the officials of Caribbean island States.

ii. Environment and natural risks: the OAS Unit for Sustainable Development and the Environment has implemented a series of technical assistance programs for the mitigation of natural risks and adaptation to world climate change, financed with external resources.

iii. Promotion of democracy: the Program of Support for Legislative Institutions and Processes, with the participation of the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago; the program on the network of Legislative Leaders of the Americas and the program on the Promotion of Democratic Values and Practices.  The OAS is also cooperating with the Secretariat of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) in the execution of the project on Education for Democracy in the States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

iv. Cooperation in the eradication of illicit drug trafficking and abuse: technical assistance programs conducted by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission.

Security experts of many countries met on February 29, 2000, at the Organization of American States (OAS) to discuss the special security concerns of the small island States. At this meeting the experts studied the prospects of the smallest member States, whose economies are suffering severely from natural disasters. Delegates also reviewed how effective the OAS has been in promoting and developing the issue. The meeting further looked at the regional and subregional role organizations have played in strengthening security regionally and at the level of the small island States, as well as military cooperation among small island States.

XXIX General Assembly, Strengthening Confidence and Security in the Region

At the XXIX OAS General Assembly, the member States approved a series of resolutions with the purpose strengthening confidence and and security in the region.  The Resolutions follows:

Honduras-Nicaragua Situation

Tensions between Honduras and Nicaragua rose to alarming levels in late November 1999, following the ratification, by Honduras, of a treaty with Colombia which mutually recognizes Honduras and Colombia’s maritime boundaries in the Caribbean sea. Both countries quickly sought the help of the OAS in order to prevent an escalation of tensions or incidents in the Caribbean Sea.

Upon receiving the requests from Honduras and Nicaragua, and without delay, the OAS Permanent Council met in special sessions on December 6 and 7, 1999, to consider the matters presented by the two countries. On December 7, the Council approved a resolution calling for the Secretary General to nominate, "with the greatest possible urgency," a Special Representative to "evaluate the situation, facilitate dialogue, and formulate recommendations aimed at easing tension and preventing acts that could affect peace in the Hemisphere."

Ambassador Luigi Einaudi was chosen as Special Representative and immediately set upon helping the Parties search for common ground and establish confidence and security-building mechanisms to avoid incidents. Over the subsequent three months, Honduras and Nicaragua reached a series of understandings which helped reduce tensions and established mechanisms to ensure the peace.

The first agreement was concluded in Miami following two days of intense discussions at the end of December 1999. The Foreign Ministers of Honduras and Nicaragua, and the Special Representative, agreed on a political framework for lowering tensions in the region and for enacting confidence and security-building measures. The second agreement, concluded February 7, 2000, in San Salvador, El Salvador, at the headquarters of the Central-American Integration System, defined tension-reducing measures in the Caribbean Sea, including an agreement to not maintain any new military or police posts, to refrain from carrying out actions that could provoke incidents or serve as an obstacle to resolving any controversy by peaceful means, and to establish a combined Honduran-Nicaraguan patrol mechanism. The final agreement, concluded March 7, 2000 at the headquarters of the OAS, completed the confidence and security-building mechanisms agreed upon in Miami and San Salvador by setting forth detailed provisions for combined patrols in the Caribbean, for controls on military activity near the land border, and for coordinated patrols within the two countries’ jurisdictional waters in the Gulf of Fonseca.

The provisions established by the three agreements provide for a peaceful and secure modus vivendi while the substantive issue of determining the maritime border in the Caribbean Sea is settled by the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Nicaragua had requested that the Court determine the maritime boundary, and both countries have agreed to abide by its decision.

Two other disputes in the sub-region, one between Costa Rica and Nicaragua over navigation rights in the San Juan river, and a territorial dispute between Guatemala and Belize, have more recently been brought to the attention of the Organization. At the request of the Parties to both disputes, the Secretary General is serving as a facilitator for continued discussions to find peaceful solutions to these issues.

XXX OAS General Assembly

During the XXX OAS General Assembly held in Windsor, Canada, in June 2000, Governments approved the following resolutions:

The IV Conference of Defense Ministers

The IV Conference of Defense Ministers took place in Manaus, Brazil, beginning on October 16, 2000.  The conference discussed three topics, including hemispheric security at the beginning of the 21st Century, mutual confidence in the continent concerning its situation and its protection during the next decade and the possibilities for regional cooperation in the field of defense and development. To read the Declaration resulting from the Conference, please click here.

Special Meeting of the Committee on Hemispheric Security: "New Approaches to Hemispheric Security"

On November 13-14, 2000, the Committee on Hemispheric Security met to discuss new threats to regional security. The meeting was the third in a series of special meetings that analyze, with the participation of experts from the Member States, new foci in hemispheric security. In order to address these new security issues, the following two items were considered:

  1. Evaluation and identification of ways to revitalize and strengthen the institutions of the inter-American system involved in the various aspects of hemispheric security
  2. Analysis of the most appropriate approaches used to address the various aspects of international security in the Hemisphere

New threats to regional security, such as transnational crime, drug and arms trafficking and natural disasters, were identified and analyzed at the meeting. The Committee also analyzed the regional institutions and mechanisms used in the defense against and prevention of these threats. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, the Pact of Bogot�, the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, the United Nations and OAS Charters, and the OAS itself were pinpointed as institutions to be questioned and analyzed as to their authority and relevance in the area of regional security.

The Committee decided to develop a questionnaire to be distributed to the Member States in preparation for the Summit-mandated Special Conference on Security and in order to gain Member States' perspectives regarding topics in hemispheric security.

The mandates and initiatives for hemispheric security were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in the area of hemispheric security, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001

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