STATEMENT BY CANADIAN TROIKA CO-CHAIR
Thank Dr Eduardo Latorre, Secretary of State for Foreign Relations of the Dominican Republic for warm reception and kind words
Thank Dr. César Gaviria, Secretary General of the OAS;
It is again an honour for Canada to be a co-chair of the SIRG;
Our purpose here is to ensure that the commitments made by our leaders are implemented effectively and universally.
Progress since the last SIRG
Since October, there has been much progress on many of the Summit initiatives, as noted by Secretary General Gaviria and Foreign Minister Latorre.
Troika colleagues have focussed on process and way forward;
Id like to offer some Canadian perspectives on these themes;
The role that Canada sees for the Troika is to is to encourage information flow between governments and regional and international institutions and to keep these lines of communication open between SIRG meetings.
Canada continues to view the Troika as a flexible mechanism, evolving over time as a result of consensus decisions taken by the SIRG.
As a Troika, we have met with the heads of all of the regional and international organizations involved in the Summit process, and we would like to continue to do so to assure implementation of Summit mandates.
We also continue to engage national coordinators, a process which needs to be both ongoing and reciprocal.
Another useful role for the Troika is broad oversight of all of the initiatives; in doing so, we hope to avoid duplication of efforts, increase transparency and provide a useful and informal monitoring role. In partnership with the regional and international organizations, we hope to assist with overall coordination of Summit efforts.
One of the guiding principles of the SIRG is transparency. As my Prime Minister said in Santiago, the Americas are indeed "una gran familia" -- and we all know that open and honest dialogue serve to strengthen families. Foreign Minister Axworthy underscored this point at the foreign minister's SIRG in Caracas last June.
At this stage of the SIRG, we continue to focus on the monitoring of the implementation of the Santiago agenda: the Santiago action plan translates the vision of our presidents and prime ministers into an ambitious work program. This work program must in turn be translated into concrete achievements, and these achievements should be duly noted and recorded.
As we move ahead in the implementation stage, the SIRG must encourage tangible progress on all of the Santiago commitments. The general public, legislators and civil society groups across the hemisphere will expect this, and indeed deserve nothing less than our best efforts.
As we proceed with our meeting today, it may be useful for all of us to consider strengthening the monitoring process of our Santiago commitments.
One suggestion that has arisen is an increased role for the OAS office of Summit management within the context provided for in the Santiago action plan.
Could we task this office with increased responsibilities for monitoring, while freeing responsible coordinators to concentrate on policy development and collaboration with other national coordinators and the regional and international organizations?
Whichever we decide, our eventual objective should be an across the board monitoring and implementation process that is transparent, collegial and non-judgmental; it could serve as a basis for a greater connection between the action plan and the two development banks, for example.; It would help us to identify concretely where there are gaps in the implementation, where there is near-universal success, and where we should concentrate our efforts for the next Summit;
Role of OAS Office of Summit Follow-Up and Committee on Summit Management
My government believes that the OAS and other regional organizations, international organizations and international financial institutions have a natural role to play in the advancement of work on Summit themes. We believe that the SIRG should encourage these organizations to contribute to efforts to implement the action plan on a consistent and clearly identified basis.
The OAS continues to operate a committee on Summit management, chaired by Ambassador Portales. In this forum, units of the OAS present their activities under specific Summit mandates.
I would encourage you to consider ways which could allow us to strengthen collaboration between the SIRG and the committee on Summits management, in a manner that would reduce duplication while encouraging collaboration;
One option is to make the committee on Summit management a prepcom for these SIRG meetings: all documents would have to be tabled at the committee on Summits management first. The time in between the committee meeting and the SIRG meeting could be used by delegations to consult with their authorities; this would permit for a more thoughtful discussion at the subsequent SIRG meeting.
In Santiago, leaders called upon the OAS in a number of instances to support the work of governments in the implementation of action plan commitments. The SIRG should continue to encourage the OAS to meet the challenges our leaders set out in Santiago, and even consider expanding its role.
As a co-chair of this process, I would be interested in hearing your views on enhancing the relationship between these increasingly convergent processes, since many of the topics raised here at the SIRG are also raised at the committee on Summit management of the OAS, the permanent council and its various sub-committees, and in other specialized commissions.
There are many who have raised the question of costs and overburdening of the OAS; it seems that the OAS is already absorbing a great deal of the costs while handling a number of important issues;
By reducing duplication, it would seem that we would be in a position to reduce the financial burden on the OAS.
We need to keep in mind that the OAS has a certain infrastructure that is advantageous to our purposes: all 34 participants are represented there, a competent secretariat can produce translations and facilitate interpretation; the regional and international institutions are all close-by.
There is a valuable role for the OAS in public diplomacy;
Date of Canadian Summit
We have not yet determined an ideal date or site for the next Summit of the Americas.
We will consult on timing to ensure that it is appropriate for all 34 countries.
Convergence of Issues
As we do approach the next Summit, we will want to consider that many of the action items from Santiago and Miami have common elements.
There is a degree of convergence on many issues throughout the Inter-American agenda, for example issues related to infrastructure, social policy and hemispheric security.
Similarly, there is the need to integrate cross-cutting themes, areas where attention has to be paid across the board; such as the gender equality theme, childrens issues, indigenous and other marginalised populations, such as the disabled.
As we proceed today, it will be interesting to identify areas or objectives that seem to be converging;
As an example, Guatemalas Foreign Minister, Eduardo Stein, addressed the permanent council last Wednesday, and suggested, in a very innovative manner, that foreign ministers discuss the effects of the financial crisis on the region and the role for the OAS;
For over a year now, the Presidents of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have been talking about the need for improved and more stable social safety nets;
At the Summit of the Americas, we discussed the eradication of poverty through attention to improved health, education and other social policies, including, of course, freer trade;
This is a convergence of ideas that is timely, and as we discuss the various agenda items today, we may want to see what other areas of convergence emerge.
I would also like to emphasize the need for renewed attention to the action plan of the Bolivia Summit for sustainable development;
Monitoring for this Summit continues at the OAS, while monitoring for the other Summits remains with the SIRG, even though a number of action items are similar and could be addressed together.
By way of convergence, let me cite as an example the action item related to health. PAHO has done an excellent job of promoting health technologies across the Americas. In addition, there are health related items in the counter-narcotics items, the gender equality item, indigenous populations and eradication of poverty. Health factors into almost all of the action items;
Ministerial Dialogue Group on Drugs
As many of you are aware, Prime Minister Chrétien proposed the formation of a ministerial dialogue group on drugs to examine impact the illicit trade in narcotics has on relations in the hemisphere;
I am pleased to inform you that Canada has consulted widely on the formation of this group, and, based on these consultations, we will develop an agenda and hold the first meeting of this group on the margins of the OAS general assembly in Guatemala.
A small group of experts from around the hemisphere will be meeting in Costa Rica at the end of this month to further define the scope for this dialogue group; we look forward to participation from all Summit countries;
Canadas delegation will provide more information on this initiative during discussion of counter narcotics, under initiative 8.
I have broached this issue a number of times during my presentation, and I would like to conclude with an overview of our efforts at the OAS to engage in a regularized approach to consulting civil society;
What we do at the OAS could have greater ramifications for how we will approach this in upcoming SIRGs and Summit negotiations;
In collaboration with the delegations of Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, we have developed a discussion paper on the OAS and civil society, which will be circulated this week to all missions to the OAS and discussed on Thursday;
A useful paper on the role of civil society in the Summit has also been produced by the Dominican Republic in conjunction with Participa;
Note constructive approach underway by the ISP;
We have already had preliminary discussions on this topic at the OAS permanent council, but this small groups intention in drafting a discussion paper was to better focus the debate;
Over the past few months, we have been lucky to hear from a number of civil society organizations at the OAS;
These presentations, while useful, have not been structured in anyway, delegations were not given the luxury of examining documents in advance, and some delegations have felt blindsided;
Canadas purpose for the next General Assembly is to regularize this consultation process, establish a credible accreditation process, and ensure two-way communication with civil society;
We hope that the progress we make at the OAS, whatever that may eventually be, will be instructive to the SIRG as we proceed with our discussions over the next two years.