Remarks by the Secretary General of the Organization Of American States, CÚsar Gaviria, at the Follow-Up Meeting of the Summit of the Americas

(Panama City, June 2, 1996)

It was 18 months ago that, thanks to President Clinton's leadership and initiative, the Summit of the Americas interpreted the feelings of our peoples, turned its back on distrust and fear, and created a new relationship among the countries of the Americas - one that was now based on shared values and purposes and on a strong commitment to collective action.

We at the OAS have worked to strengthen those values and principles: the defense and promotion of democracy, the prevalence of respect for human rights, sustainable development, a push toward integration in the Americas, and efforts to combat poverty and inequality.

Last year in Montrouis, we transformed the OAS agenda on the basis of those principles, within the framework of the Charter.

With the entry into force this year of CIDI, our principal instrument for collective action and cooperation, we have drawn upon the spirit of the Summit to make our organizational structure correspond to those purposes and to enable the Council to follow up on other Summit issues when the countries so agree.

In the course of the General Assembly, which begins tomorrow, you will receive from the Permanent Council's Committee on Inter-American Summits Management a detailed report on progress made by the Organization.

The OAS has participated through a host of items of the Plan of Action in the defense and strengthening of democracy, education for democracy, the administration of justice, decentralization and municipal governments, the observation and improvement of electoral systems, support for the legislative branch, government reform, and the promotion of new mechanisms for civic participation.

we are working intensely on an anti-drug strategy for the twenty-first century.

We held a successful specialized conference on terrorism, which established shared principles for the American countries and committed them to a plan of action to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism.

The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) continues to be the major hub for our countries as they move toward the information revolution and share experiences, standardize languages, and develop protocols to support us in the fast-paced march toward the global village.

We have been working with the Government of Bolivia on preparations for the Hemispheric Summit Conference on Sustainable Development. The Permanent Council is making progress in analyzing documentation and technical proposals with a view to eventually adopting instruments that will allow us jointly to implement Agenda 21, adopted in Rio, and the agreements arrived at in Miami.

The ministers of science and technology, education, and labor have given us instructions in areas pertaining to the Plan of Action, which we are taking on as part of our responsibilities to the countries and the follow-up organ.

The Specialized Conference on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures, held in Chile, has shifted our gaze away from the old defensive concept of the Cold War toward a view of cooperative security among our states that helps to reduce risks, eliminate tension, and give transparency to military procedures.

This morning, we were given the opportunity to consider how the entry into force of CIDI related to our efforts to achieve social objectives, sustainable development, technological development, the preservation, enhancement, and exposure of our cultural and linguistic heritage, which are spelled out in the documents of both AGECID and the Miami Summit.

I should like to refer briefly to two areas of great importance, which accurately reflect the change under way in the region and the Organization.

First, allow me to draw attention to the relevance of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, which was signed by a majority of the member states at the meeting held in Caracas a few months ago. This Convention, the product of a concerted effort by the governments of the region within the OAS, is a milestone in international law, requires the countries to strengthen their domestic norms, and affords possibilities for pursuing perpetrators of this crime through judicial cooperation, the exchange of evidence, and the adoption of measures regarding property. It also provides for preventive measures associated with the modernization of public institutions.

Of particular importance are the provisions on maintaining bank secrecy, which of course must not be used to conceal corruption, and on the right to asylum, which must not provide a cover for corrupt activity. Although the Convention recognizes the state's responsibility, it emphasizes the importance of all actors - governments, individuals, civil society, and the international community.

Second, I should like to underscore the progress we have made in the area of trade. In a single year, the trade ministers have met twice and have made important progress in seven areas agreed to by the countries.

This has been done through the working' groups that, with OAS, IDB, and ECLAC support, have been collecting information and comparing rules and regulations, thus affording all players transparency and reliability and preparing the countries for a negotiating process which we all hope will take place within the deadlines set by the Summit.

I have highlighted these topics because they show the capacity of the OAS, as set forth in the Declaration of Montrouis, to adapt to the new objectives defined at the highest political level. But that is not our doing. It is that of the member states, which are here with us today prepared, more than ever before in their history, to discuss real problems candidly and openly, to share experiences and information, and to seek solutions based on a common objective - cooperation.

At this meeting, you will reach decisions on holding a second summit. We would like to offer you our assistance as well as the help that can be provided by the new instruments in both the preparatory work and the follow-up phase. In particular, we feel we are in a position to set up the secretariat for the meetings, compile the institutional memory, and help prepare the technical documents in the various areas. Nothing makes our work more worthwhile than placing ourselves at the service of the decisions made by the spokesmen for our peoples.

Thank you very much.